I Can’t Tolerate … ME.

I Can’t Tolerate … ME.

What do you struggle to tolerate? Is it slow drivers abusing the fast lane? Shoppers abusing the 10 item or less line? Lactose? Gluten? Politicians abusing power? Hollywood elites abusing people? There’s intolerance everywhere. But what about you, do you tolerate you? Sometimes I don’t tolerate me.

Intolerance of self further damages our humanity. Intolerance of our bodies, our faces, our stories, our past, and our brokenness is hurtful. We are only human and that means we have limitations and brokenness. It’s part of our human condition, but it’s often a part we struggle to accept or tolerate. Intolerance of our true humanity impacts how we show up in life.

Let’s back up to explain. Our spiritual ancestors, Adam and Eve, abused the power and freedom they had in God’s garden (Genesis 3). They chose to turn from him and snatch the forbidden fruit. Every one of us has followed suit. They started a crazy train of personal intolerance that leads us into into fear and falseness, like it did them.

Their intolerance was their unwillingness to accept that they had turned away from God. Instead, they pointed fingers at one another and God. They wouldn’t tolerate the reality of their brokenness and accept personal responsibility for a fractured relationship with God. So Adam blames Eve and God, and Eve plays the victim to a serpent. Unwilling to own their sin, they hide behind masks of falseness.

The masks they wore were born of fear. They feared the consequence of owning their sin. They feared standing in the light before God. They feared his response. So, they hid from him rather than standing in the light and saying, ‘Father, here we are, we blew it big time.’

The truth is we all blow it. When we pursue our deepest longings in ungodly ways, we blow it. Adam and Eve tried to fix it, to make a wrong right, by covering themselves in a lie. The lie was born of fear. They put on masks attempting to fool God and each other. The mask of victim and the mask of blamer were lies – they were false ways of pursing a re-connection to God. It failed miserably and the disconnect grew deeper.

We all have masks, and they do us no good. I have the mask of a performer, among others. It’s the false part of me trying to measure up – for me, you and God. It’s driven by the fear that the real me is not enough. It’s fueled by the fear that if you know the real me, my sin, my suffering, my limitations, you will reject me. You see the fear is you won’t tolerate the real me. And deep within I already don’t tolerate me.

My intolerance of my own broken humanity, self rejection, coupled with the imagination of others rejection, prompts the mask of a performer. The performers mask covers the fear of rejection, and both conceal the true self longing to be loved and welcomed.

There are lots of masks such as the people pleaser, judge, cynic, know-it-all, recluse, joker, stoic and hundreds more. There are endless false ways to attempt to cope with our brokenness. The only way to truly be free is to tolerate ourselves. To own our brokenness before God and others.

The true self appears when we shake off our fear and the lies it believes, stand in the light, and accept the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. To tolerate myself begs that I trust that Jesus truly holds me, covers me and secures me in love. His covering alone makes me tolerable, totally acceptable, completely welcome to our heavenly Father. Jesus reconciles us to God such that we need not fear, nor hide in falseness, from Him, one another or ourselves

The true self becomes buried behind layers of fear and falseness. Sometimes the intolerance feels so right, so normal, that we don’t even know the false layers exist, but they do. The remedy is the love of Christ. A love that tolerates the true me, the true you, because we have been remade, reconciled and redeemed by the power of His blood.

Jesus breaks the chains of intolerance, casts off the fear, stripes away the mask and welcomes us to the light. I’m working on tolerating me, because Jesus already has.

Join the Conversation: Good Grief!

(our summer series inviting conversation and connection. Share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter)

My mother died on July 14. A week later, I visited my father’s graveside in Ft. Logan National Cemetery for the first time since he passed. A dear friend just returned from a graveside visit to a mentor who passed in a tragic car accident. One of our church-family members just lost her grandmother. Death and grief are a part of life.

The loss of loved ones grows more real and present the older I get, and it exposes a unique loneliness in me.

Each situation is laced with joy and gladness as they sleep in faith with the Lord and await the glorious resurrection. That is the good news. They truly rest in a better place (though those words are no help on heels of a loss) and I can assent to it being a goodness amidst the grief.

Yet, there are obvious aspects of grief that are very uncomfortable and hard, though maybe goodness can be found there too. An obvious emptiness and sadness attends losing people we love. It wouldn’t be sad if they hadn’t made a meaningful impact on our lives. Their departure leaves a hole.

The hole is not only their absence, but how it exposes a deeper loneliness. In the case of parents and grandparents, it is the loss of people that knew us from the beginning. They set us in motion and loved us when we had nothing to give, but a cry, a mess and a smile. They showed us our first glimpse of unconditional, life-giving love.

Their loss tears at our roots – the roots of being known, loved and connected. Certainly we can busy ourselves with more people, and we can build other significant relationships to stay connected and experience love. Building new connections is good, but it can be a mechanism to hide as well. Hiding from the lonely reality that foundational relationships are undeniably absent for now doesn’t feel authentic or redeeming to me.

I believe the loneliness exposes a root desire for deep connection. There is goodness in the grief if we face it. My loneliness exposes a desire to be known and loved at my core. Though, the people that knew and valued me from the beginning are gone. I still want all of me to be deeply known. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am. That is a lonely grief and it is hard, lest we deny it and hide from it.

Henri Nouwen says: “The task is not to escape your loneliness, nor to let it drown you, but to find it’s source. … With your heart you must search for that place without fear.”

In this sense, I see the loneliness as a gift to be opened and explored, though it is hard to sit with. I’m finding the loneliness exposes in me a relational desire that not even the most intimate earthly relationship can fully satisfy, though they are so important. I feel the pain of grief and it’s loneliness driving me to more essential and eternal things. It seems to be leading me to God – to know him more intimately. It’s calling me to trust that in His knowing me, in His love for me, in His presence, in welcoming Him into my loneliness, there is more — more healing, more hope and a more satisfying, joyful relationship that transcends what we can know on a merely human level.

There is no fear in pursuing this, though it comes with some pain and letting go (for now) of those who have loved us well. Exploring “that place” referred to by Nouwen leads us to a deeper relationship with God, a good place, and a joyful connection.

I’d love to connect, share your thoughts.

Twisted & Treasured

from Rob Gibson…  a midnight thought Aug 22,2016

I am undeniably broken and not in control of it. 
My need for the Savior is greater than my comprehension. My inability to rescue and reform myself is terribly obvious to me. My need to be plucked from the pit, led from temptation, and forgiven of treason is radically real. As if my mind saw black as white, so twisted can my heart be, so self deceiving and self consumed, upside down and inside out; flesh demanding to be fed when it should rather be crucified. My fate, if left to me alone would surely be total destruction and devastating damage to others. Human sin and brokenness knows no bounds, only twisted convulsions that frustrate heart mind and soul. 

But God. But for the restraining hand of God, but for the mercy of the Father who meets me in death, but for a Savior who stands in my stead, but for a Brother who keeps watch of my soul, but for a Son who laid down His life for mine, but for the King who holds the keys to my life, but for the Lord who offers forgiveness and life, I would be lost. But God, rich in boundless love, has taken me as His beloved. Broken though I am, I am consumed by His love, held as His treasure. Amazing! Unceasing love! Hallelujah what a God, what a Savior! 

Encouragement!

by Rob Gibson           June 17, 2016

Post #8 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…

I just returned from a national convention of similarly striped religious types. It triggered someone in me, someone I want dead, as well as someone I want to thrive. I want a critical spirit to die and the loving encourager to thrive. 
Along my sabbatical journey, I read a piece that stuck me. It resonated too deeply for comfort and uncovered a deadly part of me. The sub-heading was “ The Compulsive Minister” — One who is angry and greedy for more. It slew me when I read:
“Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart.” The Way of the Heart, Henri J.M. Nouwen

This pricked me as it revealed a seething dissatisfaction with myself and the results I greedily demand. It was triggered this week as demands for more baptisms, more passion, more of a burdened heart, more, more, and more were intensely preached. The desired results had been weighed and measured and found lacking.
I have a perpetually active evaluator in my head, heaping the messages “not enough,” “get it right,” and “do more” at me all the time. I do not need anybody singing with that choir. Rather, the choir we all need to hear more is a gospel choir, and the gospel is good news, not condemnation. The gospel is that Jesus Christ loved you and me to death, in spite of our falling short of the mark. His love is not measured or withheld based on our performance but rather abundantly flowing to us like the perpetually deep and fresh waters of a raging waterfall. The rivers of grace are full, even when I am empty and my striving stumbles and stalls. 

What I need and I believe the church and the world needs is a lot more Barnabas! Barnabas is a name that means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas encouraged the Christian community and the Apostles by his generosity (Acts 4:36-37). When Paul returned to Jerusalem, after his conversion, it was Barnabas that encouragingly introduced this former murderous persecutor of the church to the Apostles (Acts 9:27) when they were afraid of him and seriously doubted his Christianity. The son of encouragement propelled the greatest missionary ever to press on. He didn’t identify all the failures, foibles or faults in the man, which, by his own admission, were many (1Tim 1:15). Rather he focused on the possibilities, the opportunities and what could be. 

