Wednesday, April 27, 2016

So, Brokenness Has Changed and Transformed You


EASILY wrought to tears for the affect life has had on your life, you’re easily and fondly reflective regarding what God has done in you, within hellishness itself.
Through pain you’ve come through it all.
Through vagrant hope a more viable and sustainable hope was found as you endured.
Through venturing blindly by faith, obediently meek, you’ve stood the test well.
Brokenness has changed and transformed you.  Brokenness was a necessary input to wholeness.
You cry some curiously bizarre ethereal tears these days; not tears of sorrow without meaning, but of meaning eclipsing the destructiveness of the sorrow, and of meaning that has made peace with that very sorrow that once broke you.
Yes, you’ve been touched by the Saviour Himself, and His Spirit has rested indelibly in you.  You’ve been changed and transformed and you could not go back to that old life — praise God!
Yes, you’ve been broken.  And how is it that God can draw from brokenness, transformation?  Oh, God is good, alright!  So, so good.
From brokenness the very seed of transformation germinated.  Through brokenness your new life rose up and flowered.
Hell has no power over the person who permits life break them in order that heaven would restore.
Heaven stooped down and scooped you up in your brokenness.  Heaven believed in you, and by your faith you believed in heaven.  And God with His angels brought you to a place where only through your brokenness could you be truly saved.
Oh brokenness, so beautiful,
A transformation to behold,
For the miracle of being raised in glory,
Brokenness is gold!
Broken by life,
Surrendered is the soul,
The end’s not in the strife,
As God makes the broken whole!
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bonhoeffer, and the Blessed of the Beatitudes

The Cost of Discipleship is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s seminal work par excellence.  In this perennial work Bonhoeffer teases out the Nachfolge — German for bearing one’s cross as Christ did; an imitation of Christ, a.k.a. being a disciple.
Seemingly without peer, Bonhoeffer draws out the intensity of what being a disciple means.  There is nothing optional about it.  First of all, it’s not about how we “behave if [we] follow Jesus, but… the renunciation of self-determination and of one’s own reasoning.”
For Bonhoeffer, discipleship begins with the renunciation of cheap grace; that, we can only adhere to the tenets of costly grace — that our salvation cost our Saviour His life! — once we determine renunciation necessary.
According to John H. Yoder, here are three necessary renunciations for every Christ-disciple, according to Bonhoeffer’s discipleship ethic.  Christians are blessed in the renunciation:
1.      Of honour: Christians are to give up all craving of status and entitlement, (though the Father knows our need of recognition and acceptance and will provide).
2.      Of power: Given that some Christians are given power by virtue of their positions, they show their allegiance to Christ through their refusal to misuse that power.
3.      Of violence: Christians are to be true pacifists, which is the nonviolent activism of the brand of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi (though non-Christian).  (Power and violence are forces that are often coupled together.)
***
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) might be heard to say:
Blessed are all disciples, because they cheerfully bear the burden of others.  They don’t crave honour nor misuse power nor enter into violence.  For these who are blessed, the coming of the Kingdom is good news, not simply for how they behave, but for who they already are.
Disciples are so set apart from the world that they reveal another world to the world.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Acknowledgement: Gregor, B., & Zimmermann, J. Being Human, Becoming Human: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Social Thought [e-book].  Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2012.  Quote taken from page 137.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

