Abba’s Child

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The Truth about my Dark Side

Published January 15, 2013 by joypatton

The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod.  In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.  If I show it to you now, will it make you run away?  Will you stay even if it hurts?  Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”

She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.”  We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark.  Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light.  Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are.  The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection.  And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23).  Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.

The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me?  Will you love me even with my dark side?”  I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away.  My dark side was too much.  I was too scary.  In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt.  My dark side could come out and do some serious damage.  It has and it probably will again.  I want to know that I am worth the risk.

This is where pop culture and theology collide.  As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child.  “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are.  It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me.  The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure.  At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”

What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side.  If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept.  We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away.  But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself.  Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal.  There is no healing in the dark, only death.  In order to heal, it must be brought into the light.  In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light.  In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light.  This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want.  This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together.  He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.

Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side.  Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God.  Darkness cannot dwell with the light.  What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for.  Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever.  Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death.  Because he lives, I can live in the light.  Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.

Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away.  He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either.  I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be.  I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him.  When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess.  He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39).  He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms.  He promises to stay with me.  The only question is will I stay with him?  Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?

“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away.  Promise you’ll stay.”

What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?

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Free Advice Friday: What’s the Biblical definition of self-love?

Published December 7, 2012 by joypatton

This question came via text this week.  Often the basis of this question is the teaching on the passage that we must love others as we love ourselves.  I have heard it taught that you can’t love other people until you love yourself.  I think that we have to able to receive love before we can give love.  But when I ask myself what Biblical self-love looks like, I have a hard time finding examples, especially when I look to the life of Jesus.

I don’t think there is such a thing as Biblical self-love.  The Bible doesn’t directly talk about loving ourselves as something we ought to do.  I’ve been studying John and particularly how Jesus related to the Father as a model for how a Princess relates to the King.  We never see Jesus trying to love himself more.  Rather we know that he loved the Father and that the Father loved him.  His one desire was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34).  He sought the glory of the Father, more than glory for himself (John 5:41).  We also know that he entrusted himself completely to the will of the Father (I Peter 2:23).

Jesus didn’t model self-love, but he did model self-care.  He withdrew and took time for himself, but I believe it was because the Father told him to.  Everything he did was submitted to the Father.  The people he healed and the teachings he taught came directly from the Father, not from himself.  (John 7:18)  He didn’t heal every person, cast out every demon or raise every person from the dead.  How did he know where to go?  How did he know when it was time to minister to others and when it was time to withdraw?  The Father told him.  Jesus modeled a beautiful submission to the Father and what it looks like to abide in Him.  When he died on the cross, it was not self-love or self-glorification (Ice Queen) nor was it self-loathing or self-hatred (Orphan).  Rather Jesus obeyed the Father to the point of death on the cross because he loved the Father and trusted him completely.

Likewise for us, the Princess loves the King and desires to please him.  The Princess loves what the King loves, and the King loves her.  But it’s not that the Princess tries to love herself, to protect herself or take care of herself.  Rather she trusts that the Father loves her, that he protects her, that he takes care of her.  In a practical sense, I trust the Father to give me time to refresh.  I trust the Father to give me strength when the list for the day is overwhelming.  I trust the Father to help me know what boundaries to set with others.  I do this because I know that my time, my heart, my emotions are worthy of protection because the Father has made me worthy of love.  I can trust the Father even in the midst of suffering when my world is falling apart because I know that discipline leads to righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

Maybe the struggle is not in loving yourself, but believing that you are already loved.  John says, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  He is the one who shows us what it feels like to be loved and how to love other people.  We must “come to know and to believe the love that God has for us” (I John 4:16).  Brennan Manning in Abba’s Child challenges us to “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth.  Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

So my dear Princesses, the love you have for yourself does not come from yourself or your own desires.  Rather you can love, accept, value and cherish yourself because the King Father first accepted, loved, valued and cherished you.

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, you can email me at joy@joypatton.com.

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