the challenge and cost of reconciliation

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“You give him one more chance, just like the time before, but he already knows you’ll give a thousand more.” Alicia Keys, Lesson Learned

For about three years I was offended with a friend of mine who had betrayed me. I carried that knife in my back for such a long time that the wound got infected and began to poison my other relationships. I could feel my heart hardening as time passed. So I decided to forgive.

But we were never ever ever getting back together.

You see, I was willing to let go of what had happened but I wasn’t interested in restoring the friendship. I had some really legitimate reasons for keeping her out of my life, we used to be really close but now our lives would be separate and that was okay.

What about reconciliation?

I know you have some really good reasons why you will not reconcile with __________. I do not doubt that you can justify your decision. But I have some thoughts that will challenge you.

I want to share the stories of three men with you. Each of them lived thousands of years apart from each other, each of them embodied reconciliation.

from prisoner to prime minister.

How did a man born into a wealthy family end up a convicted rapist? You might call Joseph’s life a series of unfortunate events but that would be an understatement.

Firstly, Jo’s brothers took sibling rivalry to another level. Moved by jealousy because Joseph was their father’s favourite (and a little bit of a show off), his brothers sold him into slavery. Read the Bible from Genesis 37 to get the full story.

Joseph went through hell, including being falsely accused of rape by someone’s wife after he refused to sleep with her.  Because of his gift of interpretation of dreams, Joseph was released from prison and became a top Egyptian government official.

But that’s not all. Years later, Jo’s brothers stand before him needing his help. There is a famine in their country and they have come to beg for food aid from Egypt, from this Egyptian official who they do not realise is their brother.

From terrorist to Tata (of a nation).

By now we have all heard the story of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who, together with others, spoke out against the system of racial segregation called apartheid in South Africa. Arrested and tried for treason, he was released from prison after 27 years in jail.

He spoke out on behalf of justice, a voice for the voiceless, and in return he was deprived of not just his physical freedom but his relationships and he never lived a ‘normal’ life. His marriage was sacrificed and he missed out on fathering his children.

As President of a democratic South Africa, he had more power than he could have ever dreamed. Justice and history were on his side and his enemies, those who had passed an unjust sentence on him and millions of black people, were at his mercy.

What would you do?

No one would have blamed Joseph for sending his brothers away in anger, he owed them nothing and they did not deserve his kindness. But what Joseph did was extraordinary. He revealed his identity to them and agreed to give them the food they asked for. Later, Joseph went even further and said:

“Don’t be afraid, am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

Mandela is known in South Africa as the “father of the nation” and one of the greatest inheritances he has left for the nation is one of reconciliation. From the first day that he took office until his passing, Mandela lived and breathed reconciliation, going further than forgiving his enemies, he made agreements with them and worked with them.

Reconciliation comes at a great cost but achieves a greater purpose.

Both Joseph and Mandela reconciled with their enemies at great personal cost. Remember, they were never compensated for their lost years.

Reconciliation is always given as a free gift at a great cost to the giver. And the lives of these two men point to one other man, the greatest Man to ever walk the earth, who at the cost of His life reconciled us to God:

“God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…” 2 Corinthians 5:19

Are you challenged?

Thanks for reading.
shula

The Art of Saying What You Need to Say :: to the friend who takes and never gives

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“Take, take, take but you never ever give.”

Bruno Mars

If you are reading this then you have a friend who takes and never gives. This is the friend who will call you at 3AM to be picked up when they know you have an interview first thing the next morning. Or the one that, even though you are always there for them, disappears into thin air when you need them the most. You love this friend to bits but you have reached your breaking point in the friendship and want out or want things to change. Here is what you need to say:

“Friend, I love you and you know that you can ask me for anything. But when you do, please respect my boundaries and my decisions about whether I will or will not do something.”

Here is what you are communicating:

I love you means that you value the person and the relationship. This is your way of affirming the fact that they have a place in your heart and you see them in your future. Start off with this.

You know that you can ask me for anything is something that you need to say because your friend needs to know that you are the kind of person they ask for anything – you are approachable and open and safe.

But you have boundaries and these need to respected. All relationships need terms of engagement. Every relationship needs boundaries. Your friend needs to know that, although they are always free to ask, there are things that you cannot or will not do for them, simply because you choose not to. And that is okay. Remember, you are not your friend’s saviour and it is okay for you to allow them to live with the consequences or the choices that they make, you do not always have to swoop in and be the hero. Remember, it is okay for you to want your own space, it is acceptable for you to say “No” without feeling like you will be rejected.

I hope this gives you the motivation to have a little chat with your friend that takes but never gives.

Any thoughts?

shula

The Art of Saying What You Need To Say:: how to handle a bad breakup and make up

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If breaking up is hard to do, making up is harder. This is the case even when the decision was mutual and the parting ‘amicable’. The end of a relationship always hurts! Breaking up with someone is all the more painful when you have unresolved issues with them, it is messy and complicated – it is bad.

Sometimes when a relationship ends you know it is a good thing even though it hurts. Other times, something in your heart tells you that you really need to resolve the issues between you, that you are not over. And if you can think of a relationship in your life where this is the case then this post is for you.

These points apply to any kind of relationship, including friendship, because the principles can be applied generally. My aim is to give you the motivation and the words you need to speak to that person that you still love and want back in your life. I believe in the restoration of relationships and, while I do think that there are some circumstances where a relationship should be left for dead, our first choice should be to bring them back to life.

There are one of two strategies you can apply: the indirect approach or the direct approach.

The indirect approach is a slow and steady approach. What this means in practice depends on how badly damaged the relationship is. If you no longer speak to the person but you still have mutual friends, this would mean finding ways of being in their space without necessarily having one-on-one interaction with them. This is good mainly because it will help them get used to the idea of you being around. As silly as it may sound, things such as a ‘Like’ on a Facebook status or  a photo helps! You will need a lot of patience to follow this approach and a commitment to persevering when the person rejects or ignores you. The second approach is a more direct approach. It will involve you simply approaching the person and arranging a time when you both can meet without a build up to that moment.

Remember this: choose the approach that you think will work best with the person that you are dealing with and balance it with the approach that you are good at- this is the key to effective communication. It is not just about you and it is not just about them, it is about the both of you. Whichever approach you choose to take, you will eventually have to have a conversation with the person. You will have to say what you need to say, here’s how:

1 Be clear about why you are having this conversation.

Most of us come into conversations like these with big expectations. And those expectations are usually on the other person (not ourselves!). The first question that you have to ask yourself is what your objectives are in having this conversation. You have to ask yourself why it is important to you. What are you expecting? Once you have your expectations clear in your head, shift some of the weight of those expectations away from the other person. Decide that you are going to take responsibility for your part in achieving the outcome that you desire. Secondly, decide that your future happiness will not depend on whether the other person plays their part, as long as you have played yours.

Say something like:

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, I really appreciate it. I have been thinking about our friendship and would really like to talk about some things that I think were left unresolved between us. Can we do that?”

2 Be quick to listen and slow to speak.

This is not your chance to vent about everything that you hated about your relationship and why you are right and they need to see that. Find an objective third party to do that with or do that in your personal journal! This is your chance to have a dialogue with the person. ‘Di’ means two – you and the person. Do not hog the space. The best way to navigate this kind of conversation is by asking questions, giving them the chance to answer and then responding to that answer. Asking questions is your chance to  bring up what took place before and it gives that person a chance to give you their take on the issue. This is not an interrogation so be gentle and gracious. Also, avoid asking questions that are accusatory. An example would be: “So when did you decide that you were going to steal my boyfriend from under my nose?”

Listen carefully to what the person has to say and think about your response to each of those. It is unlikely that you will take their view of the situation because you are two different people. That is okay. Your answer needs to be: in response to what they have just said; honest; and balanced. Keep your response focused on this conversation, try not to bring up past conversations you have had or what so-so told you they said. This shows that you are listening. Be honest and resist the urge to hold certain things back because you want to please the other person. Balance your response by expressing the fact that you understand their point of view, and then explain how you viewed the situation at the time and why.

