They Are All

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

-Hebrews 10:14

I have always had a very difficult time reconciling between the promised perfection of the gospel and the apparent brokenness of the world around me, never mind my own troubled beliefs. What I have come to be at peace with is that the reality of the gospel and the incarnation wins out, because it is true, no matter how many perceptions I or anyone else may hold to discredit it.

At this point, if you haven’t been keeping up with my recent musings you may want to read the precursors to this blog, here and here. They are the backdrop which is my personal experience and story.

My understanding has evolved; I was eleven when I was baptised, and I did so because I feared that my supposed sexual deviation would keep me out of heaven. That is how salvation worked for me, after all; say a prayer, make a declaration, get dunked under water for half a second, and come up a different person.

I was disappointed when it didn’t make me an asexual.

I’ve recounted often of my trouble understanding the whisper of Holy Spirit to me regarding the irrelevance of my purity in regard to His; I could not comprehend at the first hearing how His purity could be greater than my impurity. I tried to convince myself that, after all, He is God: of course He is greater than me. But that is a difficult thing to believe when you believe you are the blot of black ink on what otherwise would have been a perfectly white garment.

The reality, as I began to unfold in my last blog, is that my assumed impurity was no more real than the possibility that being dunked in a lake could secure my passage to heaven–as if I hadn’t ever done that before on any other hot summer. And even where it remotely real, His truly is greater than mine, and my life is found in His.

It is a difficult–perhaps impossible–thought for the church at large to receive, taught as we have been for so long of the existence and prevalence of evil in the nature of humanity. In a discussion regarding those who have recently come into the church who may practice manipulating tactics and grabs for power and attention–the usual repertoire of sins such as substance and sexual uses and abuses not to be wholly forgotten–I found myself wondering whether the issue was not more about our being able to discern the needs of these people behind the acting out of their shadows. Had I been mentored by someone in my teen years able to perceive the legitimate and desperate needs of my sexuality, who could have helped me to understand that the struggle I was perceiving was not a contest between sin and righteousness but my own Self trying to be known by me, how much better could I now know and accept myself?

My surprise then was, how can you blindly call these things ‘sinful’ or ‘problematic’ and not have the discernment to see the genuine need of the person? 

Because I don’t see ‘sin’, or ‘sinful habits’, anymore. I see brokenness. I see the authenticity in people severed in so many ways and the hopeless attempts of the subconscious to counterbalance. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind attention-seeking, and grabbing for power and control. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind much addiction. I have interacted with many people who willingly harm their bodies to the point of serious danger in many, many ways because they have a wound within that they cannot find any way to reconcile. The very small amount I do perceive should break the heart of the church–it does mine.

I want to address something that I have wrestled with for quite some time: the letter of 1 John. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

-1 John 1

I believe the majority of the teaching and preaching I have heard which references 1st John carries this message: don’t fool yourself; You are hopelessly bad.

I have seen it used as definite proof against the idea that anyone could be sinless because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross–in effect, a defence against Universalism, the completed work of the cross and any suggestion that a christian doesn’t need to continue to repent for their sins.

The theme of the book is quite simple: John lays out, ‘this is the nature of God, therefore anything contrary to this is not Godly. This is what light is, this is what dark is. It is starkly black and white.

But direct your attention to the introduction, particularly, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Is it too bold to wonder why John and his fellows would consider a condemning message joyful? But condemnation is not the reality here, the reality is that God is sovereign, and we share fellowship with Him. We ARE in the Light. This is what our lives look like because of that truth. John is writing black-and-white truth absolutely–the reality of the Risen Christ and a world bound to His fate. I understand why he is writing so that his joy may be full because it brings me the same joy to share with others the reality of who they are in Christ–light, love, righteousness, sinless…perfect. You are in Christ–and in Christ is no darkness at all; it is a declaration of exactly the reality of the Last Adam.

There is an image which is an underlying theme on my mind tonight; it is a theme in the movie The Last Samurai; after his capture Nathan Algren meets Katsumoto, the samurai leader responsible for his imprisonment. On approaching a cherry tree, Katsumoto tells Algren, “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” By the end of the movie Algren and Katsumoto are inseparable brothers, and Katsumoto, dying in the arms of Algren observes with his last breaths, “Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

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I’m not asking for a redefinition of sin. I’m not asking to change the Bible–on the contrary, I am asking that the truth of the Bible be honoured as it is given. They are all perfect, by one sacrifice by the glorious plan of the Incarnation. They are all perfect, and they are all in the Great Dance of Father, Son, and Spirit–and me.

