What Does a Healthy Church Look Like?

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Some time ago, I received a question via private Facebook message that made me stop and ponder.  The person said something like, “I think I might be in an unhealthy church environment right now.  But before I leave, how am I supposed to know what a ‘healthy’ church looks like?”  I answered her question the best I could at the time.  However, I still found myself pondering that important question.  I even threw it out at our local pastor’s prayer group.  I dare say that their response was very similar to my own.  As I was, they were caught a bit off guard by such a simple but direct question.

I think the hesitance of a seasoned pastor to quickly answer this question is caused by the need to reflect on past experiences and current situations.  As we reflect and evaluate, we find ourselves asking more questions like: What is the Biblical definition of a healthy church?  What does “healthy” look like? And probably the most important question for each of us, “Is my church healthy?”

I will be the very first to say that I certainly do not have all the answers.  However, I am willing to ask the hard questions and I am willing to wrestle with answering them.  I think there is definite value in the wrestling and reflecting.  So… in my wrestling and reflecting this is what I have come up with so far.  I have tried to keep my thoughts as simple and concise as possible.

Here are my reflections on what a healthy church looks like:

  • A healthy church is centered around authentic relationships that have real depth. These relationships extend beyond Sunday mornings.  Authentic relationships require time, trust, love, communication and grace.
  • A healthy church practices discipleship and realizes that discipleship is much more than a sermon, class, or a program. Authentic discipleship requires authentic relationships.  I like to say, real discipleship happens when “life rubs up against life.”  This is how Jesus did discipleship.
  • A healthy church experiences organic evangelism.  Organic evangelism happens because the Christians who make up the church are maturing and are naturally reaching out to those around them.  This is not because of a top notch evangelism campaign or a flashy church sign, it is simply natural.  Keep in mind, this growth does not need to be explosive -and it is probably better if it is not.  Some of the best church growth is… s-l-o-w.  That large oak tree in your back yard did not get there over night, -but the weeds around it may have.  Think about that.
  • A healthy church has a plurality of New Testament leadership.  Call them elders, deacons, or just “the leadership team.”  The label that is used does not matter.  What matters is: there is more than one or two of them, they are clearly biblically qualified, are gifted to be elders, take the role very seriously, are in authentic relationship with each other and are accountable to each other.  BTW, you cannot be accountable to someone you are not in authentic transparent relationship with.
  • A healthy church is diverse.  Diverse in its people. Diverse in age.  Diverse in opinions.  Diverse in experience. Diverse in it’s creativity.  And diverse in the expressions of the people who form the church.  God made us all different; if he wanted us all to be the same, he would have made us robots.  I believe a healthy church celebrates the diversity of its people rather than forcing everyone to be the same.
  • A healthy church is governed by Grace AND Truth.  If all we focus on is the grace of God, then “anything goes” and our sin nature reigns. If all we focus on is the law and rules, we become legalistic pharisees who are constantly casting stones at each other. I have seen both extremes and neither one is healthy or God honoring.  However, if we allow the Holy Spirit to govern us by grace AND truth a beautiful thing happens.  -We begin to be transformed into who God created us to be. The theological termed used to describe this process is called “sanctification.”  Sanctification naturally happens in healthy churches as well as healthy people.
  • And obviously, a healthy church is a group of people who are in relationship with God.  Meaning than that prayer, the Word and worship are practical parts of their everyday lives and continuously steer them along the journey of following Jesus.

 

Why Should I Forgive?

Forgiveness is much more about YOU -than whoever hurt you.

The act of forgiveness releases us from the wounding agent. I have witnessed countless people refuse to forgive. In turn, I have watched those same people repeatedly tear their own wounds open, time and again.  Forgiveness releases us from the wounding agent and allows the healing process to begin and continue. It is the well medicated bandage that is placed on a wound that has been properly cleaned and dressed.