Like Jesus with Peter after his triple denial, he did not castigate his friend, but knew there was a passionate loving shepherd in Peter that needed to be encouraged to step into the love and power within him (2Tim 1:7). Jesus was an encourager — encouraging each of us to embrace the truth of his love for us. He invited sinners to lay down deadly ways of self-satisfaction and to receive the abundant life he offers (John 10:10). 

I want to be a Barnabas, not a critic. I want to live in Jesus abundant love and walk kindly, patiently and generously with others in the light of his love, even when we miss the mark. Let’s encourage each other to live in the freedom and love that is ours in Christ and run together into the glory that is increasingly ours in Christ (2Cor. 4:17-18). 

Time for One Thing.

by Rob Gibson   June 9, 2016

Post #7 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical journey…

Time is limited and it’s running out quickly. Harry Chapin sung the lamentable reality in “Cats in the Craddle”:

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

When you comin’ home son

I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad

You know we’ll have a good time then

I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”

He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time

The legacy of busyness is, in the end, empty and unfulfilling. He longed for a moment with his son. Our hearts were made, and long for, connection to love. That song always brings tears to me. It resonates deeply as I long for time with my dad, but time is past. I look at my children, no longer babies but budding professionals, time is passing. I see people running fast, connections lost or never found because we couldn’t find the time.

It is as Dr. Suess says:

“How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”

It’s getting late. The urgency of making a living, building a home, saving for retirement and the next vacation, making the payments, upgrading the house, running the kids to ballet, gymnastics, swim team, soccer practice and Tae Kwon Do leaves precious little time to sit at the dinner table, or toss a ball in the yard and simply breathe deeply of life together.

On our journey, we visited St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. It is a Catholic monastery, beautifully set in the Rocky Mountains. Christ’s love was palpable in that community. I spoke with one of the monks, Brother Thomas, after service. He is an octogenarian who has given his life to prayer and living a prayerful life while working the ranch, bakery, and tending the monastery. They say: “The monks life is based more on how he lives than on what he does, and how he works more than what that work is.” The brothers breathe deeply of life in communion with God and each other.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.44.12 AM
St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado

Brother Thomas approached and was inquisitive and full of love. He winsomely asked some telling questions seeking to connect. Then in the course of our encounter he offered, “we are depriving our children today.” I asked what he meant, wondering what a man who has deprived himself of “normal life” and grabbing the goodies of our modern world could be thinking. He answered: “When I was a boy we took time to play together and be kids and be together, even inviting our non-Catholic friends to church with us. We did life together. We were not consumed by games and videos and rushed, but had time together.”

It was more profound than these words convey. I was experiencing life with him and the very  intentional presence of his soul to mine. He was taking time to engage me with depth. His presence was full and loving and intriguing. He was joyful, warm, and his peace had weight. This senior, a man deprived of all the trappings, had a luminous presence about him. Briefly our souls connected, and that is a rare gift in this busy world.

In that moment, he was intent on one thing. He was fully present to another. Time did not stop, but the time was intentional, welcoming and rich. He did not look past me to speak to someone else, quickly dispense with superficial pleasantries, or rush to another thing; he connected and was focused on one thing, in that moment.

One thing in that moment of time. One person. One image bearer given time and focused attention. “I’d love to, if I can find the time.” We don’t find time, it is given and it is limited. My question is, what will I do with the time? I’ve left many behind in the wake of the busyness of building a profession and a portfolio. I’m certain I’ve missed profound encounters and life giving relationships. I’ve missed some of the real wealth offered in our limited time. One thing I don’t want to miss any more is time with you – every you put in my path.

A person, a relationship, old or new, a connection, before it gets too late. One thing, another soul, another heart that beats in the image of our loving God.

I have time for one thing.

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The road to St. Benedict’s Monastery, winter 2016.

 

Who Needs You?

by Rob Gibson   June 3, 2016

Post #7 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical journey… 

As my journey began, our church family and friends purposely left us alone and undisturbed. It was a welcome restful kindness, at first. Then the silence gave way to some eerie imaginations. Like the strange noises from the basement that scare a child on a dark lonely night, my soul was hearing disturbing noise. Silence was unearthing self doubt and dark questions.

