Category Archives: Larry Crabb

Don’t Run Too Quickly

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“Be open to looking at everything in your life. Don’t run too quickly from disturbing events and insights into an affirmation of your faith that’s more contrived than real. Let your mind explore the hard issues that provoke some really unsettling questions in order to provoke a more trusting awareness of Christ.”

~Larry Crabb, Inside Out

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6

The Cloak of Self-Protection

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More thoughtful analysis from the book, Inside Out:

The inside look that brings about real change is unnerving, and it should be. The diagnosis of sin is not a pleasant one, and we tend to resist it whenever we can, preferring to think we’ve come farther than we have.

We simply must get to the core of the matter. The kind of change that most delights our Lord will never occur as long as we fuss only with sin in behavior or pain in the heart. Sin in the heart must be uncovered, looked at, and dealt with. When we understand we’re thirsty people who foolishly go in the wrong directions to find water, then we can look at our style of relating with the openness to recognizing a demanding, self-protective motive beneath our actions.

But we won’t see these wrong directions on our own, any more than a coal miner will see where to dig without the help of a flashlight. Disciplined people won’t recognize their protective (and unappealing) rigidity without help. Analytic types will fail to see that their cool logic, far from being admired, discourages those who would like to be close friends. Successful extroverts may go through life thinking everyone enjoys their social noise. Shy people may continue to regard themselves as quiet because of temperament and never see that their quietness is a protective cloak.

We need help to see ourself clearly. When we’re serious about taking an inside look, God provides three sources of light:

  1. The Spirit of God,
  2. The Word of God,
  3. The People of God.

Each resource can be used to replace the blindness of self-deceit with the clear vision of integrity. ~Larry Crabb

Self-protection is an easy place to run to when one has been hurt over and over again.  I’m one of those people who was hurt early in life from abuse (not an excuse just a reason).  This has helped to solidify in my mind that all people are not safe people.  And I have chosen to protect myself.  I hid behind my anger for many years.  Then I turned it inward and became depressed.

God has done an amazing work in me.  I am learning to become vulnerable.  The Spirit of God works within the heart and mind searching deeply.  He reveals the hidden darkness, the ugly ways of relating.

And I have learned to love The Word of God.  I’ve delved deeply into the intricacies of His Word to gain more of His mind.  I pray that I will be washed with the water of His word.  And I’m finding more and more His delight in answering that prayer.  😕

But, getting close to the People of God has not been easy.  That’s where the hurt can begin…again.

We’re all sinners.  Each one of us on this earth is sinful.  Some of us are redeemed and some are not.  God’s people are redeemed.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re always nice!  I mean, the old saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” seems to be apropos in the way we deal with one another in the church.  Lots of us think we have been given the title “Holy Spirit” and we choose to speak for Him at will…and I’m not talking about His will!

Hurt people hurt people.
It’s another old saying, but very true and well worth remembering.

I like what Crabb has to say.  But, that third source of light…hmmmm…it has become harder and harder to trust.  I wonder how much more effective we would be in the church if we would truly follow the exhortations in scripture?

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you should answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Some would quickly answer, “But salt stings!” as an excuse for their biting ways.  To them I say, “Delve deeply into the Word.”

Gracious:   that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech…good will, loving-kindness, favour

Salt:  salt is a symbol of lasting concord, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged….wisdom and grace exhibited in speech

So…what are the characteristics of gracious speech?

A sweetness that is delightful to the ears.
A charm that is lovely, not deceitful.
A pleasure that gives joy in the hearing.

Words which preserve fellowship.
Wise words full of lovingkindness for all.

I desire an inside look and am actively pursuing that goal, learning how to move past my self-protective ways.  In this walk of sanctification we’re taking together, let’s (the Church) learn to be gracious with one another.  It is hard to be vulnerable.  Some of us are hurting, deeply.  We need gentle care to be able to heal.

Do not tread where angels fear to go.

Love Through Desolation

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The sobs came from a deep place of knowing
No matter how much I want out…

I can’t get out. 

I can’t take the steps that lead to death. 

I am to walk this road no matter the consequence,
For this gift of life is just that…a gift from God…to pursue Him.

I am to run to Him.

