He’s coming home! – an update

Many thanks and gratitude for many of you who have been praying for Greyson’s recovery in the NICU. I am excited and most relieved to report that our little man is coming homewpid-IMG_0128_2-2015-03-29-11-22.jpg on Tuesday! It’s shocking that only two weeks ago, we thought we were looking at 3-4 months of a stay in NICU, and it will only be two weeks since his birth that he will be discharged. Clearly, the power of the prayer of God’s people on behalf of us and this little one’s recovery has had a powerful effect. He has made steady progress since his admission to the NICU. Each day has brought new developments and steady improvement. From losing his ventilator, and losing his feed tube, to eventually losing his IV feeding and his nasal-gastric tube for feeding as well. It has been amazing to watch, and incredibly comforting. It is often that I go through life feeling that I’m not sure I see God busy in my life let alone those I love. Yet, this event and its aftermath has been a neon sign with God saying, “Don’t forget! I’m still here even if it doesn’t look like it!” I am confronted once again with the fragility of my own faith, and my willingness to abandon all that I know to be true about God and His character. That is the challenge, at least it seems to me, of faith. Giving myself permission to struggle, and whine, and moan about God’s character (because it doesn’t change the truth of His character), allowing me to accept my own humanity and my frailty. I can do all that, and at the same time, remain anchored to the truth of who God is and His faithfulness to me even if I can’t will myself to demonstrate much of a reciprocal faith. The key that I keep having to remind myself is that if I can give myself permission to struggle, and even “lose faith,” I can also give myself permission to re-grasp what I know to be true, and recalibrate my life around the “anchor of God’s truth” so I remain secure and safe in spite of the storm.

There are still many hurdles ahead, for Greyson and for me as his grandfather. In spite of the hurdles he faces, I can hang on to the power of his story that began when he entered this world. He entered the world completely dependent on those around him to care and even repair his little body for him. While that may be the outside story, there is an inside story that he will learn as he grows – a story of protection and faithfulness by his Abba even before he ever appeared on the world scene. When he finally got around to showing up, the “inside” story is to be told of Greyson living in the loving hands of His Abba that healed his little body, and nurtured him into health and a family that desperately loves him. That will be the evolving story, the story of discovery and hope even in the face of the challenges he will face. What he deserves from me isn’t something that he determines, but is defined for me. My job is to model for him (even if he doesn’t understand it) what faithfulness, perseverance, Godliness, provision, protection, and Biblical masculinity looks like. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’m up for that task, but for the days that I get to hold him and pour into him I will do my best based on what I know to do at that moment. The rest, with God’s help and power, will have to take care of itself.

Posted in Grandparenting, Masculinity/Manhood | 4 Comments

Self-knowledge is only a part of your story

The Ways to Self-knowledge

“Know yourself” is good advice.  But to know ourselves doesn’t mean to analyse ourselves.  Sometimes we want to know ourselves as if we were machines that could be taken apart and put back together at will.   At certain critical times in our lives it might be helpful to explore in some detail the events that led us to our crises, but we make a mistake when we think that we can ever completely understand ourselves and explain the full meaning of our lives to others.

Solitude, silence, and prayer are often the best ways to self-knowledge.  Not because they offer solutions for the complexity of our lives but because they bring us in touch with our sacred center, where God dwells.  That sacred center may not be analysed.  It is the place of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise.~Henri Nouwen

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From where I sit…

From where I sit I can see my grandson’s gentle breathing – an powerful picture of trust, peace, repose and safety. Unfortunately, he is surrounded by all the machines, wires, and tubes necessary to monitor his health and launch him into life more whole than he was IMG_2314when he was born. In spite of all that, he is a powerful picture of dependency and safety. It is little wonder that Jesus would often use children to paint a picture of faith.

From where I sit I can see the incredible satisfaction and contentment written all over his grandma’s face as she gets to hold him close listening to his little sounds of breathing and yes, even fussing.

From where I sit, I can see out the hospital window to the world outside that is filled with joys, wonders, and discovery that are only waiting for his exploration.

From where I sit, I can see the future. I am looking into the face of the next generation. What kind of man will he be? A man of integrity running hard after Jesus? A man of sensitivity, gentleness, and insight? A man of generosity, grace, and strength?  A worthy man?  A man who attacks life with tenaciousness and perseverance? A man of fidelity, consistency, and principles? At what kind of future am I gazing? More questions than answers at present, and that’s okay. It’s the wonder and awesome potential of a little one who is just embarking on the journey of life.

From where I sit, I can see the awesome need of the future for Greyson, and the awesome inadequacy of his grandfather. I don’t say that as self-deprecation, but I do say it as a statement of fact. At this moment in time, I don’t have the resources he needs, but perhaps by God’s grace I will have the resources he needs at the moment in which he needs them.

From where I sit, I can’t see the future; I can only see what is before me. Unfortunately, I see a world that is filled with misery, man’s inhumanity to man, and just plain trouble. I used to sit and think of the future my kids would face, and now here I sit thinking of what the future will be for my grandson. Never did I think I would ever be sitting here in this place – both figuratively and literally. At times it feels like we are skating on a razor’s edge between overwhelming joy and gratitude and overwhelming sorrow. While that may be IMG_2319overstated and even exaggerated, it is the sense I have of this powerful moment in time. I suppose that is what makes these moments in time so poignant. Greyson is far from out of the woods, but perhaps we are in a clearing where there is sunlight, hope, and clarity (for now). Thankfully, God promises that his mercies are new every morning to help me meet the challenges I will face of that day. He doesn’t loan His mercies to me for the future, He meets me in the day that I’m in. In other words, He meets me where I am rather than where I’m supposed to be because, after all, I will never be where I’m “supposed” to be. Thankfully, I can enjoy the day that I’ve been given with Greyson… and that’s enough.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him ~ Prophet Jeremiah
Lamentations 3:22

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Introducing… Greyson Ray


Shaking hands with the new “little man” in the family!

We welcomed our new arrival, Greyson Ray on March 17th at 3:12am. As expected he was born with the complication I spoke of in my last blog post. He weighed in at 6 lbs, and was 19 inches tall. He was scheduled for surgery three hours later to have this complication addressed and was promptly admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU). Since that time, he has been progressing steadily. He is still on his ventilator to assist in breathing since the surgery, and a feeding tube since he is unable to feed just yet. Our next hurdle is to see enough improvement that he can be removed from his ventilator. Once that happens, he can then start the process of feeding. It’s at that point, that we will be able to see if his gastric system will tolerate eating and digest the food, and eventually poop it all out (which is a very positive sign). We are all hopeful but know that his recovery will be punctuated by improvement and occasional setbacks. His mom and dad are recovering from two very long days, and are settling into the routine of tracking his recovery, and beginning their adjustment into parenthood. Thanks to all for your prayer support, and continue to hold us all up for the rigors of camping out in the NICU, keeping the “little man” company, reading to him, and just hanging out to be a watchful presence during his recovery. God has been merciful and gracious in this little one’s safe delivery, and his continued improvement during his recovery.

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Danger and Opportunity – Greyson Ray

It has often been said (unfortunately incorrectly) that the Chinese character for crisis is the Chinese_word_for_crisis.svgcombination of the characters for danger and opportunity. In spite of the fact that this sounds profound and consistent with how we would describe a crisis, after a little research I have found that this assertion has become achieved something of a legendary status including its use by Presidents (most notably President Kennedy). So, in spite of all that, I am about to do what many speakers and writers have done before me — use it to make a point!

My family and I head into a situation pregnant (no pun intended… you’ll see) with crisis as defined by danger and opportunity. One of my daughters is pregnant and heads to the hospital to have her labor induced later this evening (Sunday, 3/15). That will be the joy of opportunity to finally get to see the little one’s face and get to know him – yes, I said, “him.” Finally, there will be another male in the family! Hallelujah for testosterone! A birth is so much the epitome of opportunity and a bright hope for the future. While I’ve been a grandfather for quite some time to a granddaughter adopted by another family, this will be the first baby to remain in our family. A baby that I will get to hold and know in the future. I will graciously be given the opportunity to live out the wonderful duties of a grandparent which are hardly “duties.” The opportunity to sow seeds of vision, and faith, and commitment that will be taken into the future far beyond my limited days.

Now, for the danger. Because so often with every opportunity there is a danger. A danger to do things the same as I have always done them. The danger to see the world in the same way that I have always seen it in the past. The danger of a life that will never be the same. This little one (whose name is Greyson Ray) will come into the world fighting for his life. He is being induced three weeks early, and will be born with known complications that will result in almost immediate surgery and admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). As I reflect on what we are going into, and the challenges that I face as the leader of my family there are always the questions, doubts, and confusion that trail in the shadow of what’s about to happen. There is much that we are facing that is completely unknown: his condition at birth, the degree of repair and the interventions that will be needed. Yet, while there is much that is unknown, there is just as much known. Things that are known such as the power of family in the face of crisis, and the tremendous power of faith in a Good God. As the animals of Narnia remarked about Aslan, though, “Oh, goodness no he’s not safe, but He’s good.” Unfortunately that goodness may not be grasped at the point of the spear of crisis. People throughout Scripture are portrayed as living in the midst of tremendous crisis, confusion, and disaster, and yet find the strength to “cling” to God in the face of it all. Do they believe at that moment that He is good? Yes, they believe it. Yet, on the other hand, they don’t feel it. I can grasp the truth of God, His faithfulness, His goodness, His commitment to me, and at the same time experience feelings that completely overwhelm what I believe. That doesn’t negate what I believe. As a matter of fact, that belief is what anchors me while I am buffeted by the storms and crises of life. It is  like the anchor of a ship. Imagine for a moment if the anchor of a ship was a steel bar instead of a chain. The anchor wouldn’t be moved, but the ship would be destroyed. On the other hand, an anchor is attached to the ship with a chain that is long enough to allow the ship to face into the wind and take the worst hits of the storm around it. The people on the ship might swear that they are going to be killed and lost. Yet, as one old hymn says, “my anchor holds.” (here’s a rendition of that hymn)

This phrase points back to what the writer of Hebrews wrote when he said, “We have this (the hope of God’s steadfast and unchangeable character and willingness to bind Himself to us through a covenant) as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19)

As for me and us, I can pray that our anchor holds and will withstand whatever the stormDe_Windstoot-A_ship_in_need_in_a_raging_storm-Willem_van_de_Velde_II-1707-DCedit2 throws at us. Sitting where I am presently sitting, I doubt the resources I have to face such a storm, but I will face it nonetheless and hang on to the belief (not my feelings but allowing those feelings to exist and not be condemned for being there) that God is good, and He is good enough for whatever we face.

Pray for Greyson and my daughter as she brings this precious little one into this world fighting and (hopefully) screaming (that will be the sweetest sound of all).

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Wrestling With God When He Doesn’t Seem Good | RELEVANT Magazine

Wrestling With God When He Doesn’t Seem Good | RELEVANT Magazine.

Posted by Dr. Ray Mitsch… written by Karyn Noll

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A new start – A Dangerous Community?

The cloisters of Iona Abbey.

