sin

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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”?

Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

Published September 21, 2012 by joypatton

It’s the first ever Free Advice Friday on my blog!  Every Friday I’m turning this blog into an advice column.  Ask me anything from dating (didn’t date much, but have lots of interesting opinions), marriage (been married 15 years), parenting (have 4 kids), friendships (have had some good and some bad) or spiritual life (I have one).  I’m not sure that I will have great answers, but I know Someone who does.  My hope is that together we can carry our burdens into His presence and lay them at his feet.

Last week a friend texted me this question and I thought it was a good start for Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

My favorite worship album right now is Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark.”  I bought it because I heard the first song “Remind Me Who I Am” on KLove Radio in Nashville.  “In the lonely places when I can’t remember what grace is, remind me who I am to you.”  This is my new theme song.  When I get stuck in my Ice Queen and Orphan thinking, I need him to remind me that I am His Princess, his beloved.  “I’m the one You love.”

Another one of my favorites is “I Will Find a Way.”  In the beginning it talks about a woman is who so broken and afraid that she has shut the door of her heart.  “How should I come to the one that I love?  I will find a way.”  He loved her so much that he found a way to reach her and come into her heart.  I’m reminded how much the Father has loved us to send His only Son.  My other favorites on the album are “No Thief Like Fear,” “Nothing is Wasted,” and “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard.”  You can see why this is a great album for all my Orphan girls out there.

Another song that must be on this list is “One Thing” by Kristian Stanfill. “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  When we sing it in church, it sounds almost like a chant.  When I’ve messed up, I need to believe that his love is there, no matter what.

The problem is that when I mess up, it’s really hard to believe that God still loves me.  This exposes the lie that I believe that God loves me because of what I do.  Because I obey him or because I serve him or because I read my Bible and go to church.  None of those are the reasons that he loves me.  He loved me before I knew how to do any of those things.  He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  So now that I’m “righteous,” has his love grown or changed?  By no means!  God’s love has no levels, no more and no less.  It has always been and will always be 100% plus infinity.

If Satan can get me to believe that God doesn’t love me, he can keep me from the cross, the ultimate sign of love.  When I doubt God’s unconditional love for me, then I am slow to repent because I don’t believe he even wants me back.  Eventually I stop repenting all together.  I stop going back to ask forgiveness again.  I stop bringing the things I did in the dark into the light.  And then I’m right where the enemy wants me, isolated, alone, in despair because I have no remedy for my sin.  This is the place where he is able to steal, kill and destroy this little lamb of God (John 10:10).

But when I am reminded of his great love, that his love for me remains, then I am free to run back to the cross and repent.  When I confess and agree with God that I messed it up again, he is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  I can agree with Satan that I am all those horrible things he has called me, “weak, pathetic, unworthy of love and disgusting.”  BUT GOD loves me!  I don’t know why, and I know I don’t deserve it.  This is the great mystery. But I do know that he loves me.  Because I know his love, I can trust that my sin is forgiven.

When I mess up and repent, I invite God in to be the solution.  I can ask him to show me the patterns that keep putting me in tempting situations.  I can ask him to show me the root beliefs that drive my sinful behaviors.  I can invite him in and ask him to heal those wounded places that I keep trying to heal myself.  I can live in the light and be in relationship with others because I know that I am deeply loved.  There is power in repentance because I admit that I am powerless over my own sin, that I cannot save myself, that I need Someone bigger than myself outside of myself to rescue me.

So my beloved, dear Princess, beautiful child of God…know that you are deeply loved today.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

What songs have helped you when you have messed up?

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, email me at joy@joypatton.com.  If I answer your question in my blog next week, I will send you a copy of my book The Myth of Enuff.

It was meant to be

Published February 6, 2012 by joypatton

“I just think this is how it was meant to be,” said the young woman as we finished our conversation. She had been telling me about her plans to move into a condo with her non-Christian boyfriend. Her words sounded a lot like another woman who had told me that everything in her life had gone as it was meant to be, including her ongoing extra-marital affair.

The thing is that we don’t get to say “it was meant to be” as we are walking bold-faced, eyes wide open into sin. As if God has left us no other option, but to sin. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  He has provided a way of escape, but it’s not easy or comfortable.  It might cost you more financially to not live with your boyfriend, but do you trust God to take care of you when you honor him?  It might mean that you are unhappy in a difficult marriage, but will you trust God’s provision for you?  Have you tried everything, including going to counseling…alone?  Yes, it will cost money; yes it will hurt emotionally, but God says, “I will honor those who honor me, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”  (I Samuel 2:30)  Doesn’t that make discomfort worth it?

I recently attended a seminar on the Trinity given by Dr. Bruce Ware.   One of the passages that stuck out to me was Matthew 4:1, which said that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.”  In light of my recent conversations, my mind was swirling with questions, “Does that mean that God leads us into sin? Is that how it was meant to be?”  I stopped one of our pastors and asked him the question.  I liked his answer, and it clarified a lot for me.  He said that God doesn’t lead us into sin, but he does lead us into the wilderness and times of testing.  Remember that the Lord taught us to pray “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:13)

I think it’s interesting that in Matthew 3 when Jesus is baptized, he set an example for us to follow and did the will of the Father.  The heavens opened up and God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17)  Then in Chapter 4, the beloved Son was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days.   Jesus came out of the wilderness and began his public ministry in the last part of Chapter 4.

Even in the wilderness, Jesus was given a way to escape.  The Holy Spirit was with him, sustaining him and giving the words to say.  Words from Scripture were his simple defense against the lies of Satan.  This same Holy Spirit is available to all who believe when we too are tempted.  His desire is not that we sin when we are tempted, but that we trust him to deliver us and give us a way of escape.

If you find yourself in a wilderness, it was probably meant to be.  If in the wilderness, you are tempted to sin, it was probably meant to be, for nothing comes against you without the Father’s knowledge.  However if in the wilderness when you are tempted you choose sin, please do not say “It was meant to be.”  Do not use the divine hand of our Holy God to find an excuse for your sin.  Rather use the divine provision of the Holy Spirit to find a way of escape.  It will probably not be easy; it may hurt; it will probably be uncomfortable; it may cost you money, but it is there.  Turn to him to find the way through the wilderness.  When you choose to honor God, he will honor you.

The following is a portion of one of my “pet Psalms.”  It reminds me of God’s sovereignty and that all I have to do is cry out to him in my trouble and he will save me.  Psalm 107:10-22 – “Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.  So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.  They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.  Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

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