Forgiveness is also the antidote for the infection of bitterness. I have witnessed bitterness eat people up like a vicious emotional and spiritual infection, causing even more damage than the initial wound. We have all heard stories where a person would get a small cut on a finger or toe and not treat it properly. Then infection set in. As a result, death and decay set in. The tissue around the “small” wound begins to rot away. If the infection is never properly addressed and treated, limb or life can be lost. Forgiveness is the much needed antiseptic treatment for deeply infected emotional wounds. While unthinkable to some victims, forgiveness is the ONLY way the pain will ever begin to subside.

In addition, forgiveness protects relationships. Some of the most miserable people I have met are bitter people who refuse to forgive. They become hard, calloused and simply difficult to be around. While they remain steadfast in the reasoning that justifies their bitterness, the fruit that it bears makes it very difficult for them to actively participate in healthy relationships. No one wants to be around them. Bitterness hinders and corrupts healthy relationships.

Forgiveness is NOT simply giving the offender a “pass” on their misbehavior and looking the other way. Forgiveness is God’s blueprint for enabling us to heal and begin the path towards emotional, spiritual and even physical health and happiness.  This is exactly why Jesus responded “seventy times seven,” when he was asked how often we should be willing to forgive each other.

Healthy living is impossible without forgiveness.

How Do I Recover From Spiritual Abuse???

Spiritual abuse is happening in churches all around us and it needs to be exposed.  After all, part of the reason it happens is because people do not recognize it or openly talk about it.  –However, for their own good, spiritual abuse victims must “move on.”  Victims must get on with theirs lives.  If they don’t, they have allowed their abusers to take everything from them.  If you are a victim reading this, please do not get upset with me.  I am trying to help you get “your life” back.

When I read about spiritual abuse or correspond with “victims,” I have found that a lot of people seem to be “stuck.”  This really bothers me.  I have decided to write this post in order to share what I have done in the past and what I am doing now to get my own life back. 

First off, please do not think I am telling you to forget your bad experience and move on.  We all wish it were that easy.  I liken spiritual abuse to a very, very bad stomach flu in which the effects last a very, very long time.  It takes you by surprise.  It makes you really sick, very weak and let’s just be honest and say that you are not that fun to be around.  When you first begin to realize that you are sick you ask yourself, “How did this happen to me anyway? How did ‘I’ get infected?”  As the realization of your condition sets in,  your body’s begins to fight the virus.  The best way it knows how to get the foreign pathogen out of your system is to “eject” it by using your body’s natural systems; there are two ways your body does this and neither one is fun.  However, your body must perform these operations in order to rid you of the destructive microorganisms that are causing you to be sick.  Eventually, after much “ejecting” (the length of time depends on how sick you are) you begin to feel “a little” better.  BUT, the recovery process is not over.

You must now begin to put nutrients back into your body.  Have you ever wondered why beverages like Sprite and Gatorade make you feel so much better when you are recovering from a stomach flu?  It is because they are supplying your body with simple sugars that are easily digested and transformed into energy, thus you “feel better.”  As you continue to place nutrients back into your system, you feel better and better.  BUT, the process is still not over.  You must now rid your home of all the items that might have been “infected” with the virus.  You go on a cleaning spree and wash all clothing that could have been exposed to that pesky contagion. At last, you get all the trash out of the house that was associated with your “bad experience.”  THEN… you move on.  You get on with your life.  Who wants to stay sick anyway?  Who wants to keep an intimate relationship with a nasty commode? Who wants to wallow in sell pity and puke?  NO ONE WHO IS HEALTHY, that is for sure!  -So you go back to work, you go back to school, you hang out with friends, you love on your spouse & children and you continue pursuing your passions; you enjoy this amazing gift called life that God created for us!

While crude, the analogy of recovering from the stomach flu is much like recovering from spiritual abuse.  I will list the steps to my recovery below using  the steps of recovery from a bad case of the stomach flu:

#1 You have to admit you are sick.  You must come to the point where you say, “I was abused.” -This step took me years; it was a very complicated process for me.   I had no idea what spiritual abuse was.  My actions were skewed during those years.  After all, I was sick; I needed to stop and admit it so I could begin recovery and get better.  *I remember finally stopping myself and thinking, “Something is wrong with me and I need to address it.”

