‘Save me from the need to vindicate myself.’ St. Augustine
The Infant King provokes both the surrender of our defenses and the strengthening of them. Look at the response to His birth. Three kings cast their crowns down and worshipped Jesus; threatened by the fate of his crown, King Herod sought to extinguish Him.
The same applies to us. Does Almighty Meekness prompt grateful tears, or fears? The season of Epiphany prompts reflection as we linger at the manger in preparation for a new year.
I am mindful of God’s willingness to become utterly vulnerable, as are those of us who stand for the healing of persons with SSA. On every side, we are derided: politically by the flourishing of ‘gay marriage,’ clinically by the new trend to bash therapeutic efforts of persons seeking to align their sexuality with their faith, and spiritually by churchmen who, caught in the crossfire, abandon those seeking transformation.
You could say we have never been more vulnerable. Protective walls have thinned or fallen. But actually, we are surrounded; together we bow before the luminous Babe, all the more grateful for the mercy that exposed the depth of our sin and surpassed it many times over. We join with the angels and saints—the entire host of Heaven–in worshipping our King. Rich and poor bow low together, exchanging defenses for a new Kingdom based on devotion to the One. Naked, we are clothed in glorious light.
I spent this Epiphany with an amazing band of saints, the Board of Restored Hope Network. We represent various ministries which serve the sexually broken. All of us have been leveled by the enslaving liberties of our day; most of us have emerged out of the domination of same-sex attraction.
How wonderful to gather before the Babe together, casting down our defenses and fears and submitting to each other. Our goal was to plan for the year ahead. But we started each meeting by submitting our weaknesses one to another then waiting on the Spirit for healing and encouragement. Mike Bickle said it best: Gathering on the basis of human strength sparks competition. Community results from gathering in weakness.
How easy to pour into our two Board members from liberal west coast areas: Ron Smith in Marin County who represents Frank Worthen and the original ministry of this sort, Love-in-Action. A single man, Ron stands for healing with strength and grace and is sorting out whether or not God is calling him to celibacy. Jason Thompson from Portland Oregon does not have that gift. He is an exemplary leader and enviable teacher but boasts only in his wife and two boys. These fruitful men have created oases in a cultural desert.
Stephen Black is utterly prophetic, with all its strengths and liabilities. He alerted me to the need for Restored Hope Network before anyone else. It cost him dearly. In his soul’s dark night, he clings to Jesus and we remind him that humanly-speaking, he is not alone. Nor is Dr. Robert Gagnon, who never struggled homosexually but suffers long for truth and grace on behalf of persons with SSA. The top theologian on what Scripture says about homosexuality, he perseveres like no-one else amid multiple adversaries. I am awed that God counts him among us and uses us to strengthen him for the battle.
Denise Shick countered the impact of her transgender father through abiding faith in Jesus. Today she spends her spare time offering hope for families ripped apart by members changing genders. Gentle and resolute, she drinks in rain from heaven and pours it out generously. She is matched by our Executive Director, Anne Paulk. Coming from an SSA background, Anne lost a marriage to her husband’s homosexuality but gained a ministry. In a peculiar and inspired way, her loss galvanized a call to lead RHN. She does it with such grace and dignity, so little regard for self and such high regard for the least among us, that she reminds me of Jesus. God took her securities and gave her Himself.
RHN will endure because the God of almighty meekness sustains it. That frees us to lay down our arms and trust that the mercy which has freed us will flow from us to many. Pray for us to be true to Him, defenseless yet bowed down, surrounded by the great cloud that never ceases to adore Him.
‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.’ (IS 9: 2)