The cloisters of Iona Abbey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, a lot has changed since I wrote last. I decided to move to a new blog and a new look for the blog, as well as a new title. When I first conceived of doing a blog, I was taken with the idea of developing a virtual “outpost for the heart” as inspired by the story of St. Columba and his friends as they set off away from his beloved Ireland in search of a place to plant a “heavenly community.” Ironically, the original motivation for him to set sail was to impose a self-punishment for his responsibility in the death of many of his kinsmen as they attempted to place him in his rightful place of royalty in Ireland. He was so chagrined and seized by shame because of his prideful actions, he decided to exile himself from his beloved Ireland. He eventually landed on an island called Iona and it became an “outpost for the heart.” There he and his mates created a little community, and eventually from Iona his disciples set off into northern England to evangelize the countryside by establishing what he called “heavenly communities” into which people could come to find rest, safety from the terrors of the land around them, and a peace that only Christ could give. It was this story that inspired my initial stirrings of a ministry that I called “The Iona Project.” Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending how you look at it) God had other ideas, and the ministry died a somewhat painful death. Along with that death, a little(maybe a pretty big piece) of my heart died, and I lost hope of ever doing ministry again in any capacity. The ministry died, but the vision for a community of people who could live life dangerously, redemptively never really left my heart.

Yet, here I am and I will forgo the details to fast forward to today. There appears to be another stirring of a small community people on CCU’s campus who long to live in real time with one another. A community of people who are committed to shedding the appearances of “doing okay” or “How are you doing? Fine!” way of doing life. They all long for a place where they are safe to bring into the open the things that they are sure would get them condemned anywhere else. As a matter fact, many of these people are already condemned in their own hearts, and simply can’t believe that if they revealed this to anyone else, they would only be condemned in public. It is against all hope, and against all reason that they would find grace, hope, and truth. At least, that’s what they believed (past tense). For many already, they are experiencing grace in a way that they never really thought was possible. In spite of all their confusion, doubt, skepticism, disappointment, disillusionment, joy, happiness, exhilaration, despair, all of what they only whisper and hide, they have found acceptance and grace. The kind of acceptance and grace that not only sets one free, but empowers one to live more fully the life he or she was called to live. The abundant life that Jesus promised.

This is what I am calling a dangerous community. It is dangerous in the sense that it threatens our usual way of doing things. It threatens our spiritual status quo, and challenges us to lock arms and learn to live courageously committed to the truth while clinging to grace. It is a messy undertaking, and it rarely provides the answers we are looking for. But, this undertaking, this endeavor against all odds does provide us with the kind of community that strengthens us to hang on to our firm and unrelenting belief that God is not only good, but also good enough for our circumstances even if it doesn’t feel that way. In a dangerous community we must face ourselves in truth, in brutal and unvarnished truth not to condemn ourselves, but to catch a vision for what Jesus is forming in us. And, if we can’t see it for ourselves, we can be assured that there are others around us who will hang on to the vision and hope while we wrestle with our “demons,” cheering us on and encouraging us to continue the fight even if it feels hopeless.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want this kind of community. I don’t want a community of people that encourages me to maintain the status quo. I desire to live on an edge that will challenge me to go deeper, and grow stronger even while sometimes teetering on the brink of disaster and despair. Will I fall? Maybe. No, probably. Yet, in a community like this, I will have those who will cheer at fact that I have “come back,” rather than point out that I fell. They realize that I really don’t need any help to criticize and condemn myself for my shortcomings. However, I do need help hanging on to the amazing grace that will empower me to get up, brush myself off, lick my wounds, and slowly try again.

Here’s the vision for such a dangerous community stated by one of the visionaries (of all places) that developed Alcoholics Anonymous:

There are, I should say, four elements in a redemptive community.  It is personal, with things happening between people as well as to and in them individually; it is compassionate, always eager to help, observant but non judgmental toward others, breathing out hope and concern; it is creative, with imagination about each one in the group and its work as a whole, watching for authentic new vision coming from any of them; and it is expectant, always seeking to offer to God open and believing hearts and minds through which He can work out His will, either in the sometimes startling miracles He gives or in steady purpose through long stretches where there is no special “opening.”  It may fairly be said that unless one enmeshes himself in this “redemptive fellowship” of the church, he lessens his chances of steady growth and effectiveness, in his Christian life and experience. – Sam Shoemaker, Experiment of Faith

Personal… compassionate… creative… expectant. Now, that’s a dangerous community. You in? I am!