I have to ask myself–because I do not see with eyes not my own–if I have discovered the holiness and righteousness and authenticity of something I once deemed sinful and abominable, why should I not expect the same experience to be possible in others? Why would I ever need to resort to assuming sin in a person when the sin I presumed in myself was a false perception? It is not so hard any more to reconcile what goes on in the world in light of the reality of the gospel when I now understand much more of the wrong I did myself in believing I was anything less than perfect. The question changes from ‘who can I save,’ to ‘who will share my joy with me?’

 

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The Untold

I was eleven–or ten-going-on.

I remember certain details of the day clearly; I remember that it was probably the last time I ever cut the legs off my jeans (because that’s just what you did when your knees wore out).

I wonder if my older siblings remember; most of the family was out for the evening somewhere and the rest of us sat down to watch Along Came Polly. I was eleven–or ten-going-on, and the question was briefly queried as to whether I should be watching such a movie with them, but without any action taken. It seems silly now, it was a strictly PG-13 all-under-the-covers rom-com, but it was the first sex scene I’d ever seen.

And it caused something to stir within me.

After the movie that night, I wanted more than anything to explore this mystery, to know it and be known by it. Being the imaginative and artistic young soul, I sallied several attempts to fill in the blanks on paper, to capture the essence somehow of the longing I was experiencing. I had no inkling of what was taking place–what I could make take place–in my body, but I was keen to explore it. My sexuality had awoken.

I’d only ever heard the term pornography used once. Upon asking what pornography was, I was told that it was pictures of people naked. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to have their picture taken naked, nor why it would be at all interesting to have a ‘porn stash’ under your mattress, as the initial joke insinuated. But as my curiosity and desire grew, and after a misspelled web address faced me with a page with a link entitled simply ‘Pornography’, one quiet evening I decided to finally uncover the mystery for myself.

I was surprised–and disgusted–by what I saw. To the credit of my own innocence I did not understand intellectually that looking at pornography might be wrong–even though I might have jumped at the slightest noise anywhere in the rest of the house–it was simply a matter of discovery and understanding for me. But pornography was too great a substance, an overload to my shrouded understanding. I felt dirty, and deep gui lt, or shame. I don’t recall what brought me back after that initial click, but this isn’t really about pornography.

At first it was innocent enough; I figured out how to reproduce what I had first experienced, and continued to do so regularly. And then doubts began to filter in; what if this is wrong? How could it be? But in my mind I decided that what I termed ‘simulated sex,’ was at least borderline. What if I am sinning? At my age and level of understanding, sexuality was nowhere near being on the sin-spectrum taught in Sabbath-school class, but I still began to beg and plead with God to forgive me every time, assuring him even with tears at times that I was sorry, and that it would be the last time.

And so I began to banish and demonise my sexuality. I built the belief around me that I had to find the off-switch and turn it off until I was older, married and ready to be sexual; then I could turn it on, and everything would be fine because I would be married. 

If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know the rest of the story: I wrote my first testimony outlining my ‘lust problem’  and depression in the spring of 2007 when I was twelve and had fought to repress my sexuality for over a year. I became spiritual–and it was a genuine, albeit immature spirituality–to further fight my ‘lust’ and growing depression. I remember going to a conference in 2006 and vowing to God there, ‘I’m never going to give in to my lust again.’ Of course I failed my expectations. One day I found the recounting of Paul’s thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and I adopted it as my own struggle against my sexuality–this is just a messenger of Satan, something to keep me lowly and humble, to let God be strong for me.

I want to tell you how wrong I was.

I want to tell you that I mourn the day I began to think that my sexuality was unacceptable. I want to tell you that because I repressed my sexuality, and in combination with desensitising myself with a regular porn habit, when I did get married and figured I was in the free and clear finally, I didn’t find sex exciting, or good, or intimate because by then I had buried my sexuality so deeply that I didn’t know how to get it back, and the shame I felt in my sexuality kept me from wanting it back.

But I want to tell you something even more important: I’ve come to the understanding that because I repressed my sexuality, my sexuality acted out. Because I outlawed all sexual expression, my sexual expression became uncontrollable. My sexuality is and always has been an integral part of me, because I am a human, created to be a sexual being. I thought it was all about being pure and not doing anything deemed by the church and society as gross, unacceptable and sinful, but in pursuit of purity I disowned part of me. I’ve never been fully able to wrap my brain around the wording Jesus whispered to me years ago saying, ‘It’s not about your purity, son, it’s about Mine,’ but they burn in my mind now with the understanding that growing up whole was more important than any person’s idea about purity. am his purity, there is nothing so foolish as for me to think I could have tarnished his image by sexual expression.

Pornography is another story, but as I said; this isn’t really about pornography. It began as purely biological curiosity for me, but became simply another device by which my ever-constricted sexuality dared to be known by me. I have always been your friend. 

