Monday, January 07, 2008

Ed Welch on Christian Identity Statements

Ed Welch is January guest blogger over at Society for Christian Psychology. Welch is one my favorite Biblical Counselors.

Check out his musings today on the effectiveness of christian identity statements such as "I am a child of God." Welch suggests why they are not all that helpful and how to think rightly about them - they are suppose to point to God and not to self.


Coffeegirl said...

I love him, too, based on his book, "Running Scared". I love how he thinks out of the box, yet is so grounded in Biblical truth. Another christian term that is overused, down the drain and replaced by substantial truth.

What comforts me if thinking that Jesus is my King and I am his daughter, and I dont' want to get stuck on the daughter part, but be in awe of the King. Hmm..have to think on that a bit.

Thanks, Pat.

-V- said...

I like his perspective, and agree about the solution not lying in repetitive phrases. However, I think we fade toward ineffectiveness at both extremes: (A) focus on self rather than God, AND (the one we tend to ignore) (B) shaming and hating ourselves to the point where we embrace obstacles that keep us from fully receiving God's love poured out on us.

Personally, I don't think our crowd tends to talk enough OR honestly enough about the trap of shame and self-loathing. In allowing ourselves to habitually disagree with what Christ says about us as His redeemed ones (we ARE precious to Him), we can easily spiritualize the lie of shame, all the while secretly priding ourselves on how humble we must be to think so little of ourselves.

That said, I agree with Welch that our identity is a place to visit; not to camp. Still though, an important place to visit; many of us struggle long years with crippling shame-lies that (I think) we've been taught (by well-intending people and communities) to spiritualize.

Pat Stream said...

V - I wonder how much difference there really is in the two extremes? I see them as one in the same.

If someone is suffering from misplaced shame, the remedy in a statement like "I am a child of God" will not be found in what is being said about "I".

I think you make a good point though bringing up prideful "humility".

Do you think the shaming and self-loathing are conditions of a sinful heart?

-V- said...

Pat - thanks for the challenge to process further. This stuff has been brewing for close to a year now, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to discuss with others.

In answer to your question, yes, most definitely I see shame and self-loathing as a result of sin. A result of human sin nature, collectively (the fall) - and my own sin, personally. That answered, I think the best way to proceed, is metaphor.

Let's say the poison put into motion by the fall and confirmed in every human heart is one and the same across the board: sin. Likewise, the precious Antidote to that poison is also one and the same for all of us: Christ's Covenant of Redemption - His own blood, by which He is able to administer Grace.

That being said, though the poison is pervasive and touches all (Rom. 3:23) - we ALL fall short of the righteous standard... I believe there are variations amongst individuals (and therefore cause for caution and great humility) in 2 areas: (A) symptoms and (B) HOW He tenderly administers His precious Antidote which results in our healing.

The poison in you and me is the very same poison. But its effects on our personal tendencies, temptations and stumblings may differ. And because our make-up and symptoms differ, our Great Physician, knowing each one of us better even than we know ourselves, lovingly uses methods that are uniquely suited to each of us to administer His Grace, and throughout our lives here, restores and heals us. (This is the already/not yet, of course. The paradox that we are already healed by the Power of the Antidote, yet still in process with our symptoms).

With that in mind, we are living within a great paradox. There is a certain 'tension' as Porter likes to put it. On one hand, our sin symptoms are the real result of the fallen 'worm' nature we are being healed from. On the other hand, we are UNITED WITH Christ. He lives in us, and we are no longer worms! Because of what He did, we and Christ are ONE in God. Paul says we ARE (not 'will be') new creations. Not just covered up. God is not just under the illusion that we're new creations because He's looking through His Christ lens... Christ has transformed and is transforming us (because He lives in us!) into brand new creatures that can be presented by Him, IN Him, for Him, at judgment without flaw - BY HIS GRACE.

What does this have to do with the simple point of visiting the 'I' (identity) piece for a time? Well... here's what I'm seeing all around me - FCC and beyond: women who KNOW CHRIST and have been transformed into new creations by Him are struggling hard with sin symptoms like habitual fear and shame. They are continually bullied and cowed down by a little voice (whether it be their own, our enemy's or both) that continues to tell them there's something wrong with them; they aren't good enough. At the same time, amongst our community, they receive a steady diet of the very true part of the paradox that they are sinful - and that, really, we all love ourselves way too much and shouldn't think about ourselves so much. True? Absolutely. An effective and loving way of administering Grace to fearful, hurting daughters? A way to enable their hearts to more readily soak in the rich love of Christ? I don't believe so.

It's like whipping (the King's) horse who has a broken leg. Starving (the King's) anorexic daughter. (Forgive my passion here).

Personally, my life began to change when, starting with one godly woman, Christ pronounced over me the other half of the paradox: the truth of who I really am in Him. The richness of His love for me, the vast freedom in letting go of trying to earn it. This 'visit' to that 'identity' part of the paradox has opened my heart to experience the richness of God's love and tender mercy in ways I had never, up to then, experienced - in 33 years of church sermons and attendance.

