What It's About

TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Yes, it happened, it really did

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

An unusually common phenomenon: the surreal experience. The death and life of a loved one. A traumatising event. An unprecedented moment. The first time we were overwhelmed beyond capacity of response. When we’re overcome… yes, until we are, we don’t recognise it as a possibility.
When we arrive at similar moments, we’re reminded of what was all too real. That trauma is an echo of its first intrusion. It has become us in those situations where we’re triggered. It’s very, very real. As I said, and it bears repeating until we understand, it was all too real, ‘unbelievable’ as it was. (I say ‘unbelievable’ because we, ourselves, are caused to question ourselves, and those who are unfeeling further complicate that fracturing of our experience from our identity.)
We must stop questioning ourselves… as much as possible.
This is a crucial step in our healing.
We are in a position now, by God’s strength, to stand with those, like us, who had to learn to stand again.
We’re invited into the Great Knowing. If only the narcissist can admit they’re damaged deep down in their identity, they have a chance of recovery unto a contributory humanity. They, like us, must lose themselves to gain themselves. That seems beyond so many, for it requires a courage of honesty not many want to pay the price for. The Great Knowing is the knowledge of self, warts ‘n’ all. It isn’t pretty, but it is true. Yet, comprehend this, we’re loved as we are!
Times when trauma was so real, part of ourselves split off. Part of ourselves is now sensitive to the kind of stimulus that triggers. And all of us have triggers!
Awareness is our key, as we protect ourselves, being honest with ourselves, and therefore we have the capacity to live into the Great Healing, which spins out into the lives of others. If they know our weakness, and how we’re triggered, they’re invited into the Great Acceptance. Awareness of the pain we bear in our grief, for there is only healing as we meet that acceptance, to begin a journey by faith into healing.
Faith? Why?
To go into pain in order to release pain.
That requires faith.
To believe it’s worth it… that healing is possible.
The Great Acceptance is the unconditional love that you and I both deserve, yet we must earn, through the other person’s choice of trust. We can only invite them.
It all starts with the reality, it happened.
It really did!
It cannot be undone. What is, is. As we accept it, we no longer need to be in a reality of denial.
I truly wonder how many hurt people there are in society who make nothing of what happened to them, and then they disallow others calling truth on their pasts.
The greatest kindness anyone can do
is allow another person their experience.
We cannot enter a process of healing unless we can begin to face our tyrant — the triggering event. Many times, the goal is not about becoming healed, for, as Christians at least, we believe that occurs in glory after we die. Yet, we can journey further in the Great Knowing, the Great Healing and the Great Acceptance.
For some reading this, the issue is present tense: it is happening. Hold on. You will make it!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Humanity’s Most Redemptive Word

Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

The most valuable thing you ever can say is sorry. If the first line was the only thing you read today, your life would be better for it.
There is not a day goes past that I do not say sorry, because I make mistakes and errors and I hurt people, whether I do it intentionally or not.
It reminds me of the family video that was recorded at Christmas time many years ago. As I watched myself interacting with my in-laws, even a few days afterward, I recall feeling ashamed for how ‘privileged’ I came across. I recall feeling that I was a poor reflection on the upbringing my parents had given me. I was surly, passively aggressive, and there was so much grace extended toward me. Yet I didn’t reciprocate. The family kept loving me despite my lack of respect. I’m thankful for this vision, for it inspires an apology that I can give today that is over 20 years in the making.
Then I consider another conflict barely a week old, and how I acquitted myself, and though the dust has settled, I still have one more apology to make, and I wasn’t apparently ‘in the wrong’.
It just goes to show that in most conflicts there are things we both could have done better.
Giving apologies,
in most circumstances,
breathes life into relationships.
Sure, there are exceptions; people who will take full advantage of such an apology. But even then, we are on the side of life in telling on our wrong. God always blesses the bidding of those who bid for Him.
The more I think about what power there is in relationships, the more I’m led to believe in the power of the word sorry sincerely communicated.
An apology that addresses everyone involved, isn’t diluted in ifs, buts and maybes, that admits the specific fault, acknowledges the depth of hurt, accepts the consequences be what they may, that promises to alter behaviour, and seeks forgiveness, is exactly what we all need to communicate and to hear… one to another… and so often. Such an apology is a PeaceWise apology.
Imagine the grace of God in the ability and capacity to say sorry even when we don’t need to. I can tell you that notwithstanding the common smile there is no more powerful way of building rapport than through the word sorry. Such a word doesn’t convey that all the wrong was on our side, nor does it convey that we are even wrong, but it does convey that we care about the other person and our potential impact on them.
See how the word sorry is so nuanced?
See how the word sorry elevates the relationship above the issue?
See how redemptive a word sorry is?
See how empowering the word sorry is,
especially in our relationships where we may
overpower people or where we may have
more power than the other person?
See how the word sorry equalises us relationally?
If we truly care for justice, we will first and foremost care about the injustices we execute. And when we truly care about how we affect others in our interactions, we will finally have the relational influence we’ve always sought. But then we will recognise that influence doesn’t come from trying to control people, but that influence comes from letting them go and holding ourselves to account.
The real majesty in the word sorry is the inside job that is done when we humbly apologise. Suddenly remorse is dealt with, and resentments cannot mount