Written by: Isabel Arcellana, Texas, USA
Last Wednesday, the Portland Church hosted a Zoom panel about something surprisingly controversial in the faith community: purity and dating culture.
What was different about this particular talk was who was talking. The older generation took a backseat, and the youth had the mic.
The conversation struck a chord with many of the young people in my church movement. So much so that we can’t ignore it. (Romans 12:15)
Listening to my peers talk about modesty culture, dating culture, and more, I felt so validated. Maybe I’m not crazy, they’ve seen these things too. They’ve felt these hurts, they’ve fought these battles. They want the same changes I want.
Most of what was discussed wasn’t new to me. They reflected conversations I have with my friends all the time. Topics like, why do so many women feel like the responsibility for men’s purity are placed on them and what they wear? (Matthew 5:27-30) Why are we sometimes so afraid of people “messing up” in their dating relationships that the rules we give them can result in marriages that skip intimacy, romance or friendship? Or why can we tend to be so afraid of impurity that we get weird about close friendships between genders? And why do we often treat differing boundaries and differing convictions on purity as sin? (Romans 14)
The recorded Zoom panel has had thousands of views, and when the Portland church turned it into a podcast, it was spreading quickly worldwide. I sent the podcast to my leaders and many friends, and by the time I had, some had already listened to it.
But am I saying that everything that was said on the panel was perfect? Not at all. The people on the podcast aren’t Jesus. Are these issues a problem in every city and ministry? No. But I am extremely grateful that this perspective is being heard because I believe these issues are prevalent in enough church communities to address it.
The podcast isn’t an end-all-be-all, it’s a conversation starter. And the conversation is crucial.
Since I shared the podcast on my social media platforms, I have had hours of conversations about it daily since its release. Many talks have been with young people sharing their own experiences with forced boundaries and toxic legalism, some have been with excited youth leaders discussing ways we can affect change in a unifying and humble way, and some have been with church leaders who are approaching this topic with overwhelming caution. And honestly, that makes sense to me.
Though I have never been a paid church staff member, my parents and many of my closest long time friends are or have been ministers. I hear and understand that some of them are wary about this conversation. If you don’t listen closely, you could hear the podcast and think, what does this mean? Are they saying we should throw away boundaries and have a free for all? Are they saying the youth shouldn’t listen to advice or their elders anymore?
Of course not. I’ve listened to the podcast at least 3 times now, and the panel says that they are still disciples of Christ who believe in purity, that they believe that boundaries are beneficial, and that wisdom from the old is good and vital. I think we all agree that we still need to ask for advice and that we still need structure. (Proverbs 11:14)
But what happens if someone hears this podcast and takes it and runs with it, throwing boundaries and caution to the wind?
I had a couple friends listen to the podcast and tell me how much they agree with the fact that in a lot of cases we should stop being so legalistic, stop forcing rules and shame on people, and other things said by the panel. But I know that these particular friends have a history of struggling with impurity. One of them even confessed some impurity during our conversation.
So, I called her out. I told her that she can’t ask for leadership to trust us with our own purity if we aren’t trustworthy. I agree that leadership should give advice and not rules, and that our convictions and our sin is on us. But if we are going to ask for a culture where we take responsibility for our own convictions, we have to actually take that responsibility.
So, what do we do? I don’t have the answer to that.
But I do know how we can find the answer. Together. (Too cheesy?)
But seriously. I think it would be unloving to say there isn’t a problem here, or to dismiss the need to discuss these matters. But I also think we shouldn’t see people that may have contributed to these problems as our enemies. Culture change happens when many people do little things over time. We need each other. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
To the leaders reading this: I understand that this can be overwhelming. I respect you for all you do, and I understand that you want to keep the unity and protect God’s people. I love you for it. We need you for it. But I also need you to listen to these hurts. Maybe you aren’t so much a contributor to harmful culture, but maybe one of your fellow staff members are, and maybe they will listen to you.
