Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Getting Rid of Junk

“What happened to me is that I realized I believed in Jesus and thought of myself as ‘saved’ and ‘redeemed’ and ‘reborn’, yet massive areas of my life were unaffected. I learned that salvation is for all of me. I learned that Jesus wants to heal my soul—now.

“And for Jesus to heal my soul, I had to stare my
junk right in the face.” ~ Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, pg. 110

Do you have “junk” in your life? I am not talking about sin, but about hurts, scars, personality issues, relationship problems, or physical handicaps that you carry with you each and every day. Do you recognize how this “junk” affects your decision-making and how you approach life?

It is my belief that a great many of our struggles, including our sins, are outgrowths of the “junk” in our lives. A young lady might struggle with sexual addiction in her attempts to feel beautiful. A middle-age man might be consumed by pornography to escape the real life problems he is facing. A housewife might over commitment herself to charitable causes because she is seeking some “greater” purpose in her life. A minister might be obese because food is a source of comfort while expectations for his minister position continue to pile up.

There are underlying reasons that determine why we do the things that we do. Until we decide to stare this “junk” in the face we will never be able break the cycles of addictions, attitudes, and sins that seem to dominate our lives. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1; NLT).

Not all the stuff that hinders our journey of faith is sin. Some of it is stuff we have no control over: abuse, birth defect, an accident, or a disease. Some of it is due to our personality and our genetics while others of it is due to our environment and education. Things such as depression, obesity, and laziness can slow us down just as much, if not more so, than sin.

The problem is that when it comes to dealing with these issues, especially for ministers who are leaders, are the feelings of shame and weakness. We get this feeling at as followers of Christ we shouldn’t have to deal with these problems. We shouldn’t get depressed, be financially irresponsible, be driven to achieve, be afraid of failure, seek comfort in food, or procrastinate. So we hide our struggles, our junk, and tell ourselves that is just the way life is and that it will never be different.

If we are going to truly be Christ-Followers we first of all need to be brave about facing our own “junk.” I have “junk” in my life that is hindering my life of faith: irresponsible in handling money, overwhelming fear in talking with people personally, being a packrat, and the avoidance of meeting new people. I have realized that for me to become the person God created me to be I have to face my “junk” and if that requires counseling then it requires counseling, but hopefully people will understand from my example that life doesn’t have to be stuck in these cycles that there are ways that we can at least begin to deal with the issues if not totally overcome them.

Second, we need to extend grace and mercy to people who are dealing with junk in their lives. I think part of the reason we fear getting help for these things is because we expect to be judged and ridiculed by people in the church, by other Christians. That maybe the case, but let us be the type of Christ Followers who seek to support and love those willing to find help to their problems. Let us be the type of people we want helping us deal with our junk.

Third, we need to encourage people to look past their sins to the deeper issues of their lives. Rob Bell writes this is Velvet Elvis (pg. 111):
“In addition, there is always a mystery behind the mystery. There is a reason we do what we do, and often it is the result of something that is the result of something that is—you guessed it—the result of something. What happens is we try to fix things, but we stop at the first or second layer. We’re stressed and so we make adjustments in time management. But a better question is, why do I take on so much? But an even better question is, why is it so hard for me to say no? Or even, why is that person’s approval so important to me?”

This isn’t just about overcoming sin, but it is about finding life. Satan will use more than just temptation and sin to steal, kill, and destroy our lives. He will use anything that will trip us up and cause us pain. Jesus offers healing for our whole person and so we need to expose our entire life to Him so He can do His work.

The reason ministers, counselors, and other Christ-Followers struggle with things is because we are afraid to look our “junk’ in the face. We don’t have to live with this junk anymore. It is possible to start taking steps to get rid of it today. The question is: are you ready to take out the trash?


Katherine said...

Tahanks for taking an inane snappy comment (mine) and turning it into a thoughtful and provoking post.

I am so glad that you quoted that passage from Hebrews. I have been thinking a lot about it since my trip to Israel. Have you ever read Safely Home by Randy Alcorn? Fiction, I know, but strong reliance on this Hebrews passage. Makes that junk a little less shiny.

To quote two famous authors "all that glitters is not gold."

Paul said...

Hey Katherine,

Thanks for continuing to stop by and read my thoughts. When you made you comment it was right in line with what I was thinking about in my own life, due to what I was reading in Velvet Elvis, so the post was a natural result from that. Glad you found it thought provoking. I was a little frustrated with writing it since I had spent so much time thinking about it and then as I wrote I didn't think I was clearly communicating what I wanted to say. Then again most of the time I am my harshest critic. Thanks again for stopping by.

Christian Eye said...

I feel the same way about my own writing, Paul. I never seem to get the words out I want to say. But they must work because I'm always hearing good news about them. Same with you. This post is written excellently. My wife doesn't take the time to read all the things I do but I'm always encouraging her to read your posts because they do stir something inside me to see God's Will done.

Paul said...

Hey Chris, thanks for the compliments. I appreciate them. Thanks your continued presence here at Paul's Ponderings.

Katherine said...

(putting on her teacher hat) Paul, that frustration often happens when we write. (taking off her teacher hat and putting on her aspiring writer hat) But it sure is frustrating! :)

Paul said...

Why can't it be easy? ;) Perhaps by doing the hard and frustrating work of trying to communicate what we believe it becomes more "real" to us (and perhaps we become better writers in the process)?

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