“The illusion that life in a fallen world is really not too bad must be shattered.  When even the best parts of life are exposed as pathetic counterfeits of how things should be, the reality drives us to a level of distress that threatens to utterly undo us.  But it’s when we’re on the brink of personal collapse that we’re best able to shift the direction of our soul from self-protection to trusting love.  The more deeply we enter into the reality that life without God is sheer desolation, the more fully we can turn toward Him.”

I am to turn to God
In my distress
And He will deliver me. 

Turn from self…
Turn from digging my own cistern…
Turn to the One who has the living water…

Repentance.

“There is no place for sugar coating in the life of a serious Christian.  Life is unspeakably sad.  But we’re more than conquerors over every cause of sadness.  Repentance means to accept the truth that life without God is no life at all and to therefore pursue God with all the passion of someone who has been rescued from unimaginable horror.  When hints of sadness creep into our soul, we must not flee into happy or distracting thoughts.  Pondering the sadness until it becomes overwhelming can lead us to deep change in direction of our being from self-preservation to grateful worship.”

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners;
Purify your hearts, you hypocrites. 
Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done.
Let there be sorrow and deep grief.
Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.

“The richest love grows in the soil of an unbearable disappointment with life.  When we realize life can’t give us what we want, we can better give up our foolish demand that it do so and get on with the noble task of loving as we should.  We will no longer need to demand protection from further disappointment.  The deepest change will occur in the life of a bold realist who clings to God with a passion only his realistic appraisal of life can generate.”

Oh Lord,
May love grow richly in me
That I may extend it fully to these
You’ve entrusted to me. 
I cling to You…not this life…but to You.
You are the Source of Eternal Life.
You are the Life-giving Spirit. 
You are the One who is able to do
Exceedingly, abundantly beyond
All I could ever ask or think. 
I come to You. 
I am Your vessel to use
As You choose.
Thank you, Father, for bringing me
To the Shepherd of my soul,
Jesus Christ, Your Son
And my Lord,
Amen.

The Necessary Pain

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“The smallest seed of faith is better than
the largest fruit of happiness.”

~Henry David Thoreau

I’ve found this to be true.  I have had moments of happiness.  Wonderful moments I visit in my mind’s eye often.  But the past few years have been very difficult.  Since the wreck my health has steadily gone downhill.  And we’ve had family struggles I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  So, to talk of happiness…well…I’ve found it to be a bit elusive, at best.

Ed had a post this week on Thoreau and I liked the quote above.  It speaks truth to me. 

A seed of faith, even as small as a mustard seed, is better than happyfruit.  Happiness is contingent upon our happenings…our circumstances.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.  To live in the moment, when the moment is so painful, takes faith.  To get through this moment, to the next moment, takes hope and conviction that what’s not seen will, some day, come to fruition. 

Reading Larry Crabb…still…

Is it really possible to change?  Can a woman molested as a child really learn to embrace her sexuality?  Do men with homosexual urges ever really become heterosexual?  Can people who worry too much about money or their kids, or a couple whose marriage is not more exciting than a television rerun, or people with bad tempers really change?

The word “really” is the issue.  In many people’s minds, change must be nearly complete — at least dramatic — or it doesn’t count…Evangelicals sometimes expect too much or, to put it more precisely, we look for a kind of change God hasn’t promised…We manage to interpret biblical teaching to support our longing for perfection.  As a result, we measure our progress by standards we will never meet until heaven.

Paul prays we may be strengthened with “power through his Spirit in your inner being” and asserts that God is “able to do immmeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 4:16,20).  We therefore claim God’s power as the guarantee of total change from pressure to peace, from disappointment to joy — and then live with an intolerable burden that either crushes us with despair or requires us to pretend we’re better than we are.

The idea that peace and joy might merely support us during times of struggle and sorrow rather than eliminate those times is not appealing.  We want to do away with the necessary pain of living in a disappointing world as imperfect people.  We insist on experiencing neither pain nor failure, so when the inevitable happens, it becomes reason for discouragement.

We will, of course, be flawless — one day.  No hint of perverted desire, no sleepless nights when our mind races mercilessly from one worry to another, no fear of becoming close to people that’s fueled by memories of hurt.  All that is ahead of us, in heaven.  But for now, struggles continue.  There is a necessary pain of living in this world that we must simply accept. 