As you listen to people vocalizing, we ask you to strive for empathy. Please do not dismiss all vocalization as divisiveness or pride. Respect that if someone is a Christian, they are in the end striving to please God. After all, everyone is different and everyone’s walks with God look different, so who are we to judge if someone’s convictions are different than ours? (Romans 14)
To those who support the panel (mainly, the youth who are trying to speak out on these topics, and specifically the kids who grew up in the church): I hear you. I understand. I am so encouraged by young people who are seeing the flaws in a church made of imperfect people, but are still sticking around and fighting to make things better.
I need you all to join me in having tough conversations. This includes flighting for the change you’d like to see. It includes asking questions when advice turns into commands, calling up leaders to share your heart on these matters (and texting them a link to the podcast), and encouraging your friends to speak up when they see something unbiblical instead of just complaining about it to their peers (Ephesians 4:29, Matthew 18).
But it also includes listening. If we are going to work for change, we have to hold ourselves to a very high standard of righteousness. We have to constantly check our levels of pride. We have to ask for advice and guidance from many different perspectives. If we’re going to stir the pot or ruffle feathers (which I believe was what Jesus did with a lot of his time), we have to pray like never before, ask questions like never before, express constant gratitude for the church and its people, get used to being corrected like never before, and be in the Word like our lives depend on it.
I don’t believe the people on the podcast want to be divisive. Quite the opposite, I think they are speaking up because they don’t want these problems to cause division, which is exactly what would happen if we ignored them.
So let’s open the dialogue. We need inter-generational healing. To the International Churches of Christ (my church movement), the generation of kids who saw the Henry Kriete letter are grown-up now. And we don’t want to cause divisions. We want you to listen to us when we say that though we love this church, we still see areas it is vital that we grow in. We want to work with you to create a safer space for your children to grow up in. A place where you can trust us with our own relationships with God, and you can believe us when we say we’ve been hurt and we want change. We don’t want change without you or in spite of you. We want change with you.
> “i don’t want to cause division/dissension”
> “i just trust that God will take care of it, so i don't think i need to do anything”
> “we must listen to governing authorities and have respect for them, even if we don’t agree”
> “we’re IN the world, not OF the world”
> “God’s timing is perfect and we can’t control when oppression is going to end, it’s timeline is bigger than ourselves”
> and i could go on....
but all in all, these phrases move toward the same thing: justification.
justification to be apathetic—to not say anything and turn a blind eye to suffering, remaining stagnant in our unwillingness to be uncomfortable.
i wanted to talk about a scripture early on in the bible—one of the first mentions of injustice.
this is the story of an older brother who was entitled to recieving the most love from his Father + the mere existence of his younger brother seemed to take away from his own desired experience.
this older brother gathered a sacrifice to give to his Father (God), which was ultimately disfavored in comparison to his younger brother’s first fruits.
the older brother grew angry at this and killed his younger brother.
> was this a moment of pure rage?
> was this a premeditated effort in response to the threat of Abel (the younger brothers’) success?
we don’t really know...but we do know that his actions (and subsequent non-action of working through his own hatred and assumed privilege) turned ugly in a moment of fear.
> so how does God respond?
God SEES this-
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’
He said, ‘ I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’
And the LORD said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” // genesis 4:9-10
here’s what we learn from God’s response--
we are responsible for what happens to our brothers and sisters.
we (the ones who subsequently benefit from others’ oppression) are responsible for what happens in response to systemic racism and anti-blackness (in this case).
i think white Americans struggle with this question-- am i my brother’s keeper? am i responsible for what happens? even if my thoughts/actions are unseen, or unnoticed? how do they make a difference?
we can so easily shift blame towards others who are overtly racist, bigoted and —particularity in the case of Ahmaud Arbery— anti-black.
but here’s the thing—no single drop of rain thinks it’s responsible for a flood.
our silence and unwillingness to get involved (which—by the way—if we have the choice to get involved or not while maintaining our own safety) IS privilege + forfeits our innocence.
it is with every drop of unchecked bias, racist joke, profiled thought, and anti-black (or anti-asian, anti-latinx, etc) sentiment that these things happen in our society---and consequently, seeps into our churches.
the question thus arises-- can we really be blameless AND silent? + if not, how can we take responsibility?
have we ignored having hard conversations? have we kept our privileged friends and family accountable? have we been empathetic and quick to listen to the experiences of minoritized individuals? have we educated ourselves of the true history this country has endured?
we must think:
> how can we protect each other?