Was I a daughter of the King prior to that? I truly believe so. Had that message really gotten through to me? Sadly, no. What ongoing obstacle did I encounter as I prayed fervently for my heart to be able to receive His love in a fuller way? Great theology - about the ultimate everythingness of Him, and the absolute nothingness of me. Honestly, I finally had to grant myself the permission (and felt like a theological traitor in doing so) to stop thinking of myself as just a sin-filled worm. I desperately needed the other half of that paradox.

Other women are in this boat. MANY of them. Daughters who are deceived into thinking it's better theology to focus on their sin and failures. I believe they are hearing true things at the wrong time and in the wrong way. They need for it to be okay to visit the 'I' (am a child of God) IN CHRIST on the other side of that paradox for a time - and have freedom (and encouragement!) to absorb all that that means. They need their fathers, husbands and pastors to affirm their loveliness as new creations in Christ. I want to be a part of getting the message of our true identity out there in any way possible - for His glory, honor and praise. And for our joy. We are worms no more (only beloved children in need of forgiveness He ALREADY offered and we may continually receive)... praise God!

Thanks again for challenging - for wondering, and listening...

Coffeegirl said...

V.. I feel a book coming on, or at best, a Latte topic perhaps for next year. You communicated this so well. So much to think on. You are right on so many levels. Women, specifically are very hard on themselves, always thinking about what they need to do, who they need to take care of, and at the end of the day, what is the pervasive thought? Full of should's and negative thoughts about ourselves and our shortcomings.

Do I ever the end of the day..thoughts like...

I was God's idea before the beginning of time?

God thought of me when he sent his only son to die.....

God sings over me....

Somehow it feels wrong or self-indulgent, does it not? The shoulds are winning....and they point us back to the worm part of ourselves.

-V- said...

Yes, Sheri. THANK YOU. Actually, I kind of feel a book coming on too... these ideas are still much in process though. Need our community, and smart guys (like fathers, husbands, pastors) to help shape the direction. Thanks, Pat, for a substantial blog topic.

Sher - lately, been exploring the reasons why, as you've said, we feel wrong or self-indulgent in choosing self-compassionate thoughts (in light of who we are in Grace). Jesus thinks loving and compassionate thoughts toward us (NOT because of our performance or earned righteousness)... I think our enemy hates for us to realize His deep compassion for us and vehemently opposes moves toward aligning our thoughts with our Abba's.

Pat Stream said...

V - I've been re-reading your comments and considering them and so I apologize for not responding so quickly. We may be enlarging the scope of this issue beyond what Ed Welch had in mind in his post, although I do see a connection as you do, so I am grateful to hear your heart on these issues.

You make some great observations and did great work at linking all this to already/not yet. I try to think already/not yet all the time and it certainly applies to this topic.

Frankly, I think we may be thinking past each other because I agree with everything you wrote, and yet I sensed you may have been writing to defend against something I either wrote or implied with this post.

Essentially, what I understand from your words is that in your own heart and through personal experiences with other women, people simply do no grasp and live by a true identity that is created in the Gospel - i.e. EVERYTHING is IN Christ and the person IS NEW. Part of the problem of them not grasping it is what they being taught. Again, I agree.

I add to all that by saying I think that the failure to grasp the new identity is actually a failure to grasp the ENTIRE Gospel (Sin AND Redemption) - and that is a very personal issue. Very serious and not to be taken lightly. I think most Christians are equipped with a knowledge of the Gospel, but few actually understand it. Few are able to apply it to life and live out all the implications. Few are able to ask and answer: Do I know the Gospel well enough to apply it rightly to all areas of my life? My shame, my self-loathing, my self-hatred? What does the Gospel say to these problems? Christians need to be skilled at answer these questions for themselves, daily. I've recently come to realize this was greatly lacking in my life and now, like you, have a passion to completely understand the REAL gospel and tell others about it.

We are on the same page - Christians need to live, here and now, under their new identity!

Lastly, as an afterthought, I like how Welch ends his post saying in effect that Christian identity statements need to serve as a bridge to what Christ has done in a person so that we are moved into action to battle sin and love each other much better.

-V- said...

Wow, Pat. THANK you for your gracious response. You're right; my comment took your post way beyond what Welch (or, probably you) had intended. Thanks for reading and thoughtfully considering despite that fact. :-)

Welch's bridge metaphor has stuck with me too these past couple days; I love it. The 'defense' you heard in my response was not aimed at you, Welch, or your post - but toward the message: 'God, good: self, bad' that I'm hearing VERY frequently amongst Christians in general. Though I agree that idea is, in a real sense, part of coming to embrace the gospel - to the extent that its overuse blocks Christian women's entrance to 'the bridge' of understanding their true identity in Christ, I think the 'self: bad' part can become harmful, rather than instructive. We want women (and everyone else) to be able to pass over the identity bridge to the glorious freedom of maturity (which I've tasted and am still moving toward) on the other side... In fact, I believe we should be flying flags over the bridge, and welcoming them to it.

Your description of what you heard me saying was gentle, insightful, and hit the nail on the head - thank you. I too believe we are on the same page, but would be happy to stand with you as your sister in Christ even if we weren't. :-) Blessings on you, and thanks again for the real and challenging post.