#2 Allow yourself to throw up.  I HATE throwing up when I am sick.  There have been countless times when I have laid still in the bed, and stayed sick as a dog, because I did not want to throw up.  -But after I allow myself to throw up, I always feel better.  Begin to acknowledge and opening talk about your abuse with those close to you; you need to throw up.  Believe it or not, it is a natural healthy reaction to sickness.  If you have limited access to others to talk, try writing about it.  Writing about my experience was very helpful for me.

#3 Find a friend or counselor to “hold the bucket” while you vomit.  It is very important that you do this.  *DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH THIS ALONE! You need a support network.  Ask God to show you how to find your support.  I know this is tough for spiritual abuse victims.  If you are unable to locate anyone local to you, at least visit some of the online sources and make connections.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who share your experience; find some who are further along in recovery than you are.  For me, my wife was my primary bucket holder; we held each other’s buckets.  In addition, I sought counseling from a professional christian counselor and a few older pastor friends.  God used each one of those people to advance me through my recovery process.  I do not think I could have made it alone.

#4 Allow yourself to get angry and “grieve” your situation.  It’s OK to get really pissed off!!! You were hurt; you were abused.  Allow yourself to remember and “process” what happened to you.  Stop making excuses for your abuser.  You may find yourself bitter.  Remind yourself that bitterness is a sin and ask God to help you work through it. YOU WILL NOT WORK THROUGH THE BITTERNESS OVERNIGHT; it is “a process.” Do not put pressure on yourself.  The Holy Spirit will let you know when it is time to be done with your bitterness once and for all.  Keep asking Him for guidance and help and He will lead you.

#5 Get extremely honest and blunt with God.  If you are hurting, tell Him.  If you are angry, tell Him.  If you are bitter, tell Him.  If you have questions, ask Him.  God is the God of the Universe; He is completely capable of handling anything we can say or ask.  He loves us and wants us to recover; he also knows we are hurting.  Rest in the grace and goodness of God and ask Him to help you, but be honest with Him and tell Him how you are feeling.   I believe my blunt honesty with God was a key aspect of my recovery process.  I was mad, and hurt, and confused, and angry -and I let Him know it.  My being honest with Him did not take Him by surprise, but boy it sure helped me.

#6 Allow yourself to take a break and get some rest; do not try to be superman. Just chill out with your family and other people who love you.  If you are a leader, DON’T BE.  Take a break and get some rest.  Give yourself time to recuperate.  Discuss with your counselor or close friends what your recover process might look like.  I was pastoring a church plant during this season and stepped down.  I can not stress how important it was for me to take a step back from ministry. When you get really sick,  your body needs time and rest to recover.  Recovering from spiritual abuse is no different.

#7 Allow yourself to throw up some more; make sure all the “crap” is out of your system.  You may need that friend or counselor to “hold the bucket” again.  As you detox from the spiritually abusive atmosphere, you will begin to remember more and more.  You will also begin to “connect the dots” as you think back on certain experiences.  The more you detox, the more you understand what happened to you.  As you undergo this process, you WILL need to throw up again.  It is OK, let your recovery run it’s course.  GET THE “CRAP” OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM; do not wallow in it. –You do not want to keep and intimate relationship with the toilet forever!

#8 Get some “nutrients” back into your system.  Take it slow, but be deliberate in getting those nutrients -so you can get your strength back.  Begin to re-enter “safe” spiritual atmospheres.  Ask God, your friends and counselors to help you find them.  Begin reading your Bible again; not to find scripture in order to prove your abuser was wrong, but for your recovery.  I personally recommend the Gospel of John and the book of James.  I also recommend a very readable translation like the NIV or NLT.  Remember, you are not doing any intense Bible study. You are simply reading God’s Word and allowing “Him” to speak to you. His Word will bring healing to you.