> how can i show the same concern God does when acts of hatred happen?
because God deeply CARES and when we stay silent, he has to hear the voice of bloodshed and his heart is broken.
“speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” // proverbs 31:8-9
// isaiah 61
// psalm 9: 7-9
// zechariah 7:9-10
// ezekiel 33:6
✨HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!✨
i recently heard a TEDTalk by shola richards that talked of the term: ubuntu— I AM because WE ARE
shola talked of the importance of little mosquitoes enacting change and disturbing the status quo amongst large entities. the idea that it’s hard to go
to sleep whilst a mosquito is buzzing all around your room at night encapsulates the importance of the marginalized. it’s NOT enough to just NOT be racist, to not be judge-mental, to not be sexist, fat-phobic, xenophobic, homophobic, fearful, ableist, rude, etc.
we must ACT against these ideals because what we allow in our home without correction, is only perpetuated in our society further.
our society is too broken, too hurt and too oppressed to stand by and allow the status quo to be the norm.
we must be the materialization of God’s grace to this world that is crippled by anxiety, oppression, marginalization, judgement, and fear.
this is why i LOVE international women’s day because it celebrates a group that deserves a long-overdue exoneration! BUT WE’RE NOT DONE: there are other women that have intersections of identity that are continually oppressed for just being who they are: women of color, women of oppressed lower socio-economic classes, women in patriarchal societies, LGBTQIA+ women, older women, women in larger bodies, women with disabilities, women in stigmatized conditions + mental health issues—we are not done and we won’t be until we ALL are💛
our God is a God who HEARS the cries of the oppressed and ACTS to provide refuge, safety and worth💕
use your voice, use your privilege, and use your GIFTS to actively fight against institutions that perpetuate shame
I AM because WE ARE🌿
love you guys💗
it takes a LOT of faith to entrust all your life experiences, hurts, traumas and unhealthy mindsets to someone with the hope of change.
i want to encourage you with this promise:
"and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” // philippians 1:6
He who has BEGUN this long, hard and sometimes (what feels like) a hopeless process in you will SEE YOU THROUGH IT. God will not leave all your wounds gaping open for too long.
His healing process takes time + in those moments it can feel like, “what’s the point?” —- but really try to draw your focus to the bigger picture.
maybe its been 5 years of unhealthy coping mechanisms, or a year of anxiety, or 10 years of self-neglect, or 2 years of codependency in a toxic relationship, a season of depression, a couple weeks feeling “off”, death of a loved one, or managing stress.
it may not go away in just 3 therapy sessions—but that is more than okay!!
as i’ve mentioned in previous posts, i’ve wrestled with eating disorders for the past 8 years of my life. i did not elicit formal help until recently— about 6 months ago.
after the first week (which was 15 hours of therapy) i expected to be completely better.
i honestly FELT a lot better but that was just surface cleaning.
they wiped the counters, but the cupboards of my heart were stuffed with old, nasty tupperware. (kind of a gross analogy but that’s kind of how it felt)
part of me didn’t care about the stuff no one could see, but pretty soon, i felt the cupboard doors open and was flooded with old habits and mindsets i had neglected for so long.
i felt messier than i ever did before. more broken. more incapable. more insecure + more emotional (pretty sure i was crying almost everyday!!)
what the heck man?! isn’t this supposed to HELP?!
it took about 2 months after starting therapy to not feel like a complete mess all the time.
even after THAT, another process started: how to organize and put all the newly cleaned dishes back into my life.
that’s been pretty hard...because i think after a while we like the mess.
we are used to coping with certain things—to the point where better doesn’t even feel right. its uncomfortable.
i didn’t want to accept recovery as a new normal... and i actually still hate it.
how do i live without it? what do i fill my time with now?
i’m reminded of the scripture in john where Jesus asks the man, “do you [really] want to get well?”
we figure “well duh, of course he WANTS to be well” but honestly, i still wrestle with that question.
if Jesus were to ask me that today i think i’d have to make a pros + cons list right in front of him.🥴
some days I’m super motivated, other days, not so much
on the days i’m not, i think it comes down to this:
“i’m tired of fighting for good when i don’t experience the fruit.
i thought all of this (therapy) was supposed to stop the battling, the constant war.
i had a conversation with one of my friends about this subject. i was expressing my feelings about treatment and how frustrated i was that i wasn’t “cured.”
he responded, (paraphrase) “i know, i was annoyed too when i started therapy because it didn’t really solve my issues. it just helped me be more equipped to deal with them.
the battle was easier to win, but i wanted the fight to stop”
when he said that, i was shook.
he literally put into words my exact embedded assumptions about therapy and why my hope was deferred.
i had put my hope in the wrong thing. i wanted to get to a place where i no longer needed to receive help, or even think about my issue. i think for a lot of us our goal is to not need anyone anymore- to be independent.
i think after some time, (probably longer than we want) that can happen. i know some people that feel completely healed from their depression, anxiety, eating disorder, addiction, + trauma, to the point where it doesn’t affect their everyday lives anymore. but i believe that’s more of a rarity than we’d like to think
in matthew 8, a guy walks up to Jesus and asks for healing . Jesus responds, “i am willing”. Jesus is always willing to go into the trenches with us and walk us through the healing process as we dig up all our old stuff. have faith to stick with the process and trust that he will too.
+ that’s the last part of this that i want to talk about.
this life with Jesus is all about relying on Him.
my friend ended with, “this reminded me of the ‘thorn in my flesh’ paul talks about in second corinthians.”
it might be a case of “if i didn’t have this, I’m not sure i’d need God” or “if this would be gone + i would no longer need to fight and life would be perfect” (that’s how i feel).
one hypothetical question: if you had to pick between having this thing, WITH God (+ the deep intimacy that comes with struggle), OR not having this thing but also refusing God because you don’t need him (+ going through life that way, independent of his comfort + presence)—which would ya choose?
although life generally isn’t that black and white, and reality is somewhere in the middle, it’s still a good question to ask... and hard to answer at times. i think it comes down to what we value more. God-reliance, or self-reliance.
all in all i just want to encourage you in the fight for health, wellness, FAITH, + perseverance.
its super not easy and there will be times when giving up seems like the only option and faith grows weary but God wants healing for you more than you even do.
will you trust that he will walk before you AND after you in this process?
and more than just believe it—but truly LIVE it.
with each and every decision, trusting that God will sow these times for your healing.
you got this.💗
> to be real, the past week and a half has been REALLY hard recovery-wise. my desire to look worthy of praise and admiration has exceeded my desire for God’s glory to be shown in my life.
> i saw a direct correlation—when i want glory, recovery is out of sight. i am consumed with how to get praise and validation for my existence [so i go back into an eating disorder mindset]
> but on the days where God’s glory is the most important thing to me, it’s all about how God will be shown through my recovery, how His power has been made PERFECT in my weakness....not my incessant need for control.
[not sure what that looks like for you...anxiety? control? perfectionism? aesthetic-a? success? relationship?]
> what do you gravitate towards when you’re craving glory, acceptance or validation?
chances are it doesn’t reflect Gods power—but “ours” instead.
>> what gives me HOPE is this promise:
“those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.” // psalm 34:5
> isnt that what we ALL want?! we want to be LIGHT + LOVE!
we want people to gravitate towards us. GOD WANTS THAT TOO!! .....but for people to see HIM through that light—not us.