When ‘Forgiveness’ Cries Out To Be Heard

CONFLICTS arrayed in the flurry of life: that is often our context.  Not that any one side or other is any righter than the other.  Conflict, by definition, decrees no sanctity on rightness or wrongness.
Conflict is simply difference.  But it’s also insidious and carcinogenic.  It leads to terminal bitterness and resentment if it’s left untreated.
In conflict ‘Forgiveness’, if we could just personify this sacred quality, cries out to be heard.  One forgives another, and links are created in a chain of compassion.  One is self-effacing enough to lean toward the other, and it almost always requites a response.
Forgiveness has to start from one side.  One side needs to take up the cudgels of antimony and indifference and make a way for hope to intercede.
One side needs to hear the voice of Forgiveness, enter into its frame, and drive within its scaffold, to begin the process.
Hearing Forgiveness, and listening to what it says, requires humility, but just as much it requires faith, which is courage — to let go of what is held in order to embrace something transcendently better.
When Forgiveness is heard, a heart is softened, and just such a softening makes for a softening in others’ hearts.  The softness of grace is the heartbeat of Forgiveness — she is the image of the Lord’s servant (see Isaiah 42).
***
Forgiveness cries out in a silent voice, but when we hear, her words are compelling.
As the Lord is heard in the silence, so too is Forgiveness.  When we finally do hear the silent cry of Forgiveness, she will convict us to reflect and compel us to act.
Forgiveness works by faith on a mirage of hope to proffer forth reconciliation.
The heart of God’s gospel is reconciliation.
All healing is in the heart of Forgiveness.  Hearts are healed when Forgiveness has its way.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Fruit When Gratitude and Thankfulness Converge

The fruit of gratitude and thankfulness are joy, confidence and trust.  Before we unpack this, let’s look at the convergence of gratitude and thankfulness as they connect with joy, confidence and trust:
Gratitude exemplifies thankfulness,
Thankfulness enables joy,
Joy embraces confidence,
Confidence empowers trust,
Trust encourages gratitude.
Gratitude Exemplifies Thankfulness
These two have to be synonymous. They breed a great deal of virtue. Joy, confidence and trust follow. Joy to embrace the confidence we all lack from time to time. Confidence to do what we need to do but find at times is impossible. Trust to continue on in faith when we’re tempted to camp by disappointment and complaint.
Thankfulness Enables Joy
A thankful heart creates sparks of joy.  As privilege enables addiction, and hardship enables reflection, so thankfulness enables joy.  And once joy is propelled in the voluminousness of grateful thankfulness, it finds no rest until it emerges confident.
Joy Embraces Confidence
Joy sees confidence as a willing partner and decides to couple arms with it.  Joy views confidence as kin.  Out of confidence, joy is able to surpass tremulous doubting and go on in blissful, divine and anointed trust.  No looking back.
Confidence Empowers Trust
Trust is an outcome of a hope effused with confidence.  Trust doesn’t deny the hazards for action and inaction strewn everywhere, but decides risks are worthy of the confidence with which she is embodied.  Trust goes.  Trust is the action of faith.
Trust Encourages Gratitude
In going forth into the action or inaction of wisdom, trust is confident enough to be grateful, in advance, for the future things that are coming.  And that’s the being of gratitude.  Gratitude is a being thing.  It’s not a thinking thing, gratitude is a doing thing.
***
Thankfulness embodies joy, impels confidence and effuses trust, and joy, confidence and trust empower gratitude.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blessed are the Broken, For They Shall Be Restored

THERE is a gospel ethic that I and so many others write about all the time.  It runs like this: don’t be distressed if you find yourself broken… it’s not the end by any means, though it may be just the start of a beautiful beginning, when you surrender to God within healing community.
Regale with me…
Blessed are the broken who find, in community, care for their vulnerability, encouragement for their healing, and an outlet for their gifts.
Through care and encouragement, vulnerability is applauded and healing is embraced, so that the possibility of service blossoms outward of the revelation of a person’s gifting, which is central to their purpose.
And that’s when we come alive; when we find what God alone has gifted us for.  And we find through faith that He has a place for us, a season within the parameters to serve, a role with which to play, in the realisation of His Kingdom on this earth at this time.
Blessed are the broken.
In community.
Wherever we find care for our vulnerabilities, encouragement for our healing, and an outlet for our gifts, there we find restoration — a right royal purpose that drives us deeply into the meaning of life.
Only through brokenness is there restoration, for who restores the whole, and what is the purpose of restoring that which is already fine?  Only in whom those are found wanting is there cause for growth and improvement.
This is why finding ourselves in a state of brokenness is just the start of a beautiful beginning.
When we’re broken beyond measure, that’s when God works within us His treasure.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mercy In the Goodness of God