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What’s the point?

imagesSo, what’s the point of love? What’s the point of engaging in relationships when we know they are going to end? An interesting question to be sure given that I am now in the wake of the grief and loss class for this year. Those questions were posed during a gathering of students who desired to figure out a way to “do life” together in a safe community of people who are committed to be open and honest with themselves and with each other.

Needless to say, I am far from the one to answer that question (it’s above my pay grade), but I will reflect a bit on perhaps what is important to the journey of discovering the important parts of answer. I think we have to start with trying to answer the question, “why do we engage in relationships at all?” I mean, really… Unfortunately, or fortunately we are driven toward each other because the very essence of who we are, our DNA if you will, can be found, defined, and refined in our relationships with each other. Now, you might be thinking, “yeah but what about the people who aren’t “driven” to other people?” The answer is found in what are they driven away “from”. It’s still relationships with people. Even people who are the isolationists among us are still interacting and reacting to the people (whether in their head or actual people in their lives). You see, what is important to understand is that not only our responses, but our withholding of responses are an indication of the things and people who are important to us. Our tendency is to pay the most attention to that which we can see — the behavior of avoiding people, for example. But, we don’t pay much attention to the behavior we can’t see (what’s going on in the person’s head), or the behavior that he/she is choosing to restrain. Therefore, why have relationships at all? Because we were designed for relationship, and in some ways, it is consoling that we are not alone and that we “can” be known for who we are instead of who we “should” be. Our souls long for the grace that being known carries with it as a potential. Of course, it doesn’t mean that being known has an automatic connection to grace. We all have more than enough evidence to the contrary. The tremendous irony is that we still try… it’s almost as if we can’t help ourselves or stop ourselves from it. Given that, I think that propensity toward relationship betrays the image of God stamped on everyone’s soul whether they know it or not.

The other part of the questions asked are perhaps what disturbs me the most. Not that the person asking the question disturbs me, but what the question implies. “What’s the point?” Certainly, we have all heard that question, and probably nodded our heads in silent agreement. Of course, the question is asked after the relationship has changed (i.e., come to end or something that has brought a sense of loss upon us) rather than before (often). It is often an expression of futility and despair at the outcome we are now experiencing. I guess what grabs my attention is the emphasis on function in a relationship more than anything. In other words, if a relationship doesn’t serve some function, or produce some desired outcome, the logical conclusion is, why do it? Let me put it in more practical terms. Let’s just say that I’m attempting to build something like a wooden cabinet (which I wouldn’t since I know only enough to make a mess!). And I assemble all the necessary tools (here’s where my colossal ignorance is going to show) like a saw, a hammer, a level, etc. Basic stuff. I head off to the local Lowe’s or Home Depot and purchase the necessary wood to create this cabinet. I get the wood home (with much effort mind you), and begin to make all my measurements and follow the necessary instructions/design plans (oh ,yeah, that… ugh). Once I have everything ready, I pull out my trusty hammer and start wailing on the wood in an effort to cut it. After getting a good workout for my money, I proclaim, “what good is a hammer if it won’t do what I want it to?” As ridiculous as that sounds… and lest you think I’m that much of a dunce, I would at least use the saw… see I’m already interacting with all of you in my head! Duh… I got that much figured out. I’m not that stupid… just saying… ;-). Let’s see where was I? Oh, yeah, the question… what good is a hammer if it won’t do what I want it to? Of course the problem is that I’m asking it to do something it was never designed to do. Perhaps, there is some germ of truth in that example to help us tackle the question, “What’s the point of a relationship when we only know that it will end someday?” What’s important here is to think through is what relationships are designed for. Are they designed to replicate what our hearts long for… to never be left? Or, are they designed to allow us the opportunity to experience something that is anchored in a divine reality — that of love, grace and truth?

