Long Division

This morning, for some reason, I see so clearly how the powers of darkness are working to destroy the church. It’s so simple, it’s amazing we have fallen for it for so long. The darkness comes in like a worm, slithering its way into any tiny crack, nudging and pushing until the crack becomes a split and the split becomes a chasm. Division. That is the power of the enemy.  And he’s been doing this for a long time.

The Crack:

Party 1: A nagging thought. Something someone said is buzzing through their brain and they’re not 100% sure they know what it meant.

Party 2: A nagging thought. They said something to Party 1 and they’re not sure it was taken the right way, or maybe that they should have said it at all.

The Worm:

Party 1: Instead of going to Party 2 and just asking what they meant when they said, “X”, they have imaginary conversations in their mind. The worm tells them that it would be a bad idea to talk to Party 2 and so instead they talk to everyone else about the situation.

Party 2: Instead of going to Party 1 and apologizing or trying to clarify what they said, OR APOLOGIZING (I know I said it twice), they act as if everything is totally okay, and begin distancing themselves subtly from Party 1. The worm tells them that “really they didn’t say anything wrong and if Party 1 is hurt by that, they are just being sensitive”.

The Split:

Party 1 has now become hurt and angry by: first, the hurtful thing that was initially said, and second, by the nonchalant way that Party 2 has handled everything, including talking about this situation with everyone but them. They no longer want to have anything to do with Party 2, whom they now believe is legitimately evil.

Party 2 has now become hurt and angry by: first, having what they initially said blown way out of proportion, and second, by the way Party 1 is now talking about them to all their shared friends, causing people to have to choose sides. They no longer want to have anything to do with Party 1, whom they now believe is legitimately evil.

The Worm:

The Worm continues to speak to both parties, encouraging them to remain prideful, discouraging them from talking about the problem with each other, helping them to forget that loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the tenets of Christianity.

Pride: it’s something I write about a lot because I truly believe it is the number one tool of the Worm.  If we are full of pride and full of concern about our “rights”, the Worm can work with that.  Easily.  If we are more concerned with being the one who is in the right than we are about trying to make the situation right, the Worm will use that to continue dividing us from one another until the Split becomes a Chasm, with Parties and their supporters lined up on either side, hurling insults at each other.

A church split isn’t a separation of two groups with competing ideals, it’s a gaping hole with wounded people struggling to climb out of the abyss.  And the split begins as a tiny crack, that Party 1 and Party 2 are too prideful to try to repair.  Many of Jesus’ counter-cultural parables centered on figures who forgave when they didn’t have to, helped others when it was not easy or convenient for them, laid down their pride to better those around them.  So how do we miss this most basic teaching?  How do we let a crack become a chasm?

The Worm: the prince of darkness who lives in the shadow realm, is waiting for opportunities to exploit our most basic human weaknesses, our pride and selfishness.  Yes, he encourages the division that is destroying us but the tools he uses are of our own making.

***

I’ve seen a lot of division in the church in my short 36 years on this Earth.  And this division I’m talking about has been going on for centuries, and it is well documented.  Even as far back as Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 15:36-41

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Did they part because they prayed and felt that God wanted them to each go a different way and further His gospel?  No.  They parted because they were being stubborn and prideful, each believing they knew what was right.

The Worm.  His work is evident.

Galatians 19:21

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul said this!  My friends, even respected leaders mess up.

***

This summer I have, once again, felt the painful caress of division, like a sword, maiming but not killing.  I have been Party 1 and I have been Party 2.  I’ve been stubborn, prideful, arrogant, unforgiving, angry, hurt, wounded, beaten, broken, a real jerk, and a real innocent.  I have played all the parts and felt all the stings.

But I don’t want to be manipulated by this worm anymore.  Even though I feel as though my heart has physically been ripped from my chest and set on fire on top of a pile of broken glass, I don’t want to play the games this worm has contrived anymore.  I don’t know how, but what I want more than anything is to walk in humility towards others.  I want to lay down my pride and pray together and work things out.  But I can’t do it alone.  Even if one party is willing to try, if the other is closed off, it will not work.

So this is my declaration: I am here and I am willing to talk and pray and try to work things out.  I don’t want my pride to get in the way.  I don’t want the worm to win.  I don’t want to see lives hurt and wounded and beaten and broken.  If you are with me, if you are willing to work through any hurt we have between us, please call me.  I will sit with you and pray with you and hopefully, together we will find a place of agreement again, even if we no longer walk the same path.