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3 (HCSB)
STRUCK with revelation’s wonder, as I perused my A.W. Tozer collection, I rediscovered this François Fénelon (1651–1715) quote that must have so equally struck one of 20th Century’s minor prophets:
Mercy is the goodness of God beholding our wickedness
 and striving to make us good… From Him alone proceeds true goodness.
There is something about mercy that covers us by God’s goodness.  And we may be assured that God does cover us with His goodness in the bequeathing of His mercy.
God takes of us who we are and makes us good in His goodness, and this is a mercy.  But more than that, as if that weren’t already very sufficient.
Mercy is always more than we deserve, but mercy is also much more than we expect.  His mercies are not only golden each morning, as they shimmer also on a moonlit evening, they’re eternal in the character and very nature of our Lord God.
The glorious goodness indwelt in His mercy — the giving and the gift itself, not to make more of the Giver — resounds in His majesty and reflects His glory.  We’re transformed from an earlier glory to an unknown and dazzling glory, a peace unbefitting yet indescribable and so welcome, because of His mercy.  Nothing can come close to comprehending it.  It is.  As a fact of our perception — the goodness of God breaking through, His breath breathing His life into us — it is.
And what does all this mean to the uninitiated?  It’s the question that begs an answer.
God is good.  His goodness is manifest in His mercy, especially when we’re beleaguered.  And such mercies are not faint blessings.  The blessings of His mercies are a multiplicity of favour.
***
It’s not in the Father’s nature to withhold His good gifts, and mercy is of His best.
If you’re in need today or tonight don’t despair.  If you find your hope stripped by the exhaustion of your season, watch, for a new thing is coming, and it will sweep over you, by the goodness of His grace.  Nothing more certain.
If you can but watch, because you have nothing left but surrender, rejoice and be glad, for your surrender receives His mercy.  God is good.
***
When death had taken Him, and when all life had looked away, it was the Father’s mercy that raised Him, from darkness to brightest day.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Leading a Life of Repentance


FOLLOWING, and not leading, should be the first word in the above title.  And to follow Jesus Christ is the single worthiest activity under the sun.  Everything begins from there — from leading a life of repentance we find the best way of following the Messiah, Jesus.
Repentance is not a once-only activity — at conversion.
Repentance is an ongoing, continual attitude and action of humility and holy fear, where every spiritual conquest depends on our turning back to God.
Repentance is a commitment to momentary self-examination in the light of Scripture, and the discernment of the Holy Spirit, within relational contexts.  And we will only know what Jesus is actually saying about justice and compassion and the admonition of the powerbroker if we know him through our gospels.
Repentance is turning back from our worldly ways, each moment of each hour, every day, and doing what is humble, which is to live as if others are more important than we think we are.  It is to live honest, and remarkably different to the rest of the world.  Then do we stand firmly in the favour of God.
Repentance is taking ourselves to task because of what the Holy Spirit said, as He convicts our hearts.  It’s living with our sin right before our eyes, and it’s living with knowledge of our sins at the forefront of our consciences so we’ll be driven by dissatisfaction to change.  It’s being driven to grow without pressure, but with passion from God.  There is no judgment nor condemnation, but we want to turn back to God.
Repentance is to stop and to look and to listen to God, alone.  It is to stop.  It’s to look truly, each moment, into the heavens; to be God-cognisant.  It’s to hear God, and take heed.
Turning back to God is a means God uses to turn us forward into His purposes and plans.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Expect Difficulty, Receive God’s Resurrection Blessing

