Tag Archives: truth

When love leads, truth follows

From the beginning my intent for this blog has been to spread hope, encouragement and love. Because of this, I have purposely chosen not to write about controversial topics.

Believe me, it’s not that I don’t have my own opinions about wars and politicians and Duggars and SCOTUS rulings. In many cases I have very strong opinions; but I find that the thing that makes a topic controversial to begin with is its power to divide people, and where there is division, usually misunderstanding, hurt or anger follow.

However, it is precisely because of the division the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is causing that I feel led to write about it.

As a Christian I am called to speak truth and follow scripture. This is not optional, and I can’t pick and choose which scriptures to follow.

But, as a Christian I am also called to love. And what concerns me is when speaking truth seems to be more vital than speaking love. When being right and being heard is more important than being humble and listening.

As Christians, we cannot cherry pick passages of scripture to suit our own agenda. We cannot quote scripture that defines marriage as being between a man and woman, and not look at the full transcript of that scripture and recognize it also admonishes divorce, declaring any man who divorces his wife and marries another is committing adultery (Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:5-12).

We cannot use portions of scripture to make a point and then, conveniently, leave off the rest of the message. Scripture was not meant to be used as a weapon, or as a tool for furthering political agendas. If we use our Facebook pages to publicly condemn one act of sin, we must be willing to, just as loudly, condemn all others, including especially our own!

But there.

That word: condemn.

That is the problem.

By choosing to use our pulpits, our newsletters, our websites, our Twitter feeds, and our voices to focus on condemnation instead of love, we are misrepresenting Jesus and misrepresenting the Word.

Jesus called us to “love one another, just as he loved us” (John 15:12).

This doesn’t mean Jesus shied away from the truth. We know he didn’t. But he loved first.

He shared meals with people first.

He healed them first.

He offered them water first.

He visited their homes first.

He asked them to come and sit with him first.

He loved them first.

Over the last few days I have seen Facebook, Twitter and the news media ignite with opinions, photos, quotes, hashtags, scripture references, and articles. Friends have been very quick to claim which side of the issue they stand on and it seems (despite the plethora of rainbow colored profile pictures) people find this issue to be black and white. Either you are for, or you are against the Supreme Court ruling. Right or wrong. And you must choose a side.

However, what happens when we choose one side is it usually alienates the other, leaving little room for open dialog and honest conversation. When we make the focus on right versus wrong, instead of on love, we are shutting the door to conversation and relationship with each other and we are giving the enemy lots of ammunition for creating a division within the church.

Yes, as the church we must speak truth. We cannot present a watered-down Gospel just to make ourselves more relevant, more palpable, more accepted. But, we must also follow the example laid out by Jesus and start with love.

Because when love leads, truth follows.

We must remove the condemnation for others from our hearts and our mouths, and instead focus on ourselves.We must accept that we won’t always see eye-to-eye, but love and respect can remain in tact even in the midst of disagreement. We must come together in homes, and small groups and listen first and talk second. We must create an environment where our friends and neighbors and relatives feel safe sharing their hearts with us, safe walking through the front doors of our churches.

We must remember that no one’s heart was ever changed in 150 characters or less. I don’t care how many emoticons you use, people cannot receive love and understanding from a Facebook post.

Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it’s incredibly complicated.

Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy.

But we can do this. We can come together instead of standing divided. Let’s start and end with love.

——————————————————————————

Author’s note: I had begun writing this post two days ago, but kept hesitating on whether I should actually publish it. Then tonight, by chance, I had two separate conversations with friends about this topic. We did not all agree, but the conversations were based on love and mutual respect. We shared with transparency and honestly while keeping open hearts and open minds.

These conversations affirmed what I was feeling when writing this post — that these conversations are best had around dinner tables, in living rooms, or on park benches…even via the telephone is better than social media and electronic communication. These conversations need to be had person-to-person, and with an interest in listening more than being heard. I am so thankful to my friends for affirming that for me. For being real, and for being willing to listen.

If you feel led to share this article via social media, that’s great. But I hope that you will also feel led to discuss this topic in-person. The conversation may have gotten started on social media, but lets continue it in our dining rooms and back porches.

photo credit: Los ojos son las ventanas al alma via photopin (license)

Advertisements

Speak your truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

Today I read this blog post by a woman named Laura. It’s her story about finally coming forward and reporting the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her grandfather. I cried as I read Laura’s story. I cried as she described wanting to dance on her grandfather’s grave. I cried the moment she and her cousin decided to report the abuse to the police. I cried when they called her sister from the police station and had her give her statement. Mostly I cried at the freedom and validation she felt by having her truth told and acknowledged publicly. Because I know how freeing and healing it is to be able to tell your truth. To no longer hide it, keeping it tucked away deep inside like it never happened.