My friends, don’t let The Worm have his way.  Don’t let him nudge his way into that tiny crack.  Let’s all lay down our pride together.

John 13:35

35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.

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Be A Weak Pony

I can’t stand having my hair in my face.  It’s either in a ponytail or pulled back in a clip or tucked behind my ears.  It’s almost an involuntary obsession.  I don’t even realize I’m fussing with it most of the time.

Just now I was annoyed by my hair again.  I thought about grabbing the ponytail holder I’ve been using for the last few days but decided against it.  I picked through the basket holding all my hair accoutrements looking for a perfect pony.  I picked several up and stretched them out, testing the tension in their elastic finally settling on one.  And as I pulled my hair up into a ponytail I realized that the perfect pony for me is also a perfect metaphor for some aspects of the Christian life.

pony

So let me tell you about my perfect ponytail holder and maybe you’ll see what I see, that we should all be weak ponies.

I have a lot of hair.  It’s something I think most women want and I have to admit it’s always made it easy to do a lot of different hairstyles with my mop.  But several years ago I was in a small car accident.  The car I was in was rear-ended and I suffered whiplash.  I’ve had to see chiropractors on and off for years because of it.  Suddenly having a lot of hair wasn’t such an asset.  Just about any hairstyle can easily cause a tension headache and bring on neck pain or worse, a migraine.  I have to be pretty careful what I use in my hair.

My favorite hairstyle for comfort is easily a ponytail.  It’s also the hairstyle that can most easily cause a tension headache.  So for me, when choosing a ponytail holder I have to look for some very specific qualities.

ponies

A) I prefer the larger sized ponies because they hold more hair.  And I have a lot of hair.

B) I use thicker ponytail holders.  They tend to last longer and I’m pretty hard on my ponies.  Even though I use the larger size, they can get stretched out quickly.

C) I need a weak pony.  I want one that has a lot of give but doesn’t feel like it will snap when I stretch it.  If the elastic is too strong I’ll get a headache.  BUT if it’s too weak I’ll break it.

Okay, you’re thinking, what’s the metaphor, Bonnie?  I mean, it seems like you’re kind of just rambling about hair and ponytail holders.  And for some reason you keep calling them ponies.

Yes, I am rambling.  It’s what I’m good at, so try to keep up.

Metaphor time:

A) I can’t use a small ponytail.  They don’t hold enough hair.  I have to be able to wrap the pony around the tail at least 3 times or it won’t hold.  Twice is not enough.  Four times causes headaches.  Three.  It’s my prime number, baby.  Therefore, I cannot use a small pony.

Don’t be small.  Don’t be small minded.  Keep yourself open to the possibility that you are wrong.

But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:6-7

When James told us to “resist the devil and he will flee”, he was talking about pride.  Pride is Satan’s main thang.  He loves it when we’re full of pride.  It’s how he ensnared Adam and Eve.  It’s the way he tried AND FAILED to tempt Jesus in the desert.  Pride keeps us thinking we’re right and closes our minds causing us to be SMALL.

But here’s the truth, whether you want to hear it or not: YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.

I know far too many people, Christians or otherwise, who always believe they are right.  They will argue against every point you make and, in general, are not open to any ideas that did not originate in their own minds.  They are small minded because they are not open to the possibility that they are wrong.  Their pride won’t allow it.  They’re small.

Don’t be small.

B) I can’t use a thin pony.  I used to love them because they can be quite stretchy but they break too easily.  And nothing annoys me more than a pony that snaps while I’m pulling up my hair.

Don’t be thin.  Don’t be thin skinned and easily offended.

33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!

John 16:33

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

Believe it or not, being easily offended goes right back to pride.  I hate to say it but a lot of our struggles in life stem from our pride.  Pride tells us that everyone should be okay with us because we’re good people and we’re likable.  But the truth is, no matter how “likable” we may be, haterz gon’ hate.  We WILL face persecution.  Our hearts will DEFINITELY come under attack.  We WILL be hurt.

And if we spend a little time examining ourselves and losing a little of our pride, we might not like what we see so much.  We might see that we’ve hurt people, we’ve been unlikable, maybe even a giant buttface.  I’ve definitely been a giant buttface more than my fair share of times.  If I’m thin skinned, all I can see or feel is my own hurt, my own wound.  But when I get a thicker skin, I’m able to see that I’ve hurt others, I need to stop being offended and do my best to make things right.

