Freedom to walk away

I used to work with offenders.

That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.

I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.

I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:

I am capable.

I am not better.

I am not above.

Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.

See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-

Am I forgivable?

Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”

Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.

A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.

Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…

walk away from shame

walk away from unforgiveness

walk into Light

walk into redemption.

God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.

He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.

Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…

You are forgivable.

You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

You are loved.

He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.

Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.

Live free.

Discussion questions:

What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?

How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?

What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?

 

Finding Help and Healing:

If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/

If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/

Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/

Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.

Permission to mourn

*Please note: this post discusses the topic of rape and sexual trauma. If you have experienced any kind of sexual trauma, please know that it is ok if you prefer not to read on. There are great resources and crisis hotlines for help also available at rainn.org.

*photo overlay made with the vrsly app


Day 3 – Permission to mourn

Remember in Day One of this week’s study, when we talked about weeping? You may be wondering why the need to discuss mourning two days later? On Day One, we highlighted the overload of emotions associated with weeping. Tears can come for any number of reasons. Mourning, on the other hand, is intimately connected to grief and loss. The Hebrew root in Ecclesiastes 3 for mourn is saphad and is intimately connected with loss. You can fix in your mind a picture of the traditional Biblical lamenting with weeping, beating the breast, tearing the hair, sack cloth and ashes.

2nd Samuel 13 has one of the most painful stories we can find in Scripture, and more lamenting in one chapter than I can begin to wrap my head around. This Bible story is PG 13 for sure, so be warned. I’m going to ask you to dig your Bibles out or hop over to Bible Gateway for a moment and read 2ndSamuel 13 in it’s entirety. I will only highlight the first half of the chapter below, for want of space, but we will discuss the entire chapter:

“Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”

“Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” (2nd Samuel 13:1-19)
This is a story of rape, the human experience of shame, despair, rage, and a family broken. There is a reason there is so much lamenting. It is an entirely appropriate response to what is taken, what is lost, and what is broken.

In verse 18, Tamar weeps and cries aloud. She puts ashes on her head. In verse 31, King David is mourning the mistaken information that all His sons are dead. In verse 36, all David’s servants join him in mourning the lose of Absalom. This is family heartache, household trauma. When things like this happen they are not simple. They are not an individual loss, they very much affect the entire family, the entire community.

We all have things we have mourned in such a way or maybe are currently mourning. We may not put on sackcloth and ashes, but lamenting is not less just because it is done quietly. The thing that makes mourning what it is and not just your run of the mill crying is acknowledging there is a loss. And this action is oh-so important.

The Jewish act of lamenting was often within the context of a time of mourning. There are seasons in life when we need just that…time. We need time to heal. Time to think. Time to sort. Time to rest. Within the Christian context of the Body of Christ, this also means that we are invited to a time of comfort from those around us.

2nd Corinthians 7:5-7 tells us that comfort is part of the life of the Body. Christ’s comfort comes out of each of us into one another:

“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast,comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.


His comfort, found in one another. How precious is that! Who around you is hurting? Maybe the hurt in this season is your own, what kind of comfort do you need? Our loss may be the death of someone we love, the loss of a childhood due to trauma, or even the loss of what we thought our lives would look like at this stage. There is no small loss and there need be no small comfort. Christ’s comfort fills up and overflows, sister. So much more than a warm baggy sweater and a mug of green tea on a rainy day, Christ gives us one another and Himself in each other.

Rape is certainly worth lamenting. It is also worth comforting. We NEED one another in times like Tamar experienced. We need to share our secret shame. When we rush head on into the fear and struggle, like Absalom, we NEED brothers and sisters that will come after us and restore, restore, restore. We have a Father who does that. Mourn what is deserving of mourning, honor the one mourning by sitting beside them in the darkness.

And rest in this: no doubt about it, whatever your lament is, He redeems even that. He says it over and over in His Word. Nothing is outside of His Grace, outside of His restoration. He redeems each and every thing in our lives. 


Discussion questions:
Where do you see the need for comfort in our world today?
Who around you is hurting?
What is a simple way to give comfort when someone is hurting?
What difficult situation have you seen Christ redeem?