#9 Rid your house of anything that could still “carry” the virus.  Divorce yourself from all spiritually abusive atmospheres. ***DO NOT RETURN TO THE ABUSIVE CHURCH!!!***  There will be times where you will want to; resist that inclination.  Stop listening to anyone affiliated with the abusive ministry.  Limit contact with those who are “still drinking the Kool-aide.”  You are not strong enough to rescue anyone right now; you need to be protecting yourself from re-infection.  *Many people recovering from an abusive church actually return to the same abusive church or find another one.  When they do, their likelihood of getting out becomes even lower. I have seen this with my own eyes.  BE CAREFUL!!!

#10 Consider forgiveness. Yes, it is that time.  You will never be able to totally recover or “move on” without forgiving those who hurt you.  I know, I know, this is a tough one…  –BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL.  No one can make you forgive, not even God Himself.  Your recovery must progress to the place where “you” want to forgive.  This is a big step, but it is also a very liberating step.  Continue to seek God and let it come naturally as He works in your heart.  *There is so much more I could say here.  If you would like further teaching and explanation in this area, please visit this link:  Forgiveness Teaching

#11 Eat some solid food and continue to build your strength back.  Well… you have finished puking, been drinking clear liquids for a day or so and you finally got the house cleaned up.  You are “feeling better” and beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Continue to build your strength back.  Examine your relationship with God.  Make sure your life revolves around “Him” and not the “institution” of a local church.  Never let anything be a substitute for your relationship with God.  Study the Bible for your self.  Have your own prayer life. Know what “you” believe, not just what some pastor or church tells you to believe.  Work towards becoming a “mature” christian.  -Then look for a healthy church, if you have not found one yet.  You need to be around healthy people.  You need to be in a healthy atmosphere. You need to be planted in a medium where you can grow and get strong.  Ask God to show you how to do this, and he will!

#12 Refuse to take on the “victim” mindset.  Refuse to surrender your life!  You “were” a victim; do not “remain” a victim!!!  There will be a temptation to “be a victim.”  RESIST!!!!!!!!!  God has sustained you.  He is healing you. He is bringing you to a place of recovery.  DON”T YOU DARE GIVE IN TO THE VICTIM MINDSET!  God has a purpose for you -and it is not to be a victim. Acknowledge your past, but also acknowledge that with God’s help and the help of others you are overcoming your past.  You do not have to be a victim of spiritual abuse for the rest of your life, but “you” have to make the choice not to be.

#13 Engage in life. What are ” your” passions? What are “your” God-given dreams?  What do “you” want to do with this precious gift called “life” that God has given to you? Wrestle with those questions and figure them out.  If you were in the abusive atmosphere for long, you might have never asked these questions before.  Don’t rush wrestling with these questions; it might take some time.  However, when you figure the answers out, PURSUE THEM!

#14 Allow God to use you to help others.  Help others heal and get on with their lives.  The truth is, if you have made a full or nearly full recovery from serious spiritual abuse, you are in the perfect place to help others who have been abused.  You have experienced something that cannot be described with words. – And you just don’t know what is feels like to be there, -unless you have been there.  I feel those of us who have recovered from spiritual abuse have a responsibility to help others.  You don’t need to be a pastor or counselor; all you have to do is “hold a bucket,” be a friend, remind a precious soul that God is still there or just sit and just be an expression of God’s love to someone who is hurting.  After all, isn’t that what the Church is supposed to be about anyway?

Following the Breadcrumbs: how we escaped an abusive pastor and church -and a roadmap to escape for others

My heart is torn when I write on this topic.  There is a part of me that just wants to move on and attempt to forget that any of this ever happened to us.  Then reality hits me. These experiences helped make me who I am I.  –And honestly, I think I actually like who I am now…

I also feel an obligation to help those who might find themselves in the situation that my family and I were in.  Jesus had a few things to say about helping the weak… -And if you have found yourself mixed up in an abusive or unhealthy church, chances are you are beat up and in a emotionally weakened state.  So, for those that have found themselves in such a situation, I pray that God uses these words to give you strength, comfort and direction.  You CAN escape; just follow the breadcrumbs.