Every argument has 2 sides.  And unless you’re dealing with an actual psychopath, there’s every reason to believe that you hurt them just as much as they hurt you.  If we only see and feel our own hurt, we don’t stand much of a chance of reconciliation.  We have to get a thicker skin and man up.

Don’t be thin.

C) I can’t use a strong pony.  If the elastic is too strong I’ll definitely get a headache.  I need one that is malleable, pliable, easily manipulated.  I need a pony I can bend to my will. (Insert evil laughter here.)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

You probably know what I’m going to type here before I even type it.  Pride.  It’s pride again, y’all.  Pride, PRIDE, pride, pride. Pride.

When we first came to Jesus, we knew we were a broken mess.  We acknowledged our lowly state and confessed that we were sinners.  In the early years of our Christian walk, we stumbled at times, fell back into old patterns of sin and had to run back to the arms of Jesus once again.  But as the years went by, it became easier to say no to sin.  It became easier to look and act like a saint instead of a sinner.  And there can be only 2 reasons we got that good.  One: we spent time with the Holy Spirit, we sought out Jesus and His spirit guided us, shaping us as a potter shapes the clay.  Or, two: our longing to fit into the Christian dynamic drove us to change our behavior until we looked like a Christian is “supposed” to look.  I think for most people, it’s a little bit of both.

At any rate, once we’ve gotten through the messy stages of our early Christian walk, it can become all too easy to begin seeing ourselves as strong individuals.  We stop seeing the brokenness in ourselves because we no longer give in to the sin that so easily beset us before.  But that strength we see in ourselves is a lie.  It’s only our pride flaring up again and holding us back.  God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.  How then can he make his power perfect in us if we do not have weakness?  The answer is, he can’t.

Strength is not strength.  It is weakness.  Weakness is strength.

Acknowledging our weakness before God means we are dropping that wall of pride that keeps God from us.  Because pride is a wall, my friends, and don’t ever think any differently.

Rich Mullins said it best when he said, “We are not as strong as we think we are.”

Dear friends, don’t be strong.

Be a weak pony.  God can use a weak pony.

Oh, and by the way, when I do find a ponytail holder that has the perfect amount of tension, when I find one that is weak but doesn’t break – I care for it, protecting it, using it gently so that it lasts.  I keep it with me and even bring back up ponies so that if anyone asks to borrow a ponytail holder from me, I won’t have to give up that perfect pony.

When we drop our pride, opening our minds, not letting ourselves become easily offended and acknowledging our weakness, we’re placing ourselves firmly in God’s loving hands and trusting him to care for us.

When we cling to our pride, staying small minded, insisting we’re right, becoming offended when someone doesn’t agree with us, forgetting that we are wicked, broken creatures, we’re putting up a wall of pride and essentially uninviting God to the party.

Be a weak pony.  Let God care for you.

Saying the wrong thing and telling lies

Pride is sneaky
It’s not easy to see
Right away
You say
Only God can judge me
Held up high like a trophy
Like it’s magic, no one can touch me
Finding beauty in all your selfies
You live righteous, K, I’m not judging
Straight edge player marching to your own beat
Fell in love with the rhythm of your own need
Call them haterz if they don’t bow at your feet
But you’re just living like you were always made to be

Yeah, pride is sneaky
Drown so easy in our own deceit
Don’t come easy to humility
Don’t you know the earth goes to the meek
The future of the human race looks bleak
Cuz we let pride dictate the way we speak

Never thankful, never grateful
But always hashtag blessed
When’s the last time you bowed before Him
Laid your heart bare and confessed
Never sorry, not remorseful
Always hashtag amazing
But it’s not hard to be amazed
When it’s yourself you’re always praising

But who am I to judge
I’m selfish, lazy, mean and proud
Quick to anger
Quick to tear down
Slow to hear what’s clear and loud
I wish I was pure and gentle
Humble, patient, kind and wise
Instead I’m crazy, scarred and mental
Saying the wrong thing and telling lies

I know your pride won’t let you hear this
But that’s something I already knew
Cuz that’s the great thing about pride
It protects you from what’s true

Marvel

You believe the blessings you have are a result of your own labor, talent or skill but you are mistaken. You are blessed because a sovereign God wills it to be so. Don’t doubt for one moment that everything you have could be taken from you in an instant if He so willed it to be. Instead, marvel at His kindness and remember that every good gift you have received comes from the Father of lights.