Monday, October 22, 2012

Loving the Emotional Lepers

Earlier this morning, after breakfast, we enjoyed the normal family routine... I read a chapter of the Bible to everyone, we took out the Christmas card that was on the top of the stack, and prepared to distribute prayer assignments.

Today we were praying for the Mulligan family again.  (One day maybe we'll have 356 Christmas cards from friends & family, but for now everyone gets prayed for a few times a year.)

This Lee child claimed that Mulligan child to pray for, around the table, until everyone had a prayer assignment.  The Mulligan card then went back down to the bottom of the stack.

But then, as heads were being bowed, the 10-year-old suddenly shot his head up: "But, Dad!  Wait!  Who's going to pray for the people down in Peru!?!?"

****************

Are you praying for Sean & Amber & Patience DeMars?  If you'd like to know how to pray for them, ask me how you can get put on their newsletter list.

But for now, take a couple of minutes to read these heart-breaking, compassion-stirring, God-honoring, people-loving thoughts from Sean....

****************




Loving the Emotional Lepers
by Sean DeMars

We live in an age where we now know that leprosy is in fact not contagious. What was once unimaginable, like touching a leper, is now quite commonplace among those “in the know”. In the records of our Lord Jesus’s life, we see that he was well ahead of the curve (being God and all), and we see his great love being shown to the “unloveables”.  In the biblical times, it was quite an amazing thing to touch a leper, or anyone with a disease, really. Our Lord Jesus touched them all, though, and expected to be touched back. If you’re interested in reading more about this amazing truth, I would like to commend this article to you: http://www.ccef.org/jbc/when-god-touches-untouchables

Today, however, I want to talk to you about a different kind of “untouchable”. Let me paint a picture for you, of the kind of people I’m about to talk about:

He was born to a drug addict mother, and his father left him before he was born. He can’t remember the first few years of his life, but around age five he can remember his mother having sex in the same bed as him. He can remember the beatings from his mother beginning around the same time. He remembers watching his mother have emotional break downs at least once a day for most of his young life. His mother would get drunk and high friday night, beat him until monday morning (every week), and would repeat that cycle for years on end. His mom beat him until he was old enough to stop her. His mom was evicted from various living arrangements five times in 3 years, once for calling the landlord a “nigger”, another time for urinating in the laundry room while drunk, another time for being caught with cocaine. He lived in and out of cars and hotel rooms for six months at age 12. His mother was raped in a hotel parking lot. He had to call the police, she was too drunk. He started doing drugs at the age of 14, started selling drugs a little later, and was incarcerated for the first time at the age of 15. He spent the majority of his teenage years in and out of institutions. He’s done things unspeakable. He got saved at the age of 18...and he’s too broken for church people. It’s hard for them to be around him.

She was very young the first time it happened. Her brother began touching her at the age of seven. By age eleven, her brother was raping her. Pretty soon, it was an everyday affair. Her mother and father were both at work, of course. Her brother would make her do his homeschool homework, as well as her own. He would lock her in the closet for hours at a time. He would beat her mercilessly. He was systematic and cold in his daily persecution: sexual, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. She was 15 when she finally got the chance to escape. When she told her parents about it, they were virtually unmoved. No discipline was carried out. Until recently, the brother remained in the house (she moved out two years prior). To this day her parents still won’t talk about it, and her brother is cold and distant, even though she has fervently sought reconciliation.  She got saved at the age of 17. She’s too broken for church people. Because of that, she painted a mask of righteousness on her broken and tear stained face. She fell hard. The Lord caught her, but it was a hard fall none-the-less...

He’s from a home with two parents, a few brothers, and his family faithfully attended and supported their local church. He was always active and involved in the life of the church, and at one point, was an up-and-comer in the youth ministry. Starting at a very young age, he was molested by his big brother. His brother used pornography to get him into the activity. He was raped and molested by his brother several times. Later, when he got older, he thought this was all normal male activity, so he did the same things to his younger male cousin. He watched pornography for hours on end, and eventually, he got into some stuff that is, well...it’s not legal. Because of his abuse and subsequent “therapy”, he began to struggle with same sex desires. He’s pretty much been the black sheep of the family, and because of that, he kept all of his sins to himself...until he got caught. His families response? The worst kind of moralistic reparative therapy imaginable. His father and mother, both professing Christians, active in their local church, have never read the bible with their son. He absorbed an understanding of Christianity not even worthy of the title “heresy”. Because of his fathers lack of love and discipleship, he tried and to some extent still tries to latch on to any strong male figure he comes into contact with. He struggles with suicidal tendencies almost weekly. Depression isn’t the word for it. He got saved at the age of 19. Obviously, he’s quite broken...too broken for church people. He’s growing in Christ, by God’s grace, but he still wrestles with, in various obvious ways, many emotional issues. Christians tend to avoid him like the plague.

These three examples are all real. These are people that I know (very, very well), and their stories are too scary to be made up. This is just a small sampling. Were I to share all of the brokenness in the lives of people I know “the world wouldn’t have room enough for all of the books”. Why am I sharing this with you? Because it has been my experience that, in large part, many of us are guilty of avoiding the "emotional untouchables", people like the ones I have just described, just like the men and women of the Bible used to avoid lepers. Don’t you agree? When you look at your own life, just as I examine mine, can’t we see a pattern of lackluster love? I think so. But our crime is worse...

We avoid people because they are difficult. Oh, of course, they are difficult. No one would disagree with that. How can a person be well adjusted after going through the things that I’ve just described to you? But we don’t avoid these people because we’re afraid of our nose falling off, or because we think we might catch their blood disease. No. We avoid these people because they need more love. They need a stronger love. They need a more patient and consistent love. That’s a heck of a thing to say, but I think it’s true. BROKEN PEOPLE ARE HARD TO LOVE. The “difficulties” might be disguised and labeled and reasoned away in a variety of creative excuses, but when it comes down to it, they ARE harder to love.