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
— M. Scott Peck (1936 – 2005) (The Road Less Traveled)
God gave me a very helpful acronym, ED = Expect Difficulty.  Ever since, I’ve experienced a resurrection blessing.
The above quote, in the context of The Resurrection, proves the power implicit in wrestling with reality, in that God causes us to rise, to ascend above the difficulty.  Why?  Because we can.  Because when we rise to meet difficulty, the difficulty is no longer the difficulty.  It was only our perception of it.  It can only ever be.
The best organisation of a soul occurs as a result, first, of disorganisation and chaos. It’s a biblical pattern.  God disarms the ego, then restores us in reorienting us through humility.  And that’s a long process.  Difficulty is necessary.  It’s vital.  We can thank God for it, in hindsight, yes, but also in the midst of it.  And, sure, we might lag.  We might get stuck for a time, occasionally, in our disappointment.  But that’s not where it ends.  We must continue on in the journey.  If we don’t we languish, and then we need resurrecting again.  God will only resurrect us if we want it, and desire it enough to do something about it.
And we can be assured of the blessing God provides having been resurrected:
Growth is God’s compensation for patiently enduring difficulty.  Transformation is God’s reward for not giving up through grief.
***
This is the resurrection truth of life: life must overcome us, before we overcome it, in Jesus’ name!
Life threatens to break us, and it’s only when it does that we see we needed to be broken to learn how to overcome.
The resurrection truth of life shows we must die to what entombs us before we can be raised to life’s abundance.
We must experience the ‘death’ of difficulty patiently, expecting it, before we receive God’s resurrection blessing.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why Loving Enemies Is Easier Than Forgiving Friends

FORGIVENESS is no easy matter in some circumstances, yet there was a time when I thought it was easy; a time when I was naïve enough to think I was particularly graced with the gift of forgiveness.  God has since shown me something.
We forgive easily when we understand someone has hurt us who doesn’t apparently have the capacity to love.  But when a person betrays us who’s earned our trust; that’s a completely different matter.
So, loving our enemies is easy, and it’s our friends that let us down we find unforgiveable.  Add to this our family.  We expect better.  But for those we don’t have any expectation of, our understanding and forgiveness is but a transaction — if, that is, we’re schooled in the powerful college of merciful grace.
How can having this knowledge help us?  Again, it’s about expectations.  When we get close enough to people to trust them, we also begin to expect they’ll respect that trust.  But if someone we don’t know harms us, we may still be upset, but their transgression is easier to forgive — they just didn’t understand.  And how could they?  They’re forgiven.
***
Loving our enemies is easy in comparison to forgiving our friends when we perceive that they’ve betrayed us.  How do we recover when our Christian friend has hurt us, and refuses to acknowledge it?  Can we think of a brother or sister in Christ as an enemy — surely not!  But they’re harder to forgive than the person who openly, from the get go, resists us.
None of this is downplaying what Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount.  Of course we must love and forgive our enemies.
We need Jesus’ help more in forgiving our friends who act like enemies than we do loving our enemies who have never been our friends.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Faith for When Life Doesn’t Go To Plan

LIFE’S a long series of tests, and it’s only by faith that we can hope to prosper when the difficulties and struggles come.  Many, many times we’re driven to despair, yet it’s only by faith that we continue to learn to rise again and step into the unknown future God has prepared for us.
There are four certain trials we’ll all be asked to wrestle with:
1.     The ‘Where’ Problem
God called Abraham to a Promised Land, but he had no idea where he was being led.  He gave up a wealthy life for obscurity, because he believed He had been called.  He couldn’t not go.
When a season of life has ended particularly abruptly, we’re often forced to ask “where to now, Lord?”  When we don’t know where we’re headed it’s crucial we don’t go ahead and off the line of God’s Spirit.
2.    The ‘When’ Game
When was Abraham to finally arrive in that long-desired Promised Land flowing with milk and honey?  He and his family lived in tents for decades, never having realised the promises that God had called Abraham to.  Yet the whole world is blessed because of Abraham’s obedience of faith.
“How long, O God?” screamed the psalmist in Psalm 13.  We’re all pressed in by impatience, and as hope fades our faith is tested.
Yet, what God has promised to do He will get done.  In His time and for His purposes.
3.    The ‘How’ Conundrum
Imagine Sarah and Abraham having Isaac at 90 and 100 respectively.  A barren woman conceiving at double the age of child-bearing years.  It seemed an impossible scenario, yet God had a way for Sarah to conceive, and from Isaac came the rest of the lineage of the Bible.
At times in our lives there are insurmountable problems that require a miracle.  Thankfully, God’s in the business of miracles.  We only have to obey through an openness of heart, ready to do what God requires of us.  We need to remember, we add nothing to a miracle — God doesn’t need our help.
4.    The ‘Why’ Mystery
Something that bewilders us about Abraham’s story is why he was asked to, and why he was prepared to, sacrifice his son, Isaac.  It seems nonsensical.
Certainly many losses we experience in life fall into these categories.  We’re left asking ‘why’.  Only faith holds itself open to a mystery, and when it comes to loss there’s often no explanation.  Only faith resolves not to know what cannot ever be known.
***
We often think when life’s not going according to our plan, that God is neither in control nor cares, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We often think that life’s not going according to plan, but our lives are always in the lap of God’s plans.
Faith accepts what our fears can only reject.  Faith keeps us in the hunt for those dreams for which we should never let go.
Faith accepts the tests of life and makes those tests the basis of real life responses.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Acknowledgement to Pastor Phil Bryant.  This article was inspired by the message he preached at Como Baptist Church on 3 April 2016.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pulled INTO the Slipstream of God’s Purposes and Will for YOUR Life

