Tag Archives: control

Out of Exile: Day 31 – Facing Your Shame

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.

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Out of Exile: Day 23 – Two Halves of Life

Richard Rohr has been a wise companion for me. I’m using a few days of this journey to introduce you to his writings.

Rohr often speaks of the two halves of life. The first half is spent creating a box: rules to live by, unchangeable truths to help you feel in control, and markers that show success. He says these are all a natural part of development, a phase we all grow through: like training wheels on a bicycle.

But the second half of life is meant to let go of these constructs. By letting go of the box you are free to experience life in its fullness. You are no longer threatened by what’s outside of the box. Your thinking becomes less black and white. Less in or out. Less inclined to feel the need to put a value judgment on everything but rather to just experience life as it is.

But to transition to this second half of life requires an exile. A time of stripping. It often feels unsuccessful and contrary to everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve in the first half of life. Here is another post where he refers to the second half of life.

The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up.

Your thinking becomes less black and white. Less in or out. Less inclined to feel the need to put a value judgment on everything but rather to just experience life as it is. 

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

Yet it is still a secret, probably because we do not want to see it. We do not want to embark on a further journey (the second half of life) if it feels like going down, especially after having put so much sound and fury into going up (the first half of life). This is surely the first and primary reason why many people never get to the fullness of their own lives.

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,

Exile can produce so much fear. But the fear comes  from what you think life MUST BE. If you can step back and reframe what must be, the fear can possibly subside. If living in fear is not of God and you are fearful, then maybe you have the wrong perspective. Maybe, with the right perspective, you can see exile as an opportunity to enter into a new fullness.

How could (or has) exile enable/d you to experience life more fully? Please take a minute to leave a comment below and share this post on Facebook. Thanks.

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Out of Exile: Day Seventeen – Unmet Needs

I’m looking at the losses that cause us to get stuck in exile. There are many but the last category I’ll discuss is unmet needs. An unmet need is any area of your life where a legitimate need exists but it goes unmet by God or those you look to for help.

When I moved off our farm and into ministry, I was so broke, any salary seemed like a fortune to me, so I was grateful for the salary I was given at my church. But it wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t live on it. 

My wifegets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled.

I told them about my dilemma and they seemed concerned but they never did anything. So I started selling my plasma to help ends meet.  The senior pastor said he felt bad and they needed to do something about it. But they didn’t, at least at that time. After many months of requests, I was finally given a livable wage.

I cleaned out my files the other day and I came across a letter I wrote to the elder board telling them how frustrated I was that they hadn’t done anything about my salary. It hurt to look back and feel the pain of that time. Can you relate? If you are in ministry, I bet you can.

Not only do we hurt when our needs aren’t met, our family is hurt too. Our losses cause them losses.  Here’s how one pastor put it to me:

Coming home with heavy burdens have also brought struggles at home. My wife knows the difficulties that come my way each day and at times she gets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled. Not much left, and perhaps not that enjoyable to be with. Life at home can become trying and my family gets what is left. Not sure how to describe all that was lost at home but I do know a significant amount of pain and loss has taken place at home…

Unmet needs go way beyond finances.  It might be time off. It might be the lack of friends. It could be a spouse that you aren’t connecting with very well. Or it might be a ministry that is less than stellar. You have no sense of accomplishment.

But remember, these are all primary losses. There are secondary losses associated with unmet needs. As is often the case, one secondary loss is a sense of control. You can’t make people meet your needs. It’s very frustrating. You feel trapped with no ability to alter your situation. You wonder how long it will go on? Will it ever change? That’s where the sense of “exile” kicks in.

Another secondary loss is respect. When your needs are ignored you wonder why people don’t care. How can they just look past your obvious need? Are you that insignificant? Is your work valued so little?

Unmet needs can also result in a loss of purpose. You begin to doubt your call. If your needs aren’t being met, maybe it’s because God doesn’t want you in that place. You might think he is withholding his blessing to get your attention so you will move on.