Let me cut to the chase… our problem is betrayed in our question about relationships. We see all things around us as objects to accomplish some end that we desire… people, relationships, and other tools we use to get something done. Yet, the dirty little secret is that it isn’t about what function they play for us as much as how important they are for us to learn something in the journey we take with others in our lives (a.k.a relationships). It’s not about what someone can “do” for us, as much as it is who they are to us. Either we value their “being” or we value their “doing”, just to put it another way. If that is the case, then it’s not about the destination or the contract fulfilled in our relationship with others, but the journey we are privileged to be a part of, and they with ours, and the covenant we enter into as we enter into another person’s life.

Will our relationships end? Ultimately, yes. Of course the “ultimately” can be a long time or a short time. Will it hurt when they do? Yes, unequivocally, yes. Will it be worth the pain? Now, there is the real sticking point, isn’t it? Of course, we are more than happy to say (while the relationship is going), “Absolutely it’s worth it!” But, the problem is that while we are enjoying the benefits of the relationship we really don’t think much about the cost that might be coming when it changes or even ends. I’m reminded of a statement that Joy Gresham (played by Debra Winger) made in the movie, “Shadowlands.” Joy and Jack (C.S. Lewis) are out for a walk and a rainstorm breaks out so they take cover in a barn. While they wait, Jack is enjoying the moment of their time together, and indicates that he really didn’t want to be anywhere else at that very moment. But, Joy senses that Jack is avoiding something… her impending death. She pushes back on his revelry gently, and ends with a profound statement that defines what we often experience in all significant relationships. “The pain then (in the future) is part of the happiness now.” We struggle and struggle to attempt to make heaven on earth in our relationships. No pain, no struggle, no hurt, no disappointment, no confusion, no despair… all of them are what we want to rid our relationships of. What I don’t think we (I) don’t see is that we are trying to rid ourselves of pain, and by doing so we are ridding ourselves of a fuller understanding of joy. Because we are human, all our relationships will be riddled with both. Somewhere along the way, we have concluded that there is something fundamentally wrong when that happens. Yet, when we attempt to rid ourselves of pain (not that I’m advocating a form of spiritual masochism), we will also be ridding ourselves of the kind of depth that makes our relationships rich. When the pain occurs, we needn’t rush to make it all go away by spouting off some spiritual platitude in order to control the pain. Our pain is a testimony to love. Our pain is an indication of the depth of our relationship with another. Our pain reminds us of our humanity, and a faint, dim glimmer of what we were ultimately designed for… “where every tear will be wiped away, and there will be no pain.” Until then, we are faced with a choice. To be or not to be… that is the question? Famous words from Shakespeare, but every bit as profound now. Will I choose to “be” in a relationship which doesn’t mean present, but “all in” come joy or pain. By the time we get to whatever the change might be, we will be fundamentally changed, and perhaps the kind of people who say only after they have grieved what they have lost… it was worth it.

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Self acceptance as an act of trust

It seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to avoid doing something wrong. I know that may not seem like a profound statement which on its face it appears to be obvious. Yet, the reverse may also be true: we spend a lot of time not doing something “right.” Hmmm what to do?

Recently, I had a most fascinating and enlightening conversation with a group of students around a campfire. Of course, there is nothing like a campfire to trigger conversation, and an occasional profound thought or two. Our conversation ranged from wrestling with what being loved by God means, grappling with the bloody realities of just living life, to self-acceptance. On this last topic, self-acceptance, I left the students with a thought. “Self-acceptance is an act of trust” was my assertion. I thought I would take a few moments (or many) to unpack this further for anyone who wasn’t there and might be intrigued (or horrified) by this assertion.

