Typically, when I hurt my wife with my words or injure a friend verbally, it wasn’t my intention as I started my day. Instead, when I sin, it is usually accidental, a result of choosing or saying the wrong thing in the moment, rather than preplanned malice. Some sin grows over time. There are little decisions along a path. You don’t usually make a huge leap into something big without having made many smaller choices along the way.
So, when we see stories like Jared Fogle and Josh Duggar plastered in the news, we respond with disgust, frustration, and surprise. How could they have done such a thing?
This is why we discussed last week the importance of looking regularly at our own sin. Where are we making small decisions that could lead to big, messy ones down the road?
A family friend said recently that her two elementary school boys regularly yell around the house, “I’m telling!” when the other is doing something wrong. She was then curious as to why they weren’t telling on one another when one of them accidentally cut themselves with their dad’s knife while electing to try to open a box on their own.
This is a perfect example of when it comes to our own vulnerability, we more quickly cover our actions and hide the evidence. On this side of the Fall, it’s human nature to want to clean ourselves up.
This is exactly why I take such heart in the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 39. As a bit of context, the Psalms are the collection of spiritual songs sung by the Israelites. The early Church used them as their hymnals, and they provide for us today a model of how to speak to the Lord about what is going on within us.
King David, who wrote many of the psalms, communicates in many ways to Lord, including expressing anger, sadness, jealousy, frustration, excitement, and joy. As part of the canon, The Book of Psalms shows us an example of how to rightly express our emotions to God.
In Psalm 39, we find one of King David’s songs about his experience of holding in what he should have let out:
I said, “I will guard my ways,
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me.”
2 I was mute with silence,
I held my peace even from good;
And my sorrow was stirred up.
3 My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing, the fire burned.
While we don’t know what King David experienced that had caused him this pain, we do know that in his holding his tongue, he had great sorrow. He was torn up.
Nineteenth-century British theologian Charles Spurgeon wrote that David’s “silence created an insupportable grief” (The Treasury of David).
The Message says it this way: “But the longer I kept silence, the worse it got— my insides got hotter and hotter.”
Whatever phrase one uses, we can glean from this Psalm that when we keep things in, it doesn’t help. And this is where I think about our friends Jared and Josh. These two guys kept their secrets in and it lead to destruction.
Imagine if they had lived in a community that instead had led to their vulnerability? Would they have gone as far in their thoughts to acting out on them? I’m inclined to say no. Instead, I think that their vulnerability, that is, their own openness to admit to others of their brokenness, struggle, and sin, could have provided an atmosphere of care and support for them long before their actions were newsworthy.
Since sitting in prolonged silence doesn’t work, I want to spend the rest of this post looking at where we can find those communities of grace within God’s Church.
We can make choices that lead down a dark and windy path, however, if we find ourselves there, we can begin to make choices that move us along a path toward vulnerability and health.
The following are a few resources for all of us struggling with sin:
Support Groups: Church-based groups like Celebrate Recovery provide places for people to fellowship and celebrate God´s healing power in their lives through recovery principles, ultimately bringing about vulnerability, change and healing. Churches around the globe host regular support meetings for those dealing with a wide variety of issues.
Web-monitoring software: Before that advent of the web, if you wanted to watch something pornographic, you had to go out to get it. Now with the web, all you need to do is search on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, iWatch…you name it. Covenant Eyes and X3Watch provide specialized web-surfing monitoring software that helps keep you accountable by maintaining a list of questionable websites a user accesses based on content. This then gets sent as an email report to an accountability partner whom the person has chosen and provides an opportunity for regular communication about one’s struggle.
Counseling and spiritual direction: King David needed someone to talk to in his predicament. This is who counselors and spiritual directors can be, an outside voice of safety and objectivity. While groups like the American Association of Christian Counselors and the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association provide partial lists, this article might be helpful in asking the right questions about starting with a counselor or director.
As this list is just a portion of resources that exist, we would invite your help to expand it. What resources do you and your community use to help create greater vulnerability for your leaders?
Thanks for your prayers for the leaders in your sphere as we strive to more readily exemplify Jesus and the vulnerability He showed.