Synergy of Honesty

When the going gets tough, the tough get honest.  Lying and evading is the easy way out; honesty takes effort.  For one person, putting effort into the relationship means speaking up when feeling fragile.  For another, it means listening to a partner rather than bulldozing.  What is easy for one person may be a challenge for the other.

Usually those aspects of ourselves that we try to conceal — our personal demons — do shade how we come across.  We like to believe that what we lock away won’t affect us.  Actually, it’s like a radioactive leak:  Most of the time it does.

For many people, the hardest thing to say to a spouse is “I’m angry at you.”  They may feel it; they may communicate it obliquely, but they won’t admit to it.  The anger strikes too close to taboo emotions.  This may frustrate the other person because the anger is intuited but never confirmed….

When your partner doesn’t recoil from your darker feelings it kickstarts your own acceptance of yourself, and your own self-acceptance helps you to create a stronger bond.

By the Together as Two Stage, you can say to your partner, “It terrifies me to say this, but I have to tell you that I’m furious with you.”  The other person breathes a sign of relief because your words are congruent with what you portray.  Finally, the anger is out there!  At that moment, you and your partner are on the way to a special kind of synergy, primed for the type of healing only couples can give each other.

Because marriage is so interdependent, the growth potential is enormous — not by pleading or demanding, nor sitting at a drawing board, but through the models of integrity you provide for each other.  You can’t develop intimacy without involving and evolving yourself. . . .  You don’t generate growth, intimacy, or maturity from being polite to each other for fifty years.

— Ellyn Bader, PhD, and Peter T. Pearson, PhD, Tell Me No Lies, p. 214-216

Communion with God

Satan’s desire is to keep us away from communion with God.  He doesn’t care how he does it.

God’s intention, on the other hand, is to use spiritual warfare to draw us into deeper communion with himself.  Satan’s device is to isolate us and wear us out obsessing about what he has done and what he will do next.  And he is very effective in using our particular Message of the Arrows to do it.  God desires to use the enemy’s attacks to remove the obstacles between ourselves and him, to reestablish our dependency on him as his sons and daughters in a much deeper way.  Once we understand that, the warfare we are in begins to feel totally different.  It is not really even about Satan anymore, but about communion with God and abiding in Jesus as the source of life.  The whole experience begins to feel more like a devotional.

Through my own experience, I begin to see more clearly that God is so confident in the good that he is willing to allow our adversary latitude in carrying out his evil intentions for the purpose of deepening our communion with himself.

— Brent Curtis & John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance, p. 120

Prideful Forgivers

How do we counter the pride of virtuous magnanimity, the second form of pride associated with forgiving?  As forgivers, we should remind ourselves that, on our own, we have neither the power nor the right to forgive and that we are neither knowledgeable nor virtuous enough to forgive well.  When we forgive, we make God’s forgiveness our own.  And even as we do, it’s Christ who forgives through us, not we who forgive on our own.  Our forgiveness is proper to the extent that it reverberates with God’s.  When offenders thank us for forgiving, we should respond the same way we respond when recipients thank us for giving — we should deflect gratitude and direct it to God, the true source and the true agent of all forgiving.  When we forgive well, there’s in fact very little to be proud of.  God being the source of our forgiveness, the better we forgive, the less reason there is for pride.

Prideful forgivers are bad forgivers partly because pride subverts what forgiveness seeks to achieve in the first place.  As we saw in the two previous chapters, forgiveness is not a private, virtuous act.  It’s part of a larger strategy of overcoming evil with good and bringing about reconciliation.  It doesn’t just relieve us from bitterness and resentment.  It enacts love for the enemy.  Good forgivers can’t therefore just dispense forgiveness without any regard for how it is received by the offenders.  Forgiveness will help overcome evil with good if it nudges offenders to repent, reconcile, and be restored to the good.  Humble forgiveness might achieve that goal.  Prideful forgiveness will have the opposite effect.

— Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 217

Seduced Into Growth

There is a certain innocence about beginning, with its excitement and promise of something new.  But this will emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown.  And no one can foretell what the unknown might yield.  There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering.  Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out.  Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are.  Through the innocence of beginning we are often seduced into growth.

John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, p. 2-3

At My Most Monstrous

I know that when I am most monstrous, I am most in need of love.  When my temper flares out of bounds it is usually set off by something unimportant which is on top of a series of events over which I have no control, which have made me helpless, and thus caused me anguish and frustration.  I am not lovable when I am enraged, although it is when I most need love.

One of our children when he was two or three years old used to rush at me when he had been naughty, and beat against me, and what he wanted by this monstrous behavior was an affirmation of love.  And I would put my arms around him and hold him very tight until the dragon was gone and the loving small boy had returned.

So God does with me.

— Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season, quoted by Carole F. Chase in Glimpses of Grace, p. 250-251

Forgiveness Like the Father

It is through constant forgiveness that we become like the Father.  Forgiveness from the heart is very, very difficult.  It is next to impossible.  Jesus said to his disciples:  “When your brother wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry,’ you must forgive him.”

I have often said, “I forgive you,” but even as I said these words my heart remained angry or resentful.  I still wanted to hear the story that tells me that I was right after all; I still wanted to hear apologies and excuses; I still wanted the statisfaction of receiving some praise in return — if only the praise for being so forgiving!

But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking.  It is this divine forgivenss that I have to practice in my daily life.  It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical.  It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments.  Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive.

This “stepping over” is the authentic discipline of forgiveness.  Maybe it is more “climbing over” than “stepping over.”  Often I have to climb over the wall of arguments and angry feelings that I have erected between myself and all those whom I love but who so often do not return that love.  It is a wall of fear of being used or hurt again.  It is a wall of pride, and the desire to stay in control.  But every time that I can step or climb over that wall, I enter into the house where the Father dwells, and there touch my neighbor with genuine compassionate love.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 129-130

Library as Support Group

There is a belief that once you begin to open books, you will become a better person.  It is Pandora’s box, but in a good way.  You are inching toward the promised land, page by page.  And it doesn’t matter if you subscribe to this theory or not.  The subscription has already been bought and paid for.

We are all misfits, poseurs, and clowns.  We are heartbroken and lonely, failures in life, criminals and frauds.  Most of our successes are pleasant illusions.  Through the books on the shelves, the library becomes a support group and lets us know that we are not alone.  Once we realize we are not alone, we can relax, set our burdens down, and move on.

— Don Borchert, Free for All, p. xiv-xv

What If Universalism Is Wrong?

But what if I am wrong in thinking that God will save everyone?  I said right at the start that I am a hopeful dogmatic universalist.  That is to say that, although, according to my theological system, God will save all people, I am not 100% certain that my system is correct.  So what if I am wrong?  Well, if I am wrong, then I will have inspired some false hope in the hearts of some people; but I do not think that I will have done any serious damage.  I have not produced a theology with a diminished view of God nor one that will lead people not to worship God.  I have not sidestepped the centrality of God’s work in Christ, so the cross and resurrection remain at the heart of the gospel.  I have not reduced the importance of faith in Christ nor the missionary calling of the church.  I have not undermined the authority of the Bible.  I have not “gone soft” on God’s wrath nor got rid of hell.  I have not tinkered with any key doctrines of orthodox Christianity.  If I am wrong, then anyone who mistakenly comes to think that I am right will love and worship the triune God, study and follow the Scriptures, proclaim Christ to the lost, and seek to walk in holiness, just like any non-universalist evangelical.  Hopefully, neither they nor those around them will be adversely harmed by their mistaken universalist beliefs.  I have made a provisional case for accepting universalism, but in the end one must make a wager and take a position.  Here I stand, and I can do no other.  I realize that most of my Christian family do not stand with me in the extent of my hope for the future, and I certainlly do not think that true Christian faith requires agreement with my views!  Belief in universalism is most certainly not a requirement for Christian orthodoxy, but neither does it amount to an exclusion from orthodoxy even if it is wrong.  I hope that this book may persuade some at least to tolerate evangelical universalism as a legitimate Christian position — a view that is true to the message of the gospel — even if they themselves feel unable to accept it.

— Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, p. 176