The silence became empty, lonely, and fearful. The fear was; “Am I needed? Do I matter? Does anybody care?” My imaginations stirred lies and negative answers. If the phone isn’t ringing, the calendar isn’t booked, problems aren’t seeking my solution, and I’m not fixing stuff, I don’t matter. The deeper question is: “Am I valuable?”

The young mother senses she’s needed by the sweet cry of her baby and she is loved in return. The nurse is valued in bringing relief to the wounded. The cashier serves a line of customers and is met with smiles and thank you’s. These relational experiences, someone who needs us, send an implied message of value. But in silence, no one asks. My silence, though planned for rest and rejuvenation, took me to the doubt and darkness of my soul in order to welcome greater light. Silence and solitude is a hard but necessary part of maturing our souls.

This is not the first time I’ve faced this silence, but the heart is fickle. The question of value comes to us as kids finding our place, as singles in search of companionship, searching for a job, or letting go in retirement. Attacks on human value respect no age or boundaries.

I experienced this in my first midlife change, when leaving business leadership to pursue ministry at age 40. Moving from leading 300 employees to the isolation of seminary, with a young doctoral candidate teaching me Greek, raised questions of value. I was humbled intellectually and professionally, as I struggled to learn, the phone had stopped ringing, and I wasn’t producing a measurable profit! I wasn’t making an impact, at least according to a worldly paradigm. I’ve known men and women confronted by this struggle with the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or as the kids leave the nest. I’ve seen it in young boys searching for dad’s approval and validation on the ball field and in young school girls who saw their value in curves and cup size.

The attacks on our value and worth come at every age, and it came to me in silence and solitude. The option was to get busy, do something, even turn the music up, or step into what seemed dark, embrace solitude, listen for God, and grow.

In the solitude I discovered my desire to be needed. If I’m needed, I’m valuable, right? I faced my narcissistic want to be desired and admired by others. If a paycheck isn’t coming, if the phone isn’t ringing, if they, whoever the “they” are, don’t need me or want me,  am I valuable?

Silence and solitude is beautiful, lonely by design and necessary for our souls to be still with the hard questions and God. I took the narcissist, the over achiever, the striving performer and the lies they scream into the silence with God.

I faced the truth: I’m not needed. I’m not needed and that’s ok. It does not diminish my value. There will come a day when each of us goes onto new adventures or glory, and our friends, family and the world will carry on, sustained by Christ, not you and me. They do not need me and that does not make me worth less. It maes me humble, expendable, and yet still valuable and loved. Worth is not determined by others opinion, need of us, or our production, looks or skill set. Worth comes from God who speaks us into glorious existence and says:

“Let Us make man in Our image …So God created them; male and female he created them…and saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:26-27, 31)

The Psalmist marvels at His work:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

And Paul reminds us of the value of His work saying:

“…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-7) and “…together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory.” (Rom. 8:17)

God the Father initiates our created value, Jesus Christ constructs it in love, and the Holy Spirit confirms and seals it for eternity. Our value is inherent as beloved image bearers.

I found an answer. The answer does not stroke the narcissist, applaud accomplishment or stoke busyness, but anchors real value in our Lord and God. The answer is He doesn’t need me, but He made me with inherent value. The answer is I’m not needed and don’t need to be needed, and, you don’t need me. That is actually good news.

Everything we need we have in Christ and in Him we have immeasurable value. We are replaceable, expendable, and indeed will be in due time. But for a relatively brief period, we do have one another. We are unique gifts from God to each other. We are image bearers that bless one another, love, add perspective, reveal glory, refine one another, and, for a bit, make life richer.

You are valuable, more so than whatever someone may want or demand of you, more than what you demand of yourself, and immensely more than the sum of your parts and capacities, or the contrived standards of this world. God’s glory is in you as His beloved child. That is enough. You are enough!

Take a few minutes, be alone and be silent, and let the truth that you are His beloved touch your soul.

The Value of Vulnerability

by Rob Gibson

Post #2 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey: Chasing God and finding me

The dictionary defines vulnerability as: “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to attack, criticism, assault etc…”  Yikes, that sounds like something to be avoided!

Maybe, but vulnerability is the pathway to knowing, loving and receiving love. I know this because Jesus came to us vulnerable, to be known and to know and love us. He risked coming as a vulnerable human to the jacked-up, deadly world of ancient Israel. No doubt he knew it would be tough living with messed up humans and that our love would be fickle at best. Still, he vulnerably showed up and opened up. I get this intellectually, but is vulnerability worth the risk, for me?