A common conversation had between my wife and I is in regards to our bewilderment at how people will remain in spiritually abusive churches, despite the abusive and deception that is so obviously taking place.  I thought it would be helpful to others if I took a few minutes to recollect the factors that eventually helped us escape our experience.  *Keep in mind, Amy and I had been “under this pastor’s wing” since I was eighteen and she was sixteen.  We were young, we were naive and we had grown extremely loyal. We were also surrounded by others who were loyal.  It was not until we were in our early thirties that we finally and completely broke away; our “escape” was a long and painful process.  Below is an incomplete list that helped form the breadcrumb trail which facilitated our escape:

  • By having our own personal relationships with God  -independent of the pastor or any other church leader.  It was through our own relationships with God that He began to show us that “something just wasn’t right.” Our relationships with God were deeper than what happened at our church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.  In addition, our pastor did not serve as the mediator between us and God.  Fortunately, we had realized that Someone else had already gotten that job.*I find that most people stuck in spiritually abusive situations do not have their own “independent” relationship with God.
  • By knowing basic Biblical teachings -for ourselves   The actions of the pastor and church began to conflict with basic Biblical teachings like: helping the poor, servant-hood (outside of the church structures,) authentic Christian love, etc. Again, “something just wasn’t right” in the church. These were not things we actively looked for; they just “stuck out” over time.  By the end of our time at the church, they became glaring red flags.
  • By constantly submitting to God’s Word -independent of the teachings of the pastor.  As my own relationship with God developed, I began to realize that there were times that my submission to God’s word and will conflicted with what my pastor had said God’s will for my life was.  What my pastor said I should do and what God was leading me to do were in conflict.  If I followed God’s leading, I was going against my pastor’s authority.  The saying in our church was not, “What would Jesus do?” but, “What would Pastor ‘Bob’ do?”  Once again, “something just wasn’t right.” I found myself in constant conflict.
  • By attempting to reconcile the “actions” of the pastor to God, His nature and His Word   Over time, I began to attempt to reconcile the actions of my pastor with God’s Word, specifically with the simple teachings of Jesus.  No one is perfect, but there were areas where I was very concerned.  At first I gave my pastor the benefit of the doubt; in the early years I was actually his strongest advocate who came to his defense.  But as time expired this position became more difficult. Almost everything he said from the pulpit sounded right and rooted in sound Biblical teaching, but his actions could not be reconciled with Truth.  As time progressed, I observed more and more secrecy in the church.  I had the reoccurring thought, “If we are not doing anything wrong, why are we  hiding it?”
  • By aspiring to have a healthy relationship with my spouse and children  My loyalty to the pastor and his church hindered my relationships with my wife and children.  He did not value my family time and he did not value my relationship with my wife.  There were various conversations we would have where he made it a point to tell me NOT to tell my wife.  It was like he wanted me to keep secrets from her. –I always saw this as a major red flag, again more secrecy. In addition, the time that my loyalty to the pastor and church required, greatly hindered quality family time.
  • By loving God and my family more than my position in ministry   As my eyes began to open, I knew I would have to give up my staff position in the church. Our church plant had grown to one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the area. I had to love God and my family more than my position. This was a simple but very fundamental realization for me.
  • By coming to the understanding that great worship music, entertaining preaching and a large crowd -alone, do not make a healthy church family   As a matter of fact, they can make for a very unhealthy twisted group if godly relational principles are broken. You can find great music, entertainment and crowds in lots of atmospheres; those characteristics alone do not make those venues healthy churches.