FOLLOWING Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance, is our veritable aim, as believers in Him, who lived and taught life and love, died for us, and rose again defeating deathHoH.  He is with the Father, and He intercedes for us continually and eternally.
Following, however, in our post-Christendom world, is something of a passé metaphor.  It either seems that following is antiquated, or that it’s inappropriate when we consider that the whole world’s fallen in love with ‘leadership’ — being a follower is not many people’s cup of tea.
But imagine being pulled into the slipstream of God’s wake.
Imagine a following so sublime, so joyous, so liberating that it’s a following you never want again not to follow.
That’s getting into the slipstream of God’s purposes and will for your life.
Nobody else’s.  Yours!
This means that God will show you exactly how you’re to make the difference only you can.  And don’t fall for the thinking that only ‘some people make it’.  Those who find their purpose in the will of God ‘make it’.  And so relatively few actually do that.  Yours is the opportunity to reverse the trend of lazy, purposeless humanness.
Obviously if we’re in God’s wake, being pulled along in His will, our lives will be utterly surrendered, in faith: that His purposes are good, and that where He’s leading us will be perfectly satisfactory.
***
There’s no better hope, no more joyous a peace, than being in the slipstream of God’s wake, for the purposes of our lives, according to His will.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Kingdom Connection and Fruit of the Spirit

HAVING not spoken with a close friend for some days, I sent a text message for encouragement in the midst of his busy, thriving life.  Immediately he called back.  During our 15-minute chat, one thing we both landed upon simultaneously:
Those who are Kingdom-minded, Kingdom-inspired, Kingdom-called, Kingdom-motivated — in sum, those who are Kingdom-connected — these are the ones who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).
And then later in the day, in conducting supervision, something striking came about as a learning that was reflected over:
Fear has its root in negativity.  Fear skews our perceptions.  Fear disconnects us from experiencing and exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit.
Those who are Kingdom-connected resist fear by being won indelibly to the Kingdom.
The Kingdom-connected express love, effervesce joy, embody peace, exhibit patience, exert kindness, exemplify faithfulness, exude gentleness, and enjoy self-control.
Yet when we are controlled by fear — those who are not Kingdom-connected — tend to miss love, dismiss joy, lose peace, lack patience, find kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness inaccessible, and be spiritually wayward.
***
Enjoy the fruit of the Spirit in your life when you’re Kingdom-connected.  That is, get out of yourself and your own problems and issues, and get into what Jesus is doing.
When Jesus becomes number one, the Kingdom is first, and everything else takes care of itself — God sees to it.  Trust this.
There is no better living reality than to express love, effervesce joy, embody peace, exhibit patience, exert kindness, exemplify faithfulness, exude gentleness, and enjoy self-control.
Give your fears over to the Kingdom and find that the Kingdom has already taken your fears and resolved them.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Is Risen AND He Is WITH Us Until the END of the Age

