In a recent post I talked about facing your nakedness; that’s what happens when exile strips you of everything you’ve leaned on for your self-worth. I asked: can you live with that person? Can you love that person?
If you can’t love yourself “naked” (that is, in your weakness) you won’t be able to love or even tolerate anyone else. We are as harsh with others as we are with ourselves.
If you find yourself hating your weakness or hating other’s weakness (including God for allowing your exile) then I hope you see the red flag that is waving in the mirror. Something is seriously wrong and you need to admit it and deal with it.
When we can’t cope with our shame we act out in many self-destructive ways. This is one reason exile can be so long and painful.
There are many reasons we feel inadequate. One is: we are! Ha! How do you like that? We work so hard to tell ourselves and each other, “I’m okay and you’re okay.” That’s not true. We are all flawed. That doesn’t mean we are worthless. But it is our condition. The quicker we can admit that the better.
It’s like people in recovery through A. A. How do they introduce themselves? I’m Remy and I’m an alcoholic. They aren’t trying to humiliate themselves. They are just being honest because you can only strengthen what you first admit is weak.
We typically look to cover up our flaws. But that’s a lot of work isn’t it? In my book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past, I took an in-depth look at how we make many attempts to compensate for our weakness. I compare it to a tool belt that we strap on every day with a variety of coping mechanisms to face the pain of our shame: things like perfectionism, people-pleasing, isolation, medication, etc. When we can’t cope with our shame we act out in many self-destructive ways. This is one reason exile can be so long and painful. There are many posts on this site detailing this.
But the answer to the pain of shame is to shift your identity from what you do to who you are as God’s child. What would it be like if you could be accepted just as you are, warts an all? What if you could feel valuable no matter how much you failed or fell short of your goals and dreams…no matter how little you accomplished in ministry? And what if you could, in turn, share that kind of love, mercy and grace to others? Not that you abandon goals or ethical ideas, you just don’t use them as tools to punish yourself and others.
I can remember the day it hit me that God saw me as perfect in his sight, not because of what I’ve done, but because I put my faith in what Jesus did for me (and the entire world). If you are a minister in exile, now is the time to make this a reality in your life. It can’t be something you talk about glibly. This message will never become good news to others if isn’t good news to you first.
I’ve always loved the prayer that Paul includes in his letter to the Ephesian church:
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19
What does “fullness” look like to you? Is it something you need to earn or can you simply receive it as a gift from God? Could it be that you’ve been stuck in exile so long because you don’t like yourself very much and you feel the need to punish yourself for it? Think about that before you are quick to discount it. I’d love to hear back your thoughts.