  • By beginning to ask very difficult questions and being willing to question everything I believed.  I learned that God can easily handle any tough question that I asked Him; He never got freaked out or offended by a single question! BUT, leaders in abusive churches cannot handle tough questions, they get offended and defensive very easily.  Those who ask questions are labeled as trouble makers very quickly.  I found that the process of asking tough questions, while painful at first, made me a much stronger person and ultimately increased my faith while bringing me closer to God.  Again, in a healthy spiritual and relational environment, we should not be afraid to ask any questions.
  • By beginning to listen to godly people that I crossed passed with, who were outside of the abusive church  God strategically placed precious godly people in my life that He used to facilitate my escape.  As I reflect, it is simply unbelievable how He caused me to cross paths with the perfect people at the perfect time. People who gave me wise counsel and offered a different perspective on the situation inside of my church.
  • By realizing that good people, who loved God, who I loved very much, could be easily deceived   It took me a long time to finally realize this but it is the truth.
  • By beginning to be honest with myself about what really happened to us   We had to lose our pride and admit that we had been led down a deceptive path.  –And we had to admit that “we” choose to walk that path for a season in our lives. We had helped build and served in leadership in an abusive church. There was a time where “we” were a part of the problem; we had to “admit that” to ourselves and repent of “our” sin before we could fully escape and begin to heal.
  • By being willing to face confrontation and lose relationships   For me, I think a big part of my emotional escape was due to the fact that I decided to confront and expose the abuser.  (I am speaking very transparently here.)  It was not that I was bitter; I knew if I was not careful bitterness would eat me up like an emotional cancer. It is like I needed to take my voice back, -like I am still in the process of taking my voice back.  And I needed to take my identity back; the abuser had stolen it.  The abuser had stolen my voice and identity with his counterfeit authority and bully pulpit.  I needed to confront him and tell him that what he did was wrong.  –And I felt the need to warn others about what was happening, -whether they listened or not.  That type of confrontation is tough.  I found that Jesus was not kidding when He talked about “losing your life” and “taking up your cross.” I lost relationships with people who are very dear to me; I still grieve the loss of those relationships.
  • By wanting something different   *I believe that the point that an individual realizes that they are in an abusive or unhealthy church is just “step 1” in the escape process.  “Step 2” is actually making the painful and difficult decision to leave.  “Step 2” is the more difficult step in the process.  I believe that many people realize that they are in abusive churches but simply are not strong enough to leave.   -Or they choose not to leave due to lost relationships, lost position, fear, etc. We got to the point where we wanted something different. We knew no church was perfect, but we wanted something closer to what the Bible describes as a healthy church family.
  • By wanting to be healthy and whole   Over time, we began to realize that we were not spiritually or emotionally healthy.  We were not “whole.”  I would not have used those exact words seven years ago, but deep in my heart I knew something was wrong.  As I began to wrap my head around and “unpack” that unpleasant truth, I realized that we needed to distance ourselves from unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people -especially those unhealthy people who thought they were healthy (those are the most dangerous.)   I wanted to be “whole,” I wanted my wife to be “whole” and I wanted my children to be “whole” -or at least give them every opportunity to grow up to be “whole.”  And “wholeness” was not being modeled in our abusive church.  Despite the state of the art facilities,  the appetizing children’s and youth programs, the produced worship experience, the very entertaining preaching and the large crowd that came to observe the Sunday event that we called “church,” I was left wanting something more, something that could not be found anywhere within those characteristics alone.  So, I led myself and my family down a new path to find it.

*If you would like to read some of my other thoughts on Spiritual Abuse, please follow this link: Eric’s Posts on Spiritual Abuse

Living Life with Blinders On

Living Life with Blinders On

A few weeks ago as I was enjoying a walk around my neighborhood, I heard intense screaming and yelling coming from one of the homes. The screaming was so loud that I clearly heard it from the street. My family and I routinely take evening walks and I had never heard yelling and screaming anything like this in our neighborhood. Something was happening inside of that house.