On my journey I had a lot of opportunities to risk relational vulnerability. I think it’s always there, but I was more aware, maybe because I prayed the end of Psalm 139 and God gave me what I asked for.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting! 

(Psalm 139:23-24)

The search revealed hidden treasure in my heart and others. It happened with my wife as we read The Relational Soul and together answered challenging heart questions. I learned beautiful and tender new things about a women I’ve lived with for over 28 years! It happened with old friends who wondered how in the world Rob Gibson (hear that with astonishment) became a pastor, and I shared my story. It happened with family who wondered if I was loosing it and we talked about the struggle. The opportunities are abundant, but scary, because it involves heart exposure.

I want to be vulnerable with you and share my story, but it is hard. It’s a risk to expose my heart and let let you peer into my life and feelings that are real, sometimes raw, and deep. I’m trying to do this without posturing, posing or defending (more on my false selves another time).

I have one older brother and three older sisters. My brother is thirteen years older. When I was 5, he left for college and then the military, a natural progression for him. But that departure hit me hard, because I lost the presence of my big brother and I loved him deeply and likely idolized him at that age. When he left I felt very sad, abandoned, alone, and I didn’t have the capacity to put words or understanding around the loss. That began a journey to shut out sadness, the risk of relational pain and lonliness. More of each was coming, life brings it, but also all four siblings would leave home before I was ten. I entered life in a big family and by eleven I am essentially an only child. That was sudden sad aloneness in a family system that expected happiness (more on that in another post).

I became guarded, emotionally distant, subconsciously suppressing sadness and anger over the aloneness. As adulthood came I was physically distant from my brother and became emotionally distant from everyone, subconsciously protecting my heart. As grown men my brother and I were generally kind and enjoyed some superficial laughs together, though we had occasional fireworks as suppressed hurt would come flying out sideways. We were generally superficial, never really sharing the depths of life – at least I wasn’t. But this journey, which gave us a bit of time together, provided an opportunity to be vulnerably real.

One evening he asked me, “what is the purpose of your sabbatical?” Well, I said, “a part of this is rest from ministry and heart work” trying to give a pastorally abstract answer and move along to the chips and guacamole. “What will rest look like,” he says, “Gibson men don’t do that well? He continued, “And why are you going back to Wellsville and Canister (I shared I was taking a trip to our and my dad’s childhood homes in New York) – what is there for you?”

We were sitting at the bar in the kitchen in Colorado when the risk presented itself. I chose not hide the truth of the ache that was stirring in me. I skipped the logic of a sabbatical, which might have satisfied his sharp intellect and kept him distant. I risked exposing my burnout, my relational pain, the sense of loss, the deep sadness I felt in my soul. I told my brother that a lot of pain and sadness was behind me in Wellsville, a lot of loss and that a piece of it was connected to him.

“To me, how so” he asked. I told him how sad I was as a little boy and how hard it was to loose my big brother. My tears began flowing. I said “you meant a lot to me.” Grown men now in our 50’s and 60’s, tears filling our eyes, and he said, “I meant a lot to you? I had no idea I meant a lot to you.” I thought are you freaking kidding me?  I said, “You’ were my cool big brother, you were supposed to show me the way as a  boy – and then poof – you were gone and that left a huge hole in me.” We wept together. Our daughters eased away and looked on wondering what’s happening with our dads right now?!

Vulnerability sparked a deeper connection to love. It was a connection the little boy in me subconsciously longed for, but I couldn’t imagine. A couple steps on the path of vulnerability ignited a depth of love, care and connection that had been plowed over and buried for years. As I write this I’m crying again, because it was such a gift .

We have both been reasonably successful and have comfortable lives, enough toys and distractions to amuse ourselves regularly. We could have gone on existing in the status quo of superficial engagment. But I risked, actually we risked, and we experienced something tremendously more valuable than all the toys and success the world offers. I think deeper love awaits us in almost every human relationship, if we’ll press into it.

I know it doesn’t always work. Sometimes vulnerability will leave us hanging, exposed and unknown, uncared for and feeling unsafe. That possibility tempts me to hide at times, even though God is there for me. But sometimes I don’t hide because I want to experience more wholehearted love, God’s love, and I’m convinced it comes through sharing my story, my heart, my pain and my joy with other human beings. Maybe you long for wholeness, love and connection too?

Vulnerability is a pathway to life and love in the likeness of Christ – I’m growing at it.