> when we LOOK to God and prioritize His glory we are BRIGHT LIGHTS in this world of shadows because we will reflect his love + freedom💛
at first, peter was doing GREAT [as we all do when we first start doing something🤪] until the waves and winds started to pick up
here’s the kicker though—-did peter REALLY doubt jesus? the one who wasn’t even sinking...or HIMSELF?
i think he lost confidence that he could really do what jesus called him to do.
here’s what I LOVE though—jesus believes in us, more than we even do ourselves
honestly, starting out with this page, i was SO excited, so inspired and so ready to help as many people as i could. i felt called by jesus, out of the boat of my own insecurities and doubt.
i felt great, i loved to make new blogs and posts, etc.
but, as each day passed by i grew more afraid and paralyzed by fear of rejection and mediocrity.
this morning really woke me up. jesus believes in ME, he believes in YOU.
what boat did you step out of maybe a long time ago but because of self-doubt you deemed yourself incapable? was it recovery? a new mindset? a thankfulness journal? making new, deep friendships? freedom from sin?
not sure what yours is, but i know i have a few [but really, more like a ton!]
i know i definitely want to post more—without fear of being less than perfect, to stay in recovery and deepen my human need for friendships!!
SO thankful we have a savior that challenges us, loves, dreams for, + believes in us more than we ever could ourselves🌞💛🤙🏽
Last week, we looked at the lies Satan plants in our minds that undermine the purposes God has for us, and the TRUTH He wants us to live by! Believing that lie distorts our worldview, and taints God’s true intent for our lives. In response, we feel the need to hustle and hide behind facades for love/acceptance. God asked Adam, “Where are you?” not because He didn’t know where he was physically, but because He wanted Adam to be real and honest with where he was at:
"but the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" // genesis 3:9
But at some point, we have to get out from behind the bushes, and continue on with our life. We have to go see our friends, go to church events, go to work so we can make money, go to school, etc. Not only did Adam and Eve hide from the presence of God, but when they eventually came out of hiding, they sewed fig leaves together to cope with their shame- to be in a habitual state of disguise.
[following the eating of the forbidden fruit]
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” // genesis 3:7
At first they hid because they felt naked and exposed in their inadequacies but then they had to cover themselves to be able to “live with” their new feelings of insecurity- as do we all (side note: the shame that is a result of our sin often also disrupts the intimacy between relationship/friendships, in addition to our relationship with God). They felt the need to cover their most vulnerable parts from each other, and from God, with an unsustainable material because they feared ridicule and rejection.
To be completely transparent, this mindset has frequently manifested itself very prominently in my life. It was a strongly held belief of mine (engrained within my family life and the society I was entrenched in) that the way you look is a direct reflection of your character/value. I learned to judge people and assume their lives were a certain way based on their looks; “Wow, they must be unhappy, lazy, not care about themselves, etc.” because they didn’t measure up to the standards I held myself to. But, when it finally came to my own appearances, that’s exactly what I assumed other people thought of me. I was unwilling to be perceived as anything less than perfect, to cover up my ACTUAL feelings of inadequacy. I know this isn’t an uncommon thought process, but this is how it looked specifically for me.
For some, maybe you hide in your success, others maybe wealth, grades, fitness, relationships. You think, “Well, as long as I am ____ people will think highly of me, love me, or see value in me.”
Sooner or later, though, we must up the ante, our mirage fades and we must change the covering because it’s withering and unable to withstand the weight of our shame.
At that point, everything stops and our image still doesn’t identify with what we deem to be valuable. Maybe you’re finally at your goal weight but you still feel overweight, or that new car that made you feel so cool at first doesn’t feel so nice anymore, or maybe you were valedictorian in high school or summa cum laude in college and still don’t feel smart, accomplished or loved enough. Maybe you’re one, two, or even three degrees into your education and it still doesn’t feel enough for your career or family. Maybe it’s having a TON of friendships, or going through multiple relationships and still not feeling sufficiently loved. You’ve accomplished everything you’ve set your mind to but still don’t feel complete. You have everything you have ever wanted but still feel unsuccessful.
We tend to use experiences and people to fuel our need for validation and to prove that we AREN’T actually what Satan told us we were. However, time and time again nothing is sufficient and we are again left with our bare, exposed being.