My first thought was to just keep staring straight forward, up the street. I did not even look towards the house. – I didn’t want to be a nosy neighbor. I then thought to myself that I needed to tell my children to stay away from that part of the neighborhood for the evening, -just to be safe. BUT, the yelling and screaming troubled me. It continued and was really loud. I also thought that I had heard some “thumps” coming from the home as well; I wondered what the thumps were. As I attempted to continue my stroll, I wrestled with rather or not to do something. Many questions ran through my mind: Was there some type of violence happening in that house? Was someone being hurt? Was an innocent person being taken advantage of? Or, was I just overreacting and needed to just “mind my own business?”

There are times in our lives where we are faced with dilemmas like this one. And it seems that, in the moment, there is no clear answer. No one wants to be the nosey neighbor, busy-body or the tattle tale. I sure don’t want to be. So, most of the time we look straight ahead, with our blinders on, and move forward. We just say, “It is none of my business.” After all, that is the easiest, simplest, safest and least painful path to take –well, at least for us.

The problem with looking the other way is that, by our own lack of action, we potentially allow others to get hurt. You and I can facilitate the “hurt” and “victimization” of “others,” when we refuse to take action. Our lack of action might be the easiest thing to do at the time, but it is only the easiest thing for us. It is only safe for us. It is only less painful for us. Our choice to take the path of least resistance could potentially permit the construction of mountains of pain and grief for others.

I have never been a huge follower of Penn State or Joe Paterno. Of course, I knew of the school and the coach -and I thought that Joe Paterno’s career was remarkable. But, I never had a reason to follow either one closely. When the Sandusky story broke, I was drawn to read about it because my heart went out to the victims AND because I wondered, “How could something like this happen on such a large stage?” I couldn’t help but wonder, “If the allegations are true, how could Sandusky have gotten away with this for so long?” As we see the true story unfold, we are beginning to be able to answer those questions. And one of the key answers is: there are bad people in this world and horrible things can happen when “good” people like you and me live life with blinders on and just look the other way.

I do not want to be a nosey neighbor, a busy-body or a tattle tale. But, I have made a decision to do my best to protect the weak and to speak out when I see wrong being done to others around me. In short, I have taken my blinders off. Some might think that the blog posts that I have written in the past are too critical of the Church or of events from my past. I am not bitter; I am not seeking revenge. I really do not have an agenda –other than to share my experiences with the hopes that others can learn from them, protect themselves from unsafe situations and grow closer to God in the process.

There is a lot that I could say about the Sandusky, Joe Peterno and the Penn State situation. There are a lot of parallels that I could point out in regards to spiritual abuse: thoughts about how we protect “a man” because we think he is someone who is exceptional, thoughts about how we protect “an institution” because we want to be a part of something bigger than us, thoughts about how we protect “a legacy” and thoughts about how “we” allow people to be victimized as “we” protect these things. I could remark about how an oblong piece of leather became more important than young boys. I could expound on how the roar of the crowd on Saturday afternoons drowned out the cries of various young men. I could attempt to rationalize how all the “good” people who knew wrong things were happening could possibly just keep their mouths shut. And yes, I could point out other things but wisdom dictates that I refrain from that line of thought. –Well, at least in this post.

That evening I decided to NOT keep my mouth shut. I decided to take the risk of being called a tattle tale or a nosey neighbor. I called 911 and explained to the dispatcher what I heard. They sent a patrol car out to check on everyone in the home. I never found out what was actually happening in the house that day. All we know is that the yelling, screaming and thumping stopped. –That outcome was enough to satisfy me –and my conscience.

I pray that the next time we are confronted with similar situations; we will all be brave enough –and wise enough, to take the proper actions.

What Does “Healthy” Look Like?

Okay, I have not written a post in a while and have “lost” a lot of good ideas for posts because I have been pretty busy and fighting a STUPID sinus infection; -hence the inspiration for this post.  Be warned! If I ramble, do not make fully coherent statements or talk about “the pretty colors” I am seeing it is because I am heavily medicated on antibiotics, steroids, and my own personal concoction of over the counter meds to keep me going.

