Ten Takeaways from 'Pray Away'
Winnowing wheat from chaff in service of persons pursuing wholeness
Clarify terms and set realistic expectations. Jesus grants us positional authority ('new creature in Christ', 2 Cor. 5:17), but that does not mean freedom from moral conflicts. We've just begun to fight! We can say with authority that we are healed (by His wounds, Is. 53:5) and that we are being healed (as we pick up our crosses daily and obey Him, Lk. 9:23). Moral maturity is a lifetime plan, and we can expect occasional reminders that 'I am more vulnerable today to sexual sin than I was yesterday.' The way of wholeness is rough and seems random. We equip people to take ground by granting them freedom to admit weakness and so stave off costly detours into wickedness.
Model divine strength at work in your weakness. We live out loud and admit the bumps on which we can still stumble. We demonstrate how to fall forward into generous Jesus who grants us His blood in exchange for our sin, unlike the violent idol gods who want our blood. We live this truth for all to see--friends, family, and foes; we've no fake standard to hide behind. If we pose a danger to those we serve, so be it--raise up someone else, Jesus. This is Your ministry, not ours...
Model integration. This apt description of Jesus' good will and purpose for our humanity comes from the Latin word 'integer', meaning entire or complete. Integration is the composition of various parts of oneself into a whole; it denotes both a process and a goal. As pilgrims this side of heaven, we are still integrating unaffirmed parts of ourselves while bringing exaggerated aspects down to size. Jesus guides our integration. He invites us daily to become more whole and clear reflections of His image.
Model interpersonal integration. Sexual wholeness requires more than hanging out with people who share our disintegration. Rather than name us 'gay' or 'ex-gay' or 'ex-ex-gay', Jesus invites us to take our places among a range of sinners and take steps together toward wholeness. Why limit ourselves to a disordered subculture? However fun, Exodus' 'ex-gay' fellowship may have stalled growth; that's why Living Waters embraces persons from various wounds and encourages each to round out the whole by offering our unique strengths, weaknesses, faith levels, and fears.
Don't reduce others to your story. Though all need Jesus' redemption, we are distinct in the way we image God and in the way that image is broken. However important it is to learn about sources of brokenness (abuse, family dynamics, variance in temperament and perception), we can never know entirely what that configuration looks like in another person. Each of us is a nuanced 'take' on the beauty and brokenness of God's image. We misguide others when we impose a 'one size fits all' approach to the causes and cures of their frustrated 'becoming.'
Vet upcoming leaders. We do well to champion lay leaders and tap into the many gifts God gives through them. At the same time, we take seriously the depths of a person's divides and the delusions that tempt them to assume ill-fitting roles and responsibilities. Our job as leaders of lay leaders is to encourage persons within the limits of their integration. We must evaluate with gentle wisdom the overreach that can occur when hollow, narcissistic souls grasp after power that they cannot steward well. 'Pray Away' featured Exodus leaders who collapsed and brought down Exodus with them. We who discerned and failed to act hurt them and Exodus.
Be wary of political alignments. Exodus did best when it refused political partnerships. As soon as our witness became an arm of the flavor-du-jour in DC, we lost. Politics are complicated, fickle, and by the very nature of democracy as impure as 'we the people.' Presidential administrations were and are fault-lines that divide Kingdom efforts. Though we must discern and defend 'culture of life' policies, we should never align our Kingdom efforts with the princes of DC.
Deepen your grasp of the human person. The best defense against normalizing sexual brokenness is a solid understanding of the Christian vision of human dignity. Tapping into sound resources on theological and philosophical anthropology can undergird and lend richness to our understanding of Scripture. Two of St. John Paul II's masterworks--'Love and Responsibility' (written while he was still Karol Wojtyla) and 'A Theology of the Body'--should be required reading for all. Deepening our grasp of what it means to bear God's image and its implications for our sexual humanity can change how we see people; let us become more aware of others' original beauty--however veiled--than their brokenness.
Believe for more. As we exercise our brains, we cry out with everything in us to the God who rose from the dead and who ardently seeks to raise sinners from the dead. Collaborating with Him, we grow in power to summon their full stature and dignity as His sons and daughters. Our faith releases this upward rising. When Jesus returns, will He find faith on the earth? (Lk. 18:8) Let us ensure a resounding 'YES.' We must stoke faith for Jesus' full healing power to unblock stubborn, profound areas of disintegration! Every whiny ex-ex-gay in 'Pray Away' exemplified unbelief, which leeched air and light from every frame. Only McCall and Freedom March brought His radiant Presence. Why? They believe.
Embrace the whole healing community. Our efforts are small but mighty in His hands. He amplifies good words and multiplies meaningful service. Our limits free us to rejoice in taking part in the greater whole, God's Kingdom-come through His Church. The mighty army Jesus is assembling throughout the globe can free us from delusions of grandeur and self-importance; right perspective frees us for reliance upon others who do some things much better than us. That includes skilled therapists, seasoned mentors and spiritual directors, a host of related support groups, and most importantly, all the sacramental streams that Jesus immerses us in as we take our places in the Church. We cannot do this alone! We need to be surrounded by the saints who protect and provoke us and ward off the hell that would otherwise prevail (Matt. 16:17-19). Living Waters is excellent only to the degree that it is housed in a church and its participants reliant upon the greater healing community. Our success hinges upon integration: the meekness that knows what we are and what we are not.