If someone tells you she has panic attacks, how do you begin to use Scripture as your guide? (I am choosing panic attacks almost randomly. It is one of a dozen or so psychiatric diagnoses that is relatively common and not clearly identified in Scripture.)
You are watching a movie. There she is, right on cue. The archetypal seductress appears. The prostitute of Proverbs (6, 7) comes to mind. Follow this siren to your peril because she is taking you straight to her home in the grave. How easy it is to assess her and her motives. Everything is so blatant.
Your husband received a near unanimous vote from the congregation when he was called but someone must have rigged the count. After his very first sermon, his approval rating started its relentless downward course, and it feels like the nay-sayers are killing your soul. And all the while, you are expected to keep on smiling and maintain civility.
This, of course, does not represent the experience of every pastor’s wife, only most of them.
Sometimes old and simple truths affect us in new ways. In fact, this seems to be an essential feature of spiritual growth. The passage that was ho-hum last week now plumbs the depths of our souls. We are always re-discovering simple spiritual realities as the Spirit brings new light and depth to old truths.
Of all the names for God, “Father” is the most important. Yes, the Lord is King, and when you sense that life is out of control you are certainly comforted to know that he has kingly authority and control, but Father is better. When Jesus revealed the Kingdom of Heaven to us he taught a radical new way to pray—“Our Father . . .”
Each generation of believers develops its own weird convictions about Scripture. Though confessions and creeds offer some stability, they also conceal our faulty beliefs under a thin cover of orthodoxy. And there they wait, erupting to the surface in times of trouble
One place we can find the corporate weirdness of our day is in the doctrine of sanctification. It seems that we have arrived at a consensus about the normal process of sanctification and it’s not good. Here it is:
Legalism is usually a description of the church down the street that is not relevant to us and to our church. The reality, of course, is that when Paul, in Galatians, identifies our instincts to live under the law he is talking to all of us. We may not be making a big deal out of circumcision, but we inevitably find our own ways to pursue law over grace, and it actually feels very spiritual to us. So legalism is in all of us, and you will find it under everything from anger to depression.
Jesus changes everything. Everything. And shame is at the very center of what he changes. He keeps shame in view from his birth to his death. He loved the shamed and outcast, he identified with them, he became them. Watch his life and you see the King absorbing the shame of the world. Watch his crucifixion and you see the death of shame. But the fruit of all this is a little different than we might expect. Instead of being the ones who receive honor and liberation from shame, we are lead in a path, like his, that leads down and then up.
We cannot do battle with an anonymous foe, and both guilt and shame can be nameless. We might know we feel horrible and hopeless, our view of ourselves is trashed, we feel like a failure in everything, but the culprit is elusive. So, we will start with simple definitions of guilt and shame. We will discover when they intersect and when they diverge - the early books of the Old Testament will help us get our bearings. Then we will find words for these experiences and be blessed to know the God who names the silences.