I’m learning how to deal with “the necessary pain of  living in a disappointing world” as an imperfect person…

…and having a seed of faith in His plan for me.

Therefore we do not despair,
But even if our physical body is wearing away,
Our inner person is being renewed day by day.
For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us
An eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison
Because we are not looking at what can be seen
But at what cannot be seen.
For what can be seen is temporary,
But what cannot be seen is eternal.
~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Only Faith Can Satisfy

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An honest look at life will produce confusion.  But confusion isn’t bad, it’s good, because in the middle of confusion we become aware of a passionate desire to know that Someone strong and kind is working behind all we see, moving things carefully toward a just and joyful conclusion.

God does enlighten us on certain points.  We must learn what He has revealed and believe all that’s clear.  But even the best-taught Bible student must throw up his hands at some point.  There is a level of confusion that will not disappear, and we must accept that fact.  As long as we think we can clear our confusion with more study and further research, we will not be driven to passionate faith.  But when we admit that important parts of our life will continue to be clothed in confusion, then we can learn to relax in our faith in God.  Tough faith never grows in a comfortable mind.  But it can develop nicely when our mind is so troubled by confusion that we either believe God or give up on life.  Letting ourselves experience confusion creates a thirst that only faith can satisfy.

~Larry Crabb, Inside Out

What do you think?

Country Club Church

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Many churches, particularly the ones that televise their services, make a habit of inviting only those whose lives are going well at the moment to share what Christ means to them.  The message is consistent: comfort and commitment, both are available.  Trust God to change whatever makes you uncomfortable while you choose to follow Him.

I have often wondered how much crippling guilt and soul-wracking pain those testimonies provoke in those who have committed themselves to Christ as best they can but whose lives are filled with terrible discomfort.  As the speakers tell their stories of warm family reunions, children preparing for missionary service, relational tensions that have been replaced by joyful reconciliation, and financial losses that God has miraculously turned around, how many hearts rejoice in God’s goodness?

What does the woman feel whose husband of thirty years left her three years ago and is now openly living with a girl half his age?  Hope?  Confusion?  Bitterness?  What do the grandparents feel who can’t spend time with their grandchildren because the girl their son married has taken an unexplained disliking to them?  Or what about the single person who’s sick of the fun-and-games mentality of her church’s single group and yearns for meaningful adult relationships?  Is she blessed by the testimonies of people who praise God for their personal comforts and humbly thank Him for winning them to strong commitments?  Or does she quietly give up hope of finding real joy?

Most of us, even people like me who do enjoy many legitimate pleasures and who are sincerely committed to pursuing Christ, must admit to a host of unanswered questions, real disappointments, and a nagging emptiness that even our best relationship never relieves.  Are we to ignore these internal realities and focus instead on the blessings of personal comfort as we work to honor our Christian commitment?  I fear that most people whose lives provide enough pleasures to escape having to think about those troubling questions and emotions do precisely that.  And those folks whose struggles are more pressing — broken marriages, rebellious kids, aching loneliness — well, we can only pray that God will restore their personal comforts as they continue to trust in Him.

This kind of response turns church into a country club offering its benefits to those who are fortunate enough and well-mannered enough to qualify for membership.  We sit Sunday after Sunday enjoying the fellowship of others who are comfortable and committed while the brokenhearted and poor press their noses against the window, looking in at us with resentment, envy, and despair.

If we are to become a community of deeply changed people, we must not only admit to our thirst, we must also carefully explore what Christ promised to do about that thirst.  Did He promise to bring us comfort through enjoyable relationships, rewarding careers, and pleasurable activities — provided, of course, that we honor some level of commitment to Him?  Or is the abundant life of bubbling springs a very different matter?  Is it possible to have absolutely no rich communication with your husband, yet still taste those cool waters?  Can a parent whose young adult son is far from the Lord know something real about peace and rest?

Our Lord has promised to flood our innermost being with springs of living water.  If His words do not guarantee our personal comfort in exchange for spiritual commitment — and I don’t think they do — then what is He saying?  If He’s promised springs of living water to all who come, then why do many sincere Christians live lives filled with pain?

Larry Crabb, Inside Out