It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight.
— Luke 24:30-31 (HCSB)
He had walked the road to Emmaus with them, and unbeknownst to them, He was their Saviour.  As they walked with Him, He opened up the Scriptures from within His own heart, and, as He read to them from His memory about Himself, their hearts were aflame — but the eyes of the risen Jesus’ travelling companions only opened when He had vanished, having broken bread with them that third evening in that Village.
The risen Saviour was unrecognisable.  Nobody knew who He was until He chose to be revealed to them.  That was His purpose.
He walks today, because He is risen to life, and He walks in and amongst life, and most of us most of the time don’t have any idea.
He walks with you, and He talks with you, if you recognise His voice.  He walks in Spirit by the truth of His Word.  And He walks with humanity until the very end of the Age.
And yet He is not recognised, even in the midst of believer’s lives.  We are still too late to know His mark on our living situations.  Only in hindsight do we see His faithfulness.
None of us are better positioned to see our risen Saviour than His own disciples were, and they were basically clueless, unless from the vantage point of retrospect.  This is the way God works.
Our opportunity is to live as He lives.
***
If we will live as He lives, we will promise to live a secret life.  We will be incognito.
We will promise to live ordinary lives, to be happily humble, and to live our lives in extraordinary ways.  To bless people privately, and sometimes without them finding out.  Jesus sees.  To imagine how difficult life is for a person or people, and to somehow relieve a burden, however small a relief is possible.  Jesus smiles.  To live unfussed lives.  Jesus applauds.  To quit publically complaining and begin privately praising.  Jesus hears.  To fill our minds with the hardships of the faithful, and to expunge from our hearts every selfish wickedness without sweating it.  Jesus heals.  To judge others less and be extravagantly merciful.  Jesus’ pleased.  To forgive everyday transgressions and to forget long held grievances.  Jesus restores.  To live worthy lives secretly.  Jesus blesses.
He is risen.  And there is nothing better than that.  He is alive all the more in our secret life.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why Good Friday Makes the Gospel Too Good To Refuse

GOOD.  When we think of ‘good’ we don’t think of death, but Jesus’ death is nothing other than good in this:
That secret thing we did yesterday, and that dirty thing we’re about to do tomorrow; these things that God knows about; these things we’re already forgiven for.
Those things we’re still ashamed of, and the things we feel guilty for, every one of them, we won’t be punished for, other than the natural consequences of our actions in this world.  If we accept Jesus into our heart.
For every time we screw up an interaction with our spouse, or hurt one of our children or a parent, especially when we should know better, it’s as if God understands, because He does.
When we’ve lost a job through our own fault, or when we’ve fallen into an affair, or become bankrupt because we engaged in a messy business deal, or we’ve made some mistake or error we think we cannot possibly make up for, God reconciles it.  It’s okay.  Sure, there are the natural consequences that have to be worked out, but nothing bad we do can separate us from God.
We may be entrenched in a shameful addiction and God thinks no worse of us.  We’re considered as important as the best ‘performed’ human being.  We still have the problem and we’ll continue to plummet if we don’t arrest the slide, but God loves us every bit He ever could, because of Jesus.  We may hate ourselves but God never does, because Jesus died on the cross.
All these things and more Jesus came to die for — that His perfect love to die in place of our sin would make up for our vast and myriad imperfections.
It doesn’t matter what we’ve thought about God in the past.  Our future awaits now.  There is something we cannot change about ourselves that only God can — the fact we’re fallen, prone to guilt and shame, and so embedded in sin.
Only God can help.  Only a relationship with Jesus can help us experience His grace, which makes us feel less guilt and shame for what we’ve done that we can’t undo.  And any residual guilt and shame the Holy Spirit will use to help us make restitution for.
God no longer holds the things against us that we feel guilty for and ashamed of — past, present and future, eternally.
Why would we hold ourselves above a flame that was extinguished two thousand years ago?
To refuse the gospel, which is the only thing that can heal us of enduring our human condition, is an eternal insanity.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Wounded Healer’s High Relationship Pastoral Care