Personally, I tried so hard to manipulate my body into perfection that I caused myself harm for over 8 years with an eating disorder. There were times when my new “lower weight” fulfilled me, but most times I would have to find a new goal to sustain my need for security, validation, and control. At the end of every day, the momentary security was short-lived and was ripped out from under me. I could no longer hide behind the mask of “being perfect”. I felt that my shortcomings were laid bare for all to see (especially when I gained weight, or even just thought I did). I felt like every roll or piece of flab was a reason for someone to ridicule and reject me, for them to confirm my fear of unworthiness.
Honestly, there finally came a time where I just had to stop (not that it’s just that easy), but we all have to decide to stop covering up our insecurities and our true identity with withering leaves.
“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
// II corinthians 12:10
It’s only until we realize the extent of God’s GRACE and love that those mechanisms (that we use to cope with our insecurities) can come crumbling down.
You CAN come out from behind the bushes, uncovered and stand before God blameless and confident, knowing that IN your shame (NOT after, NOT with fig leaves covering yourself) He will then: ACCEPT you (exactly the way you are), LAVISH your imperfections with his STRENGTH, & CLOTHE you in His love and sacrifice, making us all COMPLETELY without shame or guilt, because He paid the price. He will cover us with a non perishable, living flesh that died on our behalf (Jesus). He is the only perfect covering!!
So what does that look like on a practical standpoint? For me, it began with being honest with myself and God with where I was at. What would you say to God if He asked you, “Where are you?”; acknowledging what lies you believed that caused you to hide, AND cover up your insecurities with a withering substance. Maybe it’s purposefully posting pictures on Instagram to get a certain amount of "likes, comments, DMs" (aka validation that you’re ___) to temporarily bandage the gaping wound of unworthiness. Maybe it’s fueling your need for admiration through broken relationships and toxic friendships, or like me, an eating disorder to cope with my need for a perceived perfection and control. It wasn’t until I realized why this problem was so deep for me, that I could approach God bare, and confident so He could heal me from Satan’s lie that that's what I needed to be to be accepted. Reading His words and listening to His voice first and foremost was a crucial part of fully accepting myself exactly the way He created me to be- quirks and rolls and all!
Know that His grace has the power to turn YOUR deficiencies into His most effective tool to show people who He is!
we love you, we're with you!!
Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve thought “ghosting God” after blatantly disobeying Him would work? Honestly, I don’t think that would’ve been my first reaction. If I were in their shoes, my first instinct would’ve been to act like nothing happened: hide the remains, bury the pit, and make a pact with each other to never speak of it again. As ridiculous as THAT even sounds, sometimes we can act that way: refusing to acknowledge our acts of disobedience.
It really makes me wonder, then, what brought them to disregard the knowledge of God’s omnipresence? After all, weren’t they supposed to have gained a new, profound wisdom as a result of eating the fruit? A switch must’ve occurred within them to resort to hiding from their Creator.
"He (the LORD) said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
// Genesis 3:11
Huh, what a seemingly simple question God asks: “Who told you that you were naked?”
Not once have I speculated the reasoning behind that question, but I can almost hear God also saying, ”Naked compared to WHO? Nothing I’ve created has ever needed anything else besides what I‘ve given them to live! What do you mean NAKED? Who told you that that was even a PROBLEM? It is exactly how I made you!"
At that moment, God knew what had happened; He knew that they must have listened to another voice. Satan was the one who convinced them that they needed to be ashamed in their discrepancies, that their bare being was unpresentable, and their instinct was to hide who they are from Him.
How many times has Satan told us that we are not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not loved enough, not worthy, not perfect enough, et cetera?
God is right there telling you, “Compared to WHO? Who told you that the way I made you was BAD? Don’t you know that I made you exactly the way I need you to be so that we could have an intimacy unparalleled to anything else on the Earth? Have you eaten from the tree of Facebook and Instagram? Are you questioning My truth for what the world tells you? If only you knew what I think of you, what i want to give you and the plans I’ve predestined for you!”
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
// Genesis 3:21
Our creator doesn't want us to hide from him at all! Instead, he works with the consequences of our sin (feeling naked and ashamed) and produces a way for us to be reconciled to him.
God sacrificed an animal (another one of His creatures) as a sufficient covering for their shame. He didn’t expect them to no longer feel naked without clothes, but met them where they were at, IN their deception, and created a way for them to securely walk with Him again.