I mourn the intrigue I taught myself to distrust; I mourn the discovering I never allowed myself to take properly, and the mess that came of trying to disown Myself. I mourn not being able to experience the wonder of sexuality after repressing my sensitivities and blaming it on pornographic saturation. I mourn the years spent believing myself a monster, and the countless nights in moral and ethical despair; it’s no wonder to me now, understanding just what I was doing to myself, why I was deeply depressed. I mourn never knowing boyhood sexuality as a wonderful and beautiful thing to be celebrated and explored.

And now you know the story as it has never been known before. I did not know it myself until just recently when a dam somewhere way back in my subconscious broke and it all came flooding out with an all-but-forgotten memory of the first sex scene I ever saw. My sexuality is no longer a problem. Pornography is no longer a moral issue but an intimacy issue. I now understand why not fighting my sexuality’s pornographic outlet actually helped me to need it less, and why trying to stop was actually a hopeless attempt to thwart the Genuine Me, my own Beloved. I now understand–albeit only a little more than before–Myself.

The Hid [A Shadow Narrative]

I was a boy when the stranger appeared. It came as a veiled mystery, beauty and passion emanating through the folds of an only almost opaque cloak. I was instantly intrigued; I set out to Know the mystery, and she began to take vague form beneath the pen of my imagination, teased by glimpses through the veil.

I experimented, searching out ways to awaken her, to coax her from her divine mystery, but one day I cheated; I approached the veil and took hold of her folds; I parted the veil, just ever so slightly–and found myself dazzlingly blind. I reached in my hand, and jerked it back again at the pricking of wicked thorns against my fingers.

I left her there for a time; I was bewildered by the enmity of the thorns so that I forgot the beauty and had only the image of needle-sharp spears. But my ears were attuning themselves to her song, and so I returned.

I went deeper the next time–ignoring the scratches of the thorns, for I told myself that was all they were, determined as I was to caress the Mystery. Yet I still could not reach her, and the wonder was so unrelievedly great that eventually I had to retract my reach for hopelessness.

When I removed my hand from the folds it was torn and bleeding bright red. I felt the ardour of mystery; I had never seen my own blood before, warm and metallic on my skin. But the aroma was immediately nauseating, and my stomach was in knots with it. My innocence had surfaced and I could not undo it.

The next time I tried to part the thorns with both hands, still determined to her mystery, but when I attempted to retrieve my reach the thorns became barbs and tore gaping wounds.

And I could not help but return.

After only a few trespassed visits her brilliance became dark to me. The light pulsed deeper and deeper within, brighter and brighter, but more distant with every visit. The thorns became dark claws which first drug me in, and then regurgitated me, cut and bleeding back without the veil. I blamed her for seducing me to her beauty and mystery, and she became a demon, black as death within the veil. I cried for deliverance from this foe but deliverance came not, and now I wore her like a blood-soaked cloak, her barbs sinking ever deeper.

I heard a voice that intimated friendship with her, but what I believed I heard was merely a distant promise that her power would be wrested from me if I could only last that long. I held a hindering hope, and maintained my animosity.

I fought against her for what seemed lifetimes; and she fought back for mere survival and recognition. But my vision was filled with only monsters and demons, black terrors in the night which engulfed and ravaged me. I banished her to the very depths, but found that I lived in the depths with her–but for rare moments when I found myself rising the great stair to a life without her, only to stumble in the middle and find myself back in the dark and slime of the depths again.

I survived only by continually defining myself intentionally as her opposite, and by emphasising our separateness, and she survived by the thorns she lay in my flesh, and the blood which issued from each fresh wound. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I wailed endlessly. How will I ever be the same again?

I feared her always, reaching out as she did from behind her black shrouds. You’re dead to me, I would scream, Remain in your grave, foul fiend! Often I would tire, and she would cloud my mind in despair.

And then one day I stopped fighting. I thought that I had truly won, for when I stopped fighting, she ceased to grow stronger, and was contented to the shadows. I saw less of her, and when I did her fury was less vile and shorter-lived. My mind was no longer filled with her, and the wounds and scars covering my body began to heal and fade faster than the fresh ones were appearing. But she was not finished with me yet.

You see, I awoke one day, and I found that there was no mystery where I knew there had been. There was no longer tender discovery, but only dried decrepit vines and sword-like thorns. I knew then that I had lost the mystery, desensitised in my trespass, and because I no longer saw her mystery, I no longer tasted her wonder or smelled the scents of discovery.

And I mourned. I mourned the death of wonder, my ignorant vanquishing of mystery.

And then I heard a whisper: Always has she been your truest friend.