When I was molested by my step-father at 13 there was no police report filed. There was no public announcement made. I never even got to confront him. I was removed from the situation and taken to live where I was safe (and I’m thankful for that). But I was told that reporting it could ruin his life and his career. I was told that I was confused, that I had misunderstood what had happened. I was told I needed to talk to a counselor – a stranger who sat behind a large desk. There was a lot of whispering behind closed doors. There were awkward hugs and “how are you doing?” from family members. I wasn’t sure who knew and who didn’t. If they did know, most of them never said anything to me, and I was afraid to bring it up.

While no one ever said the topic was taboo, I felt it deep in my heart. I felt like it was too big, too real for anyone to handle. I felt like the only person I was supposed to talk to about it was my counselor, who was the very last person I wanted to open up to. So I pushed down my truth and hid it in a dark corner, under a heavy rock in the pit of my stomach.

There it stayed, only shared with two or three friends for the next 8 years, until I was 21. Out of nowhere the truth came bubbling to the surface and exploded from the years of pressure and subconscious effort it had taken to keep it hidden. I fell into a deep depression for a year and almost didn’t graduate college. But, the good news was that explosion forced me to seek help. It forced me to get the counseling I needed but hadn’t wanted at 13. It forced me to start telling my story.

Over the years, through lots of counseling and prayer, and amazing support from my husband, I learned how to own my truth. I was able to start sharing with other people what had happened to me. The first few times I told my story my hands trembled, my heart raced and I sobbed, barely able to get the words out. Then, with each telling it got easier. With each telling I healed a little bit more; I took another step towards freedom and forgiveness. I began to own my past, not be afraid of it.

With each telling I was met by women who confided they, too, had been molested or sexually assaulted. Each and every single time. And I would hear God say, “There are more. Keep telling your story because there are more.”

Last year I told my story in the most public forum to-date, this blog. To date over 400 people have read that post and because of it I’ve been approached by women who have been molested, or had a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter who have been there. They’ve sought me out eagerly, with a sense of urgency, and whispered this in my ear or sent me private messages, still unable to tell their truth out loud, but wanting so bad to tell someone. Some women have confided they’ve never told another living soul, others said only a few very close family members knew. Yet, they were compelled to tell me because it felt safe. I was one of them. And I could see the slight unburdening of their soul as they shared with me.

My sisters (and brothers) there are so very many of us who have been hiding our truth for too long. Thinking we were the only ones. It’s time to end the silence and the fear. Whether you choose to file a report with the authorities, like Laura, to tell your best friend, or share with your Bible study group — don’t be afraid to tell your story. Don’t be afraid to own your truth and reclaim it from your abuser.

Let God be your armor and your strength. You are not alone and you are loved.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” – Ephesians 6:13-14

[Author’s note: While I believe that telling our truth is a freeing and healing step for those who have suffered sexual abuse or trauma, I also want to stress that doing so may open up a lot of old wounds, especially if you have been keeping your secret for a long time. I encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse to seek out professional counseling to help you work through your past and move toward healing.

Update, May 3, 2016: I dear friend of mine, also a victim of childhood sexual abuse, recently released a book called Journey to Heal: 7 Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to find healing from the abuse of their past.]

Small moments, Big impact

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “what is my legacy? How am I making a difference in this world?”

I think for some people it’s very clear. Pastors, missionaries, humanitarians and aid workers — these people can see how they are influencing lives and doing God’s work on a daily basis. For the rest of us, it may be hard to look at our lives and know how/if we are leaving a mark. Sometimes the way people touch our lives and impact our spiritual journey is bold and immediate, like a large rock being thrown into a pond, making a huge splash, and maybe even displacing us. But more often I think it is the small interactions, the bits of encouragement or truth that are said in passing, that end up staying with us, like quiet raindrops on the pond, slowly filling us up and over time changing our core substance.

Over the last 15 years I have been a youth group leader, confirmation teacher, Sunday school teacher, and led adult small group Bible studies. I can’t say that in any of those roles I’ve witnessed anything I said or did causing a big splash in someone’s life. But I certainly pray that my words, or perhaps even just my mere presence have contributed drops of hope, encouragement or truth that has stuck with them.

I know there are several instances of these small blessings in my life that have had a lasting impression. They were seemingly insignificant  at the time. Simple conversations or gestures that likely the givers don’t even recall. But they have had a huge impact in my life and stayed with me.

small raindrops

I’ve already written about how my dear friend Mary gave me my very first Michael W. Smith cassette tape when I was 13, which began my 25 year love affair with his music. It might sound silly, but that gift really changed my life. It came at exactly the right time to get me through an incredibly difficult period of life, but more than that, it introduced me to the world of contemporary Christian music and how good music can have a significant impact on the worship experience. I am not much of a musician — despite 7 years of piano lessons I can’t really play anything more difficult than Ode to Joy (the easy version), and the three years I played clarinet I spent as the perpetual third chair — but I know and appreciate good music. I know that it can change the entire worship experience, and can surpass language and cultural barriers to bring people together. I have experienced the Holy Spirit through song. And my most profound worship experiences have been set to music.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with the worship leader at our church to recruit and schedule musicians, evaluate potential songs, and help plan and create additional creative arts elements that go into our services. Despite my inability to sing on-key or play an instrument, I have a way to influence and support the worship experience because of my love and understanding of music, and it all started with that “Go West Young Man” cassette.

When I was 17 and a senior in high school I was eagerly planning for college. After a trip to Appalachian State to interview for some scholarships and tour the campus, I came home and excitedly relayed to some friends all the reasons college was going to be totally awesome! (said in my best 90’s voice) As I told my friend Cara, who was a year younger than I, about the campus and the facilities, she asked,”did you look at any churches while you were down there?”

“Well, no, I didn’t get a chance to do that yet.”

“Don’t you think that is important? That you find a church you can attend while you’re there?” Cara was clearly wise-beyond-her-years. While I had been so caught-up in the campus life, looking at dorm rooms, checking out the football stadium and the coffee shops, I had not once considered looking at churches or finding a Christian student-group.

After that conversation with Cara, I contacted the school about the Christian student groups and ultimately joined the Lutheran Student Association (LSA), which had a HUGE impact on my spiritual formation during those four years. I also found the local Lutheran church to be my home-away-from-home. The pastor and his wife became like family to me, and in 2000 I was married in that church.

I’m sure my friend Cara didn’t know the impact her simple question would have on me, and probably has forgotten it ever happened. But 25 years later it still remains in my thoughts.

The last story I’ll share is more recent. In my 15 year career as a marketer, I’ve had the joy to work with some fantastic managers and mentors, many of whom have become personal friends. When I first started working at my current company I had two managers, one of which was in South Africa. Soon after I started in the new role I got to travel to Johannesburg to meet her, and we spent a good bit of time getting to know one another on that first trip . Ironically, we shared bits about our personal lives that might not have come up so soon if we worked in the same office. Over dinner my second night there the topic turned to our personal beliefs and we found out we were both Christians and our faith was a big part of our lives. This bit of early knowledge, I believe, really shaped our professional relationship and personal friendship because we could be very candid and honest with one another and didn’t worry about crossing any professional boundaries.

I recall one conversation in particular, about 5 years ago, when I was considering going back to school to get my Master’s Degree. I was lamenting to her all the reasons I was afraid to make the commitment. She said to me, “Yes, but God does not want us to have a spirit of fear. We are called to trust in Him.”  Wow! Convicted, this girl right here, thank you very much!

Again, that one statement –that little raindrop — struck me to my core and has stayed with me. Whenever I start to get caught-up in the fear and worry of branching outside of my comfort zone, I remember Jo-Anne’s words and I turn to God to take away my fear and give me strength.

This past weekend at the She Speaks conference, keynote speaker Lysa TerKeurst reminded us that it is not about our words, it is about The Word.

His word.

When we speak the truth to all who come across our path, God will use it to change hearts, encourage the hurting, and create a lasting effect — whether it shows up as a big splash or a tiny drop. I try to remember this and trust God that He will use my words to encourage others and shine a light on the truth.

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear how someone has said or done something in your life that’s had a lasting impact on your spiritual journey. Please share either through the comments section or on my Facebook page.

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” – John 7:18