Not to be over-simplistic, but many of our most painful experiences stem from an assumption told to us from Satan about our existence that we mistook as truth.
Maybe you have a deep belief that you will only be accepted if you are successful: who told you that? God loves us and is shown through us more IN our weakness; that we must be thin, beautiful, fashionable, smart, popular, extroverted, fun, et cetera, to be loved by anyone. Who told you that? God loved us before we were even a physical being! He is fully enthralled by our spirit! It's easy to believe that in order to be worthy, we must prove it and receive validation from every single human we encounter. It's easy to believe that our lives must make others envious. WHO TOLD YOU THAT?
We need to take hold of those lies we live our days in response to, and question how those beliefs came about! If they are inhibiting your life, chances are, they are not from God, your loving creator. Over the course of the next few weeks we’re going to be exposing those lies, and learning together how to combat Satan’s tactics.
“Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘ Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ and at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” // John 5:2-9
Man oh man. Take a second and imagine yourself as this man. Go on, really let your mind wander for a moment. You’re sitting on the side of a pool. Every few years an angel comes down to stir the waters and one lucky individual gets picked up and thrown into the healing pool. A few years pass, and the waters start to stir again. Your hopes well up inside you. You scream, yell, beg for someone to have mercy and carry you into the pool. Time and time again, despite your best efforts, someone else goes in before you. More years pass and your hope has been deferred too many times; you start to imagine spending the rest of your life damaged. The next time the waters stir you do not yell, not even making a sound. You just sit there watching someone else’s life turn around. Maybe you wonder, why me? Why was I given this life only to suffer? What value do I add to anyone else's life? You hear about a man that has the power to heal people, sitting in disbelief you might say, “I’m not good enough to be saved”, “Why would anybody save me? No one has found it worthwhile before!” Insecurity fills your being diving deeper into shame and hopelessness.
A ~random~ man suddenly walks past you and asks if you want to get well. What kind of question is that? Can’t he see your despair, your helplessness, desperation? The best response you can gather is why you haven’t gotten well already, “Well sir, others always go ahead before me, surely you don’t think that I could get well all by myself.”
Maybe he really meant, “Are you willing to do what it takes to get well?” OR are you stuck in the vicious cycle of lost hope, and finally given into painful comfortability?
The truth is, getting better takes a lot more effort than staying sick. It is way harder to dig out of the pit we’ve been stuck in for so long. Or maybe being well is scarier for us. What are we going to do with our new life? Are we afraid to move on? Being riddled with self pity is way easier than working on ourselves to actually get better.
I think Jesus knew this. He wanted to provide this man the opportunity to decide. Does he WANT to use Jesus’ methods (picking up his mat and walking) and His love to enable his healing? Or did he want to wallow in his hopelessness and never seek change?
Believe it or not, we actually are this man, we ALL are and can be- each and every one of us. Do you find yourself just waiting to get better, that you’ll hopefully wake up one day freed? Or wishing that maybe if you pray hard enough that God’s mercy will fall upon you and he will lift the burdens of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, mania, etc. from you? Maybe you really do want help, but aren’t willing to do what Jesus is calling you to do to receive healing (I’ve personally struggled with this aspect). We can so often expect others to pick us up out of our muddy pits and throw us into the pools of healing, not believing we can do any of the heavy lifting ourselves and wrongly blaming God's "impotence" or our condition for our stagnancy.
But that’s the catch- we CAN’T. On our own, we CAN’T get up and walk. We CAN’T get out of bed in the mornings. We CAN’T forgive that person that wronged us. We CAN’T stop worrying that we are going to mess up our lives. We CAN’T have healthy relationships with people, or food.
But Jesus offers us freedom and healing if we listen to His direction. We need to DECIDE that we will get well, no matter how many times we fall, allowing His words of TRUTH and understanding to guide us to stand again. Trust in His methods and commands, and with each and every little wobbly step, healing will permeate your being- and you can. Take a deep breath. You totally can.
- lifeline team
1 thes. 2:8
because we love you so much, we are delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well