With these numerous losses the natural emotional response is anger, sadness and often fear.  It’s these emotions that create the feeling of exile. Have you experienced these?

What are some unmet needs that you’ve experienced in ministry?  What kind of secondary losses have followed?

Please leave a comment below and subscribe to get the rest of the series delivered to your mailbox.

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Out of Exile: Day Fourteen – Limited Choices

I’m continuing to look at the losses that cause us to go into “exile.”  On Day Thirteen I looked at the pain of being invalidated.  Today I want to look at limited choices.

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.  When someone puts you in a position where you have fewer choices it complicates your life. It’s like you are in a card game and you only get dealt half a hand. It puts you at a huge disadvantage. It makes you mad. 

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to  feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.

Or imagine having to work with one hand tied behind your back. Or, what if there are 100 options before you and someone says, you can pick two. That means there is a loss of 98 items. That can make you mad.

If you are in ministry, the minute you chose the ministry, you limited your choices in life. One pastor friend of mine was struggling financially and he realized that, short of getting another job, he didn’t have any way to increase his income. Working longer hours or working harder made no impact on his income. He was stuck.

So, becoming a pastor might mean a limited income. And with a limited income you are limited in all kinds of purchases from your car to your house to your vacations and more.

If you live in a parsonage (a house provided to pastors)  you don’t have limited choice. You have no choice! That’s a loss.

Becoming a pastor means you give away your weekends…for life. I don’t know about you but I rarely do anything on Saturday and when I do, I’m preoccupied.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never have a normal holiday. You’ll always come late to the party, maybe days late, if at all. And when you finally arrive, most people are gone and you are too tired to care.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never get to see the kickoff on Sunday. I know it’s a small thing, but I’m trying to get you to understand that ministry causes losses of all shapes and sizes.

Becoming a pastor means you automatically give up some of your evenings because that’s when people are free to meet.

Start adding up these losses and the sum total can make you feel boxed in: it’s an exile.  You can live with an underlying anger at these losses. So you need to look deeper. What’s the real issue? What really bothers you about these losses? What are the secondary losses?

There are a few. As I mentioned, there’s the loss of control. You feel boxed in.  Dallas Willard talks about the importance of a person having the ability to choose:

 In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere. Only so can they be persons. Any being that has say over nothing at all is no person… They would be reduced to completely passive observers who count for nothing, who make no difference.

For this reason, limited choices create a loss of control as well as a loss of respect. You feel like less of a person. Limited choices also create a loss of freedom.

Think through your life. Where have your choices been limited?  Those are the primary losses. Then think deeper; what are the emotional losses associated with those limited choices? Those are the secondary losses.

Bring all of these to God. Tell him how you feel. Ask him to speak to you about these losses. What does he want you to know? How can he show you his abundance in the face of these losses?

Please share your thoughts below and share this post on Facebook. Thanks.

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Laptop Shooting – Good Parenting?

26 million people have watched a dad fire nine bullets into his teenage daughter’s laptop because she ranted about her parents online. Read about it here.

The only thing that scares me more than this dad is the positive response he’s getting from other parents.   I liked what one psychotherapist said in the article…

Carleton Kendrick, 65, a Mills, Mass., psychotherapist and father of two, said he found it troubling the video was resonating with so many people and called Jordan’s actions “frightening and humiliating.” “What’s next from this guy, filming himself burning all his daughter’s clothes in a pile on his lawn because she dressed in a manner he considered too provocative?” Kendrick asked. (USA TODAY, 2.18.12)

Do you think there might be a connection between her rant and his shooting?

I’m writing to point out that this isn’t funny. This isn’t rational. This isn’t a good idea.  Too bad I even have to say this but that’s how far we’ve drifted.

Maybe part of the dad’s rage is his own sense of having lost control. He’s mad at himself for sleeping for 15 years when he should have been parenting.

Now, if I can get personal…who or what sets you off? Could it be that you aren’t mad AT someone or something as much as you are mad at yourself? Something to consider.

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