I am physically sick.  I know something is not right in my body; to be specific, something is not right in my sinus passages. I can continue to take over the counter meds to mask the pain, I can hop up on caffeine to keep me going and I can even strong arm my doctor into giving me more steroids and antibiotics to help keep the condition in my sinuses at bay.  –But the problem is; there is an infection in my body that has been there for over three months now.  It makes my head hurt.  It makes me feel fatigued all the time. It makes me irritable.  It makes me less productive at work.  –And frankly, it makes me NOT FUN to be around; just ask my wife, my kids and my coworkers.

The fact of the matter is my physical condition greatly affects me & it affects those around me.  So… rather than continuing to attempt to cover up the symptoms with ineffective measures, I drove to Indianapolis this morning and visited with a nice man who just happened to be an ENT doctor. He introduced me to some nice ladies who then placed me in a big sphere with flashing red lights that performed a CT scan. I was told by a another very nice lady that sometime in the next 48 hours someone with a few more zeros than her in their paycheck will evaluate my CT scan and hopefully we will get to the bottom of my problems and do whatever ever is needed to permanently resolve my issues –well, at least my sinus issues.

It was a real pain to go to Indy today.  I could have easily given multiple reasons (excuses) why I could not go.  First, I just hate going to doctors.  Second, I have been really, really busy at work. Third, we have major medical insurance and today’s activities will go a long way towards cleaning out our HSA for this year; as we all know, those nice people in the medical profession do not work for free.  -But still, I had a problem that was not going away until I dealt with it.  And in addition, I realized that I could not deal with it alone; I needed outside help.

By now I am sure you are wondering, “where are you going with this Eric???”    You see, I took these actions because I know what it feels like to be physically healthy, to be physically “whole.”  I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and have energy.  I know what it feels like to “want” to go to the gym and workout in the mornings.  I know what it feels like to be at work in the afternoon and “not” feel like I need a nap.  I know what it feels like on the weekends to “want” to go do something fun with my wife and children.  And I know what it feels like to “NOT” have to take a handful of pills every morning just to get through the day. –I know what “healthy” feels like, so it drives me to deal with my sinus issues and become healthy again.  It is just that simple. *Knowing what good physical health feels like drives me towards taking actions to become physically “whole” when I am sick.

So here is the sermonette:  This morning as I thought about my physical sickness while waiting for my test, I began to think about emotional sickness and relational sickness and spiritual sickness.  I asked myself this question, “Do we even know what healthy looks like?”  In today’s western, money driven, individualistic, superficial success oriented culture, does the average Joe even know what it “looks like” to be emotionally healthy?  Or relationally healthy?  Or spiritually healthy?

Amy and I have a pet-peeve. We dislike being treated by medical professionals who are not living physically healthy lives.  Our rationale is, “why would we want to receive medical treatment from someone who is not doing their best to live a physically healthy life?” –Someone who is “not” a good “model” for healthy living by making healthy choices in their own lives.  In this age of prescribing meds to treat almost anything and everything rather than advising patients to make lifestyle changes, we think that this is a very valid point.  Sometimes medications are prescribed simply to counteract symptoms of other deeper problems that could be remedied with “other” changes.

I am not writing this post to attack the “heathens” of our society; they already have enough problems.  I am writing this post to challenge my fellow Christians, my friends who are pastors and church leaders and the Church as a whole.  We are supposed to be the ones with all the answers.  Or, we at least we claim to know Who the Answer is…  Are we emotionally healthy?  Are we relationally healthy?  Are we spiritually healthy?  Do we even know what “healthy” looks like?

If we cannot answer those questions with a clear conscience and peace flowing out of our hearts in the presence of our Father, I suggest that we take radical action as I did with my chronic sinus infection.  I admitted my condition, I refused to live on pain relievers and other Band-Aids and I humbled myself and sought outside help from those who had the ability to guide me on my journey towards healing and wholeness.

How can we be “salt” if we do not have any flavor? How can we be a shining “city on a hill” if most of the lights are dimmed? And how can we be models of emotional, relational, and spiritual health if we ourselves are sick? We all know the answers to these questions… we cannot, and it shows.