Have you ever looked a leper in the face? I’m not talking about the ones that take good care of themselves, either. I’m talking about the ones who let themselves fall apart (excuse the pun) and refuse treatment. Have you ever been around a stage three cancer patient? They are hard to look at. The smell of a colostomy bag can really take your breath away. Even the smell of a dying person is too much to handle. These things and more can make it difficult to love the physically ill, but the emotionally and mentally ill, these people put off a different kind of odor: annoyance, exasperation, clinginess, constant crying, constant lying, sexual misconduct, strong addictions, flakiness...these are all very pungent aromas.

Personally, I find myself perfectly fine with observing these people through the safe "glass rooms of technology", occasional lunches, and even a Bible study once or twice. I don’t get a full whiff of their odor that way. I don’t have to stare directly into their face. No, when I interact with them that way, it’s really quite manageable. But when I open the door and take a step into the room with no windows, I’m trapped. There’s no escaping the odor. It confronts me, and it immediately takes my breath away. What do I do then? I hurriedly step out of the room, close the door behind myself, and try to catch my breath. Then I begin to think of reasons why I just can’t go back into that room: “He needs a professional.” “I’m just really busy.” “I’m struggling with my own issues, I can’t handle their issues too.” Etc. etc. etc.

I think we all fail to love the ones that are hard to love, and then we tell ourselves various lies to make it all ok. We then go back to our own little worlds as if these people don’t exist. After all, they’ll get through this, right? Of course, because these people are maladjusted, they don’t just leave us alone. They call us. They Facebook us. They leave strange voicemails. They annoy us. They do some strange stuff. Now, we obviously realize that this “odd behavior” is really just a cry for help, but we just call them weird under our breath, silence our cell phones, and try to get back to our “normal” conversations. Occasionally we’ll feel guilty, or we’ll be in an especially pious mood, and we’ll answer that call, or respond to that Facebook message. Almost immediately, though, we begin to smell that odor again, and we regret opening the door. We won’t do that again...

I’m so prone to ignoring the biblical truth that my sin was the worst of all odors, and the God of the Bible has the most sensitive of all noses. I hated him. I loved myself and my own pungent filth. But God, in his infinite goodness, mercy, grace and kindness, chose to wade through my excrement and filth. He didn’t hold his nose, either. He opened it as wide as he could. He didn’t just save me from a distance, like a new dad holding a diaper  at arms length with one hand, and holding his nose tight with the other. No. He came down to me. He walked through, and lived in my filth with me. I was a leper, and he touched me, right in my sores. At times, the God Man must have felt it unbearable. Then, certainly not due to my own righteousness, he came closer and embraced me. He embraced my filth and stench, and he did it by becoming the worst filth and stench of all (2 Cor 5:21). He didn’t just tolerate my filth, he actually took it on himself. He drank the cup down to it’s very dregs.

Now I can stand before him, covered in the cleanness that he has provided in a way that no one expected. I mean, how do you make a man clean by becoming dirty like him? Glory! Praise God for his infinite grace!!! Right?

Maybe not. You see, I still deal with my brothers and sisters, my fellow saints, the ones I will spend eternity with, I still treat them like I have never been dirty. Like I still don’t have a semblance of stench emanating from me. Like I don’t need the Spirit to give me a good cologne bath every now and then. When God sends me people with a stronger residual than myself, when he sends them into my life, I turn my nose up and smell my own cologne, as if it isn’t just a bottle of my own self-righteous vomit that I’ve been spraying myself with. When God sends these broken people into my life, so that I might glorify Him by the way I love them, I find some way to treat them like the untouchables that I once was.

Friends, brother, sisters, saints, beloved, please...for the glory of God and the good of your own soul, start loving people that are hard to love. Quit trying to sweep them under the rug, or refer them out to “specialists” (which is not to say, of course, that specialists aren’t needed). Please, love them. Love them like you have been loved. You never know, loving the odorous people might actually make you smell better by the time it’s all done with. I’ll tell you what, you try to do better, and I’ll join you. I have failed considerably...and I probably will again. I call people “weird”. I make snap judgements. I avoid people that I just don’t feel like talking to. “I don’t have the time”, I tell myself. And I actually convince myself to believe my own lies. I repent, now, with you and God as my audience...would you join me?

It’s not easy friends. It’s hard. And it won't always be smooth. Sometimes people will hurt you, or disappoint you. Sometimes people will latch on to you like you're God, even though they’ve seen enough of your sin to know the truth. People will mock you. You’ll battle your own pride. You’ll be told things like “It seems like only the really messed up people have anything good to say about you.” Which of course implies “The rest of us really well adjusted people aren’t all that impressed.” Some of your more well adjusted freinds will stop coming around because your "other" friend is just too much to deal with. "Call me when just the two of us can hang..."

For those of you who feel like you’re giving your all, who feel like you just can’t take it anymore, who feel like loving broken people will eventually break you....be encouraged. The LORD doesn’t give us more than we can bear. Lean wholly on Christ, look into the mirror of his Word, and see yourself as one leper loving another. Let that beautiful disgusting truth encourage you.

I don’t know how to end this. I have much more to say, but fear that I have said too much already. I guess the wise thing to do would be to let the LORD have the final Word:

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. - 1 John 4:8

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. - 1 John 3:10

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. - 1 John 4:7

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. - John 13:34

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. -John 15:12

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.- 1 John 3:23


No comments:

Post a Comment