The journey into self-acceptance starts with grasping the nature of truth in our lives. I have often spoken of an artificial division of truth that I use to fully expand on the nature of this “thing” we call truth. This artificial division is something that I refer to as big “T” truth and little “t” truth. The moment I introduce this concept there seems to be an almost immediate reaction that big “T” truth must be bad, and little “t” truth must be good. This is particularly true of those who have been taught that the only way to live is to live by big T truth. There are those who also gravitate to the little t truth because it seems to capture the realities of where they are living, and there’s an internal sense of failure and even hopelessness of ever being able to live up to the demands and commands of the big T truth. Those reactions, unfortunately, only point up the reasons that I had to make this artificial distinction more clear. The bottom line is that there is only one truth and that is what God has given us in his Word, and all the implications that has for seeing and understanding our lives, relationships, pasts, and futures. Yet, while that is true (there I go again!), we aggravatingly use the same word (truth) for both reality and God’s truth, and the realities of our own lives. When I am brutally honest and forthcoming about the realities in my own life, I’m not speaking God’s truth but I am lining my life up with His truth since He calls us to image Him – the Truth. Then the question arises, “What do I do, or how do I describe the truth of my heart? That’s where I gravitated to the idea of little “t” truth. Is this little “t” truth God’s truth? No, of course not, unless I can find my name among the prophets and authors of the Bible – which, to my relief I do not! But, it is truthful because it is an accurate description of my inner life. It is a revelation to others of what is going on in my heart.

The big T truth is something entirely “other” than the little t truth I’m speaking of above. The big T truth is not only God’s truth that He has provided us in His Scriptures, but it is also reality. I think it can be said that big T truth is the body of knowledge, wisdom, and commands that God has given us to live within. Clearly, it is not at all meant to “hurt” us, but it does “hurt” us since it painfully points out behavior, thoughts, and motivations that do not come into line with His word. This big T truth is also reality, like gravity and the vast body of knowledge we have developed as a result of us being made in God’s image – a desire to know, and study, and accumulate knowledge to more fully enact the responsibility that God gave to us from the very beginning of time. So, we can look into God’s word and pronounce the words, principles, and implications as true because they line up with God’s truth. This is big T truth.

The question has to be asked, then, how do these two truths interact? Or do they interact at all? Is there any intersection between these two truths? Or, do we live one, and describe the other? This is where it gets both exasperating and interesting all at the same time. We do live out small t truths, and we do live out, or at least strive to live out, the big T truths. Yet, it’s not nearly as simple as that. It’s not simple because these two domains of truth do interact, and often we determine how they will interact. Let me describe the two sides of this coin of truth. On the one hand, big T truth is often where many people live, and using this big T truth they frame all of life that way. And, that’s a good thing. As a matter of fact, that is what all Christ-followers do. We take the word of God and apply it to our lives in order to gain understanding and wisdom about how to live life and experience the abundance about which Jesus talked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. When they begin to grapple with the “bloody realities” of being human, fallen and broken, they often use the big T truth in order to bludgeon those little t truths into submission. Thereby, they gravitate further and further away from realistically and brutally facing this brokenness that is inherent in being human. As a matter of fact, they reject their humanness. If you need a picture to capture this, think of the vertical beam of a cross as the big T truth that anchors our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our relationships with others.

There is a vast group of people who are the mirror reflection of the big T people. These are the little t truth people. As I indicated above, the little t truth is an honest reflection of the confusion, disillusionment, disappointment, anger, depression, joy, happiness, and contentment that is daily part of our everyday existence. In the society we live in today, many people define reality only by this little t truth. That is how they get away with the retort, “Your truth is your truth, and my truth is mine. What right do you have to judge my truth?” This approach is taking all of life and defining it solely by the little t truth. Ultimately, life was never meant to be lived this way. That is why Christ came. He came and died for us to free us to live realistically and honestly with our brokenness (leading us to the conclusion that we can’t do life alone, and we can’t save ourselves) while at the same time affirming His ways and truth as the anchor that allows us the courage to face ourselves truthfully. In the case above, the little t truth people condemn the big T people for being hypocrites and judges, and yet the little t truth people are simply doing the same thing just from an opposite perspective. For a picture of this way of doing life, think of the cross beam of the cross I described above. It is the horizontal plane of life that is full of the messy, confusing, disappointing, frustrating, joyful, and fulfilling realities of our lives.

There is one last group of people who are not only broken and broken by their fallenness, but who also try to figure how to live life honestly with the big T truth of their lives. These are the people who Brennan Manning referred to as ragamuffins. They were the people who upon looking at themselves pronounce themselves unworthy and broken beyond repair, and yet still hang on to the hope of the truth and grace of Jesus. These people live life as honestly as they know how, and live in the tension of the intersection between big T truth, and little T truth. For them, it is not as simple as pronouncing the big T truth, and concluding that everything is better. For them, it is living a life bravely that is incredibly and maddeningly messy. They fight the thought that they are simply “too broken” for God to “fix.” In spite of that thought, they cling to the big T truth while allowing themselves the grace to make mistakes, to be a “hot mess,” to hate themselves and wonder why to even keep living, or to keep hiding because they are sure that people will just hate them the way that they do.

This is where the issue of self-acceptance raises its ugly head. How is it that “self acceptance is an act of trust?” One last bunny trail… Let me clarify for a moment what self-acceptance is, and what it is not. Self-acceptance is not a resignation. We were never called to resign ourselves to the finality of our brokenness. As a matter of fact, Jesus came and died in order to free us from this brokenness (something he called death and enslavement), and to empower us to live differently… powerfully. When we resign ourselves to our brokenness, we are withdrawing from the fight, and allowing things to happen to us rather than engaging life and acting for ourselves and those we love with the power Jesus gives us.

Self-acceptance is not condoning our sin either. All too often we confuse this idea of self-acceptance as condoning our sin, and adopting the motto of the ancient Romans who suggested that we can sin all the more so that grace may abound even more! Paul had one answer to that, “May it never be!” In other words, “don’t go that route you knuckleheads!”

Self-acceptance is the opposite of self-rejection. Henri Nouwen once said, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved”. Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.” I would go so far as to say, self-rejection is far easier than self-acceptance. Self-rejection sets a course for an addictive level of control over me, over others and what they think of me, and over the world. Never mind the obvious fact that I have no actual control over what others think of me. Never mind the fact that I don’t have any control over the world around me. These are mere technicalities. I may not have control over these things, but that won’t stop me to pursuing it anyway. Anyway, the pursuit distracts me from just how messy things in my life really are.

Self-acceptance is an act of trust because it does what Nouwen referred to above… it affirms the sacred voice that calls me His Beloved. But, wait a minute! (the big T truth people speak up here) “Isn’t that just giving me license to sin?” Maybe… or just maybe it refocuses my sight on what is my motivation to trust God at all? Either I can keep working real hard doing everything that I can to avoid doing something wrong because, of course, the hammer of the big T would descend and crush me, Or, I can trust what God says about me, and what Jesus did for me, and live as bravely and courageously as I can with plenty of mess to go around. Trusting always involves risk. Self-acceptance involves risk. Self-rejection involves control, and risks nothing. Self-acceptance calls me further into a motive of loving God with the choices I make even if they are flawed. I’m willing to do the best that I can. Self-rejection calls me into a motive of “toeing the line” because by doing so I’ll be “okay.” As long as I hit the line, I won’t feel what’s lurking in the shadows.

Allow me to come full circle… the campfire discussion I had with those students was the most gratifying and exciting thing I had happen in a long time. Little by little, they were discovering that they really weren’t terminally unique and different from everyone else. In their honesty and willingness to be known in a way that they rarely risked before, they found something. They found something exceedingly rare these days — the wonder of living in the tension between big T and little t truth, the wonder of living with both truth and grace, the wonder of a small band of people who all know that they’re jacked up, but they are also powerfully and irrevocably pronounced by Jesus as His Beloved.

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