Say something like:

“We used to be so close. What do you think went wrong with our relationship?”

“After we came back from [          ] I felt like there was a wall between us. Did you feel it too? If you did, what do you think caused that?”

3 Be forgiving.

Forgiving the other person means letting go of the idea that they owe you something for the wrong they did against you. In the case of a betrayal for example, you have every reason to want the other person to pay you back for the wrong they did – whether they acknowledge their wrong in the matter or not. They will probably admit some things that prove that they were wrong and that you were justified. When that happens, do not say: “Well, can I just say that I told you so? I knew you were wrong all the time!” Extend grace and choose to overlook your right to rub it in their face. I believe that forgiveness is a choice but it is also a process so do not expect to instantly feel unoffended or unhurt. The starting point is for you to express your decision to forgive.

Say something like:

“I love you and I want to give our relationship a fresh start.”

“I know that you are sorry and I no longer want to hold it against you.”

4 Be repentant.

Forgiveness and repentance go together. In the course of the conversation you will also discover that you did and said some things that you should be sorry for. Do not just dismiss these as minor compared to what the other person did – hold up the mirror and share in the blame. Acknowledge  that what you said or did was destructive and/or hurtful and make a deliberate commitment to turn away from it, starting now. There will be times when you fall but get up and stick to your commitment. Also, choose your words carefully and stay away from saying counterproductive things like, “I apologize but I cannot say that I am sorry.” and do not use avoidance strategies like saying, “I did not know that you felt that way about it. Sorry that you do.”

Say something like:

It was wrong of me to tell Lesley what you told me in confidence. I am sorry for betraying your trust like that.”

“I am sorry for the way the words that I said when I was angry, I know that they hurt you. I am sorry for hurting you.”

5 Be brave.

Your relationships are important. Do not let fear keep you from reaching out and saying what you need to say to heal a broken relationship. Do not give up before you try!

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading.

shula.

Tonight, I want to talk about feelings, do you?

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I do not like to talk about feelings and have two very good reasons for why. Feelings are inconsistent. I like things to be relatively predictable and well structured – feelings are not that! Feelings are subjective, they’re not concrete, there is no real ultimate truth in them. Two people can be in the same situation and come out feeling very differently.

Truth be told, I am scared to talk about feelings. Talking to another person about one’s feelings necessarily means opening one’s heart and mind to another and letting them in. It makes one vulnerable and leaves room for rejection.

But that’s me. What about you?

Do you like sharing what your true feelings are? Can you admit it when you are angry or sad or so happy you could fly to the moon and back? Do you get terrified at the question: “How do you feel?”

Describing people as “emotional” assumes that there are people who are not emotional. I think that is misleading. We are all emotional but some people express their emotions more easily, whereas others cannot or will not. Human beings are emotional beings, we just express things differently.

Tonight, as much as I dread doing it, I want to talk about feelings. I have made up a scale. Imagine a horizontal line running across a page. The extreme left hand side of the line is labelled “Stuffers” and the extreme right says “Exploders”. I want to propose that when it comes to the way we process or express our feelings, each of us falls closer to one end of the spectrum than the other.

Here are my thoughts on what each of these means, try and locate yourself and your friends on the scale, this will be fun:

The Exploders (Fire)

The name says it all. Exploders love talking about feelings. Their faces say it all. They are the oversharers on Facebook and Twitter. They leave no one in any doubt about what makes them angry and when they are sad they walk around with a massive cloud hanging over their heads. Cumulonimbus. Exploders are easily provoked and difficult to reason with in a disagreement. Arguments with them always escalate at an alarming rate and often end with them in a pile of tears or stomping off and slamming the door in your face. A particularly dangerous exploder might even resort to slapping, biting and flinging crockery around the room. I think you get the picture.

Exploder plusses.
You always know where you stand with exploders – they make sure of it! They have no difficulty in letting you know what their true feelings are and will communicate them to you. Exploders tend to find vulnerability with people easy and this makes them easier to connect to on a personal level. An exploder will generously pour out their affection on people they love and will be extravagant in the way that they express it. Exploders do not struggle to access their emotions and are often described as ‘passionate’.

If you are close to the exploder side of the scale then there are a few things you need to watch out for. Firstly, expressing your feelings easily is not the same as expressing them healthily. This is particularly important when it comes to expressing anger. Like a bomb going off, when exploders get angry there is always collateral damage, be aware of this. Consider the effect of your expression on other people, don’t be selfish and fight fair! Secondly, don’t make your feelings king. Realise that your feelings are not a perfect representation of reality – just because you feel rejected does not mean that you actually are rejected. Also, your feelings are not a perfect moral compass, something that ‘feels right’ can be very wrong! Remember, fire brings warmth and light but if let loose and uncontrolled, it can destroy everything in its path.

The Stuffers (Ice)

If you are a stuffer people will probably describe you as quiet / shy / stuck in your own world. This is not always the case though, there are some loud and outgoing stuffers out there! Unlike exploders who will always express their feelings outwardly, stuffers will usually internalize them. Stuffers appear cool under pressure and sometimes even seem cold. The reality is that stuffers have a backlog of unprocessed or unexpressed feelings stuffed down on the inside. It is not that they do not feel anything, it’s just that they for some reason, they would rather keep what they feel to themselves.

Stuffer plusses.
Many stuffers really care about other people and their selflessness is sometimes one of the reasons why they stuff their feelings down. They think about other people’s feelings before their own. They are good listeners and will think before they speak. Stuffers are also often very stable and consistent in relationship, they are not as temperamental or moody as their exploder counterparts.

If you are closer to the stuffer side of the scale then the first thing you have to realise is that you cannot stuff down your feelings forever, you will eventually explode. And it will not look pretty. Eventually, the anger, grief and offense you have been stuffing will have to be released. Your positive emotions need to be expressed along with your negative ones! Stuffers need to learn that emotions are not evil and that there is a healthy way of expressing them. Secondly, stuffers need to understand the importance of emotional vulnerability in a relationship. The ability to know what you are feeling and to express it to people will make you seem more human and less like a block of cold, hard ice.

Are you more of an exploder or a stuffer? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thanks for reading.
shula.

RelationTips:: Breaking a bad habit (when that habit is a person)

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At the end of every year my high school friends and I have a reunion. We go out to a restaurant, catch up on what the latest is for each of us and what our plans for the next year are. Invariably I have found that each of us will make some kind of resolution:

“This year I’m going to get serious with God. I’ve had my fun, I must grow up now.”

“Guys, this drink I’m having is the last bit of alcohol that’s going to pass through my mouth.”

We each share what the year has taught us and how the only way is forward from here. We nod and “Hmm!” in affirmation, glasses raised, hearts full of hope. The end of the year rolls around once again, some have stories of victory and new adventures, others return dragging past struggles behind them.

Breaking bad habits is easier said than done. And relational bad habits are that much harder to stop. Many of us know what it is like to be stuck in a relationship that we know is not ‘good’ for us but we cannot seem to let go of that person. The reasons why are complicated. Maybe that person is really attached to you and you are afraid that the end of the relationship will cut them too deeply. Or maybe you have become so attached to this person that you cannot imagine your life without them. You would rather be unhappy and attached than alone. You have tried breaking this habit before but they have such a powerful hold over you!

I believe that it absolutely possible to break that bad habit (when that habit is a person) but it takes intentionality. This post is for people who know they have a Bad Habit (BH) to break and just need some practical tips on how to do it. Here are my thoughts:

1. Grab a blank page of paper and a pen.
If you have watched Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married” you will remember that scene where the wives are told to write down what they love about their husbands on one side of the paper and what they hate on the other. Applying that here: write down all the good things about your BH on one side of your paper. When you are done, turn the paper over and write down all the negative things. For both be as honest as possible, do not hold back. Remember this paper is for your eyes only, do not feel guilty about being mean.

This is something great for evaluating your relationship in a way that is visual. Which side bears more weight – the good or the nasty? What effect is that having on your heart?

2. Ask for an independent opinion.
Often it is hard to see the full picture of a relationship without a third or fourth perspective. Approach a trustworthy (!!!) person in your life and ask them to give you their opinion on your relationship. Remember, this is an opinion and will probably not be the definitive truth about your relationship. Also, do not go to people who will tell you what you want to hear (“yes men”) or people who have a conflict of interest and cannot be objective.

Decide that you will be open to what they think, listen and ask questions. It will probably hurt to hear what they have to say but decide that you will not be defensive. Also share what has been going on. This stage is a great way of bringing forward what has been going on behind the scenes of the relationship and getting an independent perspective. This process will also help you confirm what you have been feeling about the relationship, you are then able to stop second- guessing yourself.

3. Set up your boundaries and guard them fiercely.
If you are going to break this BH successfully you are going to need to set down some predetermined ground rules. Keep them simple and relevant. Here is some real talk: if you know that one of the reasons why you cannot move on from this person is because you keep ending up in bed together then avoid those situations where you end up alone with that person. Do not let them come by your house and do not go to theirs. Do not go out and get drunk together. These are physical boundaries. Emotional boundaries are important too. Do not reread text messages they have sent to you or keep going back to their Facebook profile “just to see”. Do not spend hours talking to them on the phone and avoid trying to keep up with what is happening in their life.

If you have found it hard to let go of your BH, that is usually a sign of a boundary issues. The boundary setting process may be what you need to begin to establish an identity separate from theirs.

To be effective this will need some perseverance and grit. And maybe some brutality towards yourself. The other person will probably be hurt but ultimately, remember that you are preventing long term harm to both of your hearts. When you feel tempted to cross boundaries, remember 1. and 2.

4. Set up your support.
If you are going to break this BH for good, you are going to need some reliable relational support. This is particularly important when you first set up your boundaries and the temptation to go back is strongest. These are the people who will cry with you and grieve with you. It is important that you healthily deal with the emotions associated with losing the relationship. Find encouraging people who love you and decide that you will be vulnerable and honest with them about where you are. Breaking this BH is worth the risk. For some, the process of setting up support may involve making some new friends, particularly if you and your BH share many mutual friends.

Be patient with yourself. Often a toxic relationship can leave one feeling insecure and fragile which can be a barrier to getting out there again. There may even be some fear attached to the thought of living without your BH. Resist the voice that tells you that you are isolated. You are on a journey of freedom.

You will need to anticipate when you might be at your lowest. Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays are times that you might need to have people around you. Once you start breaking out of this destructive relational cycle you might even find new relational avenues opening.

Having said the above, beware of the rebound effect. Do not break one unhealthy emotional attachment only to run to another- this happens often! At some stage you may need to learn to be alone and not surrounded by people all the time. Being able to spend time with yourself is healthy!

5. Bonus: Pray.
At every stage, my view is that this is essential. This will deepen your relationship with God and get you through the hard days. Prayer is a conversation. Be honest about your concerns to God and let Him speak back to you, either in your heart or through the Bible. Pray together with people you have chosen as your support team – this will bond you together and give you the spiritual strength you need to stay on track.

It is worth saying that some bad relationships can still be restored to health. But that will depend on various things including the willingness of all parties to do help make that happen. Also, none of what I have expressed here is intended to apply to a marriage relationship.

Any other thoughts on relational BH’s?
Did you find this helpful?
Any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading.
shula

Lesbianism #HerStory :: Q & A

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On Thursday I posted a story about homosexuality that my friend shared with me, you can read it here. If you scroll down to the comments, you will see some honest responses from people who were challenged by the story. To put this follow up post in context, please refer to that post.

There were some important questions raised by you that I want to highlight:

Christians view homosexuality as a sin but what does that mean exactly?

Why is accepting homosexuality so difficult?

When one accepts Christ, is the homosexual attraction taken away and then replaced by heterosexual attraction?

I have a friend who ‘came out’ to me, how do I help her?

Before we go into the answers, let’s all take a deep breath. This is a controversial subject and we all come with our preconceived ideas about what the answer to each question should be. Our answers depend on the lens through which we understand the world. But wouldn’t you agree that, ultimately, what matters is not what we think is the truth (subjectively) but what the Truth actually is (objectively)?

Don’t believe anyone who says that, “There is no such thing as Absolute Truth – there are many truths.” That statement contradicts itself. If there is no such thing as absolute truth then even that statement cannot be absolutely true. You feel me? Every human heart is trying to make sense of life and we are all in search of The Truth of why we are here because that will determine how we are supposed to live.

Let’s lay down our assumptions, preconceptions and even our emotions attached to this. Let’s allow our minds and hearts to be changed if they need to be. The basis of my post today is this:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Those were words written by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12:2, The Message ) and it is such a powerful and relevant warning! Most of us have become so well adjusted to our culture’s way of looking at the issue. We have uncritically and wholeheartedly adopted a certain view of homosexuality – the “Christian”, the leftist, the African, the American, the hip-hop culture view… and we have taken our eyes off God.

Each of these answers needs to be read very carefully, as a whole and cross-checked against the original source. If you stop reading halfway, you might miss out on an important aspect. If you pick and choose, you will miss the whole picture. Here are my thoughts!:

1. Christians view homosexuality as a sin but what does that mean exactly?

The starting point for understanding “sin” is that the Bible describes every human being as being in need of rescue, in need of God. We need to be rescued from the things we have made the centre of our lives: money, power, sex, whatever. A look at human history is enough to prove the destruction comes from the selfish pursuit of these things. Money, power or sex are not inherently evil, they only become dangerous when they are loved and pursued above God, when they take the place of God in our lives. The sin that all human hearts have committed, without exception, is that we have failed to “Love the Lord your God [with everything]”, a command from God that Jesus described as being the first on His list. See Matthew 22.

“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” Romans 1:25

The Bible tells us that God created all things, including sex and sexual desire : “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory.” It also makes it clear that in the area of sexual desire we are meant to exercise self-regulation (self control) as opposed to doing with our bodies what we so badly want to do with them *sigh*! 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5 talks about how God’s will for us is that we would learn how to master our desires so that we are not controlled by our bodies – people who know God ought to live in this way. There are clear guidelines given: if you are single, control yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit; if you cannot control yourself, get married.

In the absence of the guidelines found in the Bible regarding our sexuality (and every other area of our lives) anything is permissible, acceptable and good. The thing is, these guidelines are there and we cannot deny them or “interpret” the Bible as we wish. But we can refuse to acknowledge them and disobey them, God does not keep us from doing that:

“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.” Romans 1:28

Greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, gossip and pride are all the result of our abandonment of God and all go against His will for us (Romans 1:29). Along with these, the Bible does not skirt around the issue of “sexual immorality” but refers specifically to people having sex with other people’s husbands/ wives; unmarried people having sex with each other; men having sex with men and women with women; prostitution; even group sex. Some verses that you can consult to confirm this: 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

The Bible reveals that homosexual desires go against His will for the way that He intended for us to live. In the same way that a woman’s desire to have sex with someone  else’s husband does. But I think there must be a distinction drawn between the desires and the sexual acts- the logic being that if we exercise self control and do not give in to what our bodies desire then we have not sinned.

But we do sin. God’s standards are high and if we are incapable of reaching them anyway, what is the point?

Keep reading.

2. Why is accepting homosexuality so difficult?

I am going to approach this question on the basis that this person is asking why it seems so much easier to talk about adultery, hatred, murder, jealousy, prostitution and racism (all of which the Bible says are against God’s will) but not homosexuality.  It is difficult for someone who has homosexual desires; for those who love someone who has homosexual desires; for theologians, pastors, judges and politicians. Some people propose that the reason is that a relatively small number of people actually have homosexual desires. As opposed to something like say, jealousy, that everyone can identify with. My only problem with that view is that because homosexuality is such a taboo topic in the Church, and even in the world, very few people have the courage to “come out” and be open about what their feeling. My point is that we might be surprised that more people than we think are actually going through this.

I can only guess that it such a difficult topic because of the way that our cultures have developed. But it is time to change that, it is time to start a conversation.

3. When one accepts Christ, is the homosexual attraction taken away and then replaced by heterosexual attraction?

This question is really about what salvation and Lordship means. What does it mean to “accept” Christ and what are the consequences?

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us… God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.”

This passage in Romans 3 answers the problem that I raised in question 1: God’s high standards and our inability to reach them. The life and words of Jesus Christ show us this:

 i) God loves us, created us for relationship with Him, to love Him and to be like Him in all things, including in our desires and behaviour.

ii) God loves us, but we have forgotten God and put other things at the centre of our lives – this is what is at the core of every sin.

iii) God loves us but because of (ii) we are incapable of achieving (i).

iv) God loves us. And Jesus Christ was executed for crimes He did not commit. Christ’s innocence goes beyond what was written on his charge sheet in terms of Jewish/ Roman law. But in the supernatral sense He was punished, willingly, for the crimes that we have committed against God. This was not in vain: it was so that (ii) could be wiped off our record in order for (i) to be restored.

“God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” Romans 3: 26

With reference to the question, my understanding is that if anyone believes in Jesus Christ and chooses to trust Him, they have become “right” with God and He does not count any thing that they have done wrong against them. This is powerful.  But Christ’s death and resurrection is even more powerful in that it becomes possible to live according to God’s standard for our lives. This fact covers every person- the liar, the murderer, the hater, the cheating wife, and the homosexual.

Do the desires go away? I think that it depends. I have women friends who say that they lost all desire to be with women sexually, usually over time as they spent time with God and grew in relationship with Him. Some of them say that they have never had the desire to be with a man and never will; this woman had lesbian relationships for many years, decided to fight and is now married to man. I also know that for other people, sexual attraction for someone of the same sex is something that they still have to choose not to give into, even after years of being committed to Jesus and having a healthy relationship with Him.

4. I have a friend who ‘came out’ to me, how do I help her?

My first response to this question was: Has your friend asked for your help or are you just pushing your help on to her? I think that one of the more frustrating kinds of friends is that friend who is always trying to ‘fix’ you. You know that friend, I can be that friend sometimes. That aside, my short answer to anyone asking this question is two words: model Christ.

What does this mean? Here are my tips:

#1 Decide that even if your friend decides that she wants to be with women, you will love her and will be her friend. One of the things that I find amazing about Jesus is that He invested in friendships with two people who eventually betrayed Him – Peter and Judas. But He did so anyway. His love for them was unconditional. Conditional love says “I will love you if …” Unconditional love can only come from God because it flows, not from who the person is or what they are doing, but from who we are by the power of the Holy Spirit.

#2 Don’t be an armchair critic, put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Christ is the ultimate model of this! God Himself living on earth as a man – it is crazy! He was tempted by the things we are tempted by, suffered physical and emotional pain, just like we do! Christ had the right to claim His “rights” as the bauss and ruler of errthang but He did not- He humbled Himself. We need to do the same. In this context, humbling ourselves means admitting that we do not have all the answers, confessing that we do not know or fully understand what our friend is going through; wrestling with the issue and walking with our friend through the emotions, the heartbreak and the rejection.

#3 Speak the truth in love. Both truth and love are necessary. Christ was not afraid to give His opinion on any issue. He probably felt confident in doing that because it was actually The Truth, not just an opinion. Some people reacted angrily, others could not help but admit that He was right. But Jesus’s motivation was love and His concern was the people He was speaking to. He never spoke the truth just for the sake of it. We need to be the same: guard your heart, check your motivation and watch your tone.

I hope that these answers are helpful. Look out for more stories on homosexuality later this week. Let’s continue the conversation!

 

Thanks for reading.

shula.

Femme Friday :: A letter to the woman I love

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Dear woman

I loved you because you knew me first. With a fearful yell I burst forth, head on into life, delivered by some miracle of God’s grace and your labour. 

Still you work.
For me.
Unselfishly
Wake up, cook, clean, save the world, pray, snooze, repeat.

Yet you still look like a million bucks: a dollar for every kiss of consolation, every lullaby sung and story told to put me (and fears) to bed, every death that you have died for me every day.

No one else will ever know me like you do, we share a beginning, a reproduction of the Genesis – the Playwright’s scribblings still scripted in my DNA (basically, you will forever be woven into the tapestry of my very being). You are blessed amongst women.

I have loved you since I stood before a panel of judges, fingers and toes crossed in leather school shoes, satchel clutched to chest. The new kid.
You made space for me next to you, you always have.

We have shared childish dreams of “when I grow up…”, homework and lunches. Teenage angst and love songs sung sincerely and loudly with volume turned up high. Always very high. Lyrics jotted down frantically, letters penned, secrets whispered in ears

Studded. Only studs, we hated that, we wanted freedom.
Speaking of studs – high school boys and Saturdays spent at H(e)artsfield – the home of rugby. Try as we might we couldn’t hear or see past our raging hormones long enough to keep score – ah, well. We were young and fearless with the first taste of adulthood at the tips of our tongues
wagging – gossip and tabloid magazines.

I will love you now in your complexity. I will love you through your hurts, we’ll fight off past and present ghosts of the shadowland until the Great Light comes. We walk and talk for hours on end. We pour out our hearts with ink on paper, confessing jealousies and inadequacies and love.

And wrongdoing.
Sorry. I forgive you.

You love me with stuff, I love that – earrings and keyrings and parts of your heart. You make me mad and call me out, we argue about nothing and everything.

My admiration for you is deep.
You’re gifted- you dancer, designer, teacher, counselor, singer, healer, you  moneymaker!
(Not that kind of moneymaker.)
We laugh cause it’s funny
How time flies.
You are making your way in the world now, blazing a trail…
Becoming all you were made to be- powerful and beautiful.

I’ll stop now because tears sting my eyes… A letter started but not finished because we’re not done yet.

Thank you for reading
shula

Motivation Monday – Relationships are worth fighting for : 3 tactics

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Yet another Monday has come upon us – wow! I am convinced that Monday comes around way faster than any other day! When a new week begins I always feel like it’s a chance for me to start again and I take advantage of it and make some new resolutions, especially relational ones.

Throughout this week, we’ll be hit with situations that will make us want to give up on our relationships – with our family, our friends, our colleagues at work. Some of us may still be carrying an offense or irritation in our hearts from past weeks. But we can start again because relationships are worth fighting for!

Here’s how:

1. Be on the offensive and choose to open up to people when all you want to do is withdraw.
Every relationship needs a degree of vulnerability, the degree depends on the nature of the relationship. Vulnerability is not the same as weakness. It’s about being genuine about who you are – your strengths and struggles. Vulnerability is not just for you, those around you need to see it, it makes you more relatable.

2. Resist the voice that tells you that you’re isolated and overlooked.
This lie is designed to make you alienate yourself from people, resist it. When I think of resistance, I see a picture of a rugby scrum, a team of men in the ready position, heads down, knees bent, ready to apply all force against the opponent. We need to take that stance with thoughts like these – continuous, steady force against lies that come against us.

3. Guard your heart fiercely with the knowledge that you’re loved,wanted and important.
Jesus said that the issues of life flow from the heart. Anything that comes out of you can be traced back to what’s going on in your heart. Great, healthy, loving relationships flow from a heart that is secure and filled with love. Remind yourself as often as you need to of the fact that you are loved by people and are desirable and let your relationships flow out of that place.

This week, decide who is most important to you in life and fight for that relationship!

Thanks for reading.
shula