NEARLY ten years ago the Spirit of God introduced me to the concept of ‘travelling with.’  At that time, He had a special task for me: to travel with my eldest daughter as she was finishing school and entering into tertiary training.  She was in a vulnerable place, not knowing what she wanted to do, and yet having the distractions of an adult world opening up to her.  The Spirit gave me the image of travelling with as a metaphor for how my relationship with her was changing.
But the Spirit extended the principle soon after.  My career required me to mentor and coach other personnel in my field, and to supervise consultants that the port authority I worked for utilised.  Then I discovered something.  There was a great deal of veracity in the method of pastoral care I call high relationship pastoral care even in that arena.
High relationship pastoral care is such focus and attention on the relationship with the other person that faith is a necessity.  Faith is pivotal in being attuned and surrendered to the Spirit to the point that intimacy with the person being travelled with is on their terms.  That’s where faith comes in.  We don’t always feel we have the time nor the energy for such intensity of relationship.  But if we’re willing and rightly positioned, God will help us be able for the task.
It’s possible to maintain more than one of these relationships — indeed, it’s how mentoring works best from my viewpoint.  In the past I’ve had up to half a dozen and more of these relationships going at once.  In fact, I find that rarely do I have less than two or three at a time, and some just go through seasons of dormancy as the flow of life continues on.
Why High Relationship Pastoral Care is a Great Discipleship Tool
Discipleship outcomes, I find, are dependent on relationship (with God and others), and relational authenticity is the provoker and driver of change in a person’s life.  Discipleship is essentially about change; personal transformation.  We cannot grow if we cannot change.  And growth opportunities are baulked at when we’re in a relational vacuum.  To grow, we need others, and we need God.
I think the most effective way for change to occur in a person’s walk with God is to create and maintain effective mentoring relationships.  Such relationships will involve transparency between both parties, superior communication, and commitment to a journey that potentially has no worldly limits placed on it (provided both feel that’s safe, and is able to be achieved without harming others).
The mentor provides high relationship pastoral care, usually over a season, but it can be over a person’s lifespan, and all stages and phases between.  Such a mentor is more than a friend; they can swing into modes of counsellor, mediator, and spiritual guide, as well as a companion to walk the oft arduous sojourn of life with.  Of course, the necessity of safety cannot be overemphasised.
Mentoring, like counselling type relationships, is a unique and privileged relationship for both.  Information, thoughts and feelings may be shared in this space complicit of trust, and a special kind of respect is nurtured and maintained.  As such a relationship blossoms, and intimacy is tried on and worn and adjusted and readjusted, the ripples of trust permeate out into other relationships — not least with God.  And that, for me, is discipleship.  It’s about intimacy and being able more and more to be safely vulnerable, so we have more and more the capacity to be real in the realities God presents us to live in.
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Back to travelling with.
As a metaphor for relating with all people in life, there can be no better way to a blessed humility than sincerely endeavouring to travel with people.
Whether it’s a 5-minute public train ride interaction or a more deliberate two-year journey to healing, travelling with is a rewarding interface for and between both.  Think about it.  There is no better reality for a Christian than being open to God in their own life, and being equally open for other people.  On the one hand, the Holy Spirit ministers pastorally through Himself and older, wiser other persons to us, and yet on the other hand, there’s the privilege of empathy we may have for a younger other person, who’s hamstrung by matters with which we’ve had some life experience.
Travelling with is the diffusion of our own concerns in the realm of time through the genuine warmth created with another.  We cannot deny our own concerns.  But we can allay those concerns in faith by applying our warmth to another’s concerns.  In serving in our own vulnerable authenticity we’re rewarded with something we richly need, that only the Holy Spirit can provide.
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High relationship pastoral care creates authenticity through mutual vulnerability, and in that environment healing becomes possible.
The wounded healer can mediate the intended healing of God through wise use of their own woundedness in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And high relationship pastoral care achieves that end, because the intensity of the relationship is what the person desiring healing needs, and the wounded healer can provide.
The wounded healer has learned that travelling with people on the journey to their healing is facilitated by embracing wounds suffered.
Wounded healers encourage those seeking healing by the way they embrace their own and the other’s woundedness.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.