(Part 4 of 10 from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?”) By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri
Getting to know each other by talking things through is often used in Christian circles to form spiritual community. We get to know each other by discussing as many details as possible about who we are in the natural world. This works to some extent but, in most cases, the shortcomings outweigh the benefits.
It is not uncommon for people to share what is commonly called their “triggers” after sermons and interactions. People often find others they trust and share what upset them about events, services, and interpersonal exchanges — including their fears about how they might have been perceived. Doing so collects old injuries and wounds — saving them for later conversations. Imagined and potential hurts add to the list. Later, these upsetting thoughts are talked through by friends. This sharing establishes the wounds we carry in the flesh as the path to closer relationships in a spiritual community.
However, in many situations, sharing our painful stories obscures who we are to the fellowship cloud of witnesses around us. This cloud of spiritual witnesses sees us clearly and understands our true identities. True identity is not found in who we have been until now or in what things have hurt us. “Would you be the same if I saw you in heaven?” asks the theologian Clapton. Talking through the past damage done to our identities is not the path to life in the Spirit.
In Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV we are given specific instructions to throw off — cast aside —anything that hinders and entangles us. It warns against gathering our painful memories to share. As noted in The Passion Translation, “…Get rid of every arrow tip in us. . . The implication is carrying an arrow tip inside, a wound that weighs us down and keeps us from running the race with freedom.”
Instead of casting them aside, we pile up our collection of wounds. Yet, the passage reads so clearly: “As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So, we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin that so easily trips us up. Then we can run life’s marathon with passion and determination, for the path is marked out before us. We look away from the natural realm and focus our attention and expectation on Jesus who birthed faith within us and leads us forward into faith’s perfection” (TPT).
The picture here is that Jesus “endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation.” The cloud of witnesses has also lived through life’s pain and has a new perspective. They did so by looking away from the natural realm and casting away every wound that pierced them. Those old, embedded arrowheads leave festering wounds along with sin that easily entangles us, weighs us down, and drains our capacity for life and joy. Looking away is not denial of the pain or injury, as we will examine later.
How, then, can we build spiritual community — and the capacity to stay connected to God and others — by collecting and sharing every wound that irritates our daily lives? Painful relationships form around the wrong identities for everyone when we try talking it through without peace instead of using our spiritual eyes to see God and the great cloud of witnesses.
Nowhere is that mistaken approach more painfully obvious than when we need to feel special. Being seen as special is what biblical language means by receiving “grace.” We can seek to be special through the eyes of earth or the eyes of heaven. Depending on what we seek, we will look quite different.
A growing trend in Christian youth is to fully identify with their wounds and see their pain as their true selves. When that happens, their bleeding identity feels invalidated by the possibility of peace. With the eyes of earth, they grip their image even tighter. Wounded, they are searching for compassion in an enemy mode world. Tragically, the communities they form are as fragile as their wounded identities. Sharing distress is the best they know without the eyes of heaven.
In our next blog, we will look at the “Shortcomings of Enveloping our Identities in Sticky Sin to Build Spiritual Community” — the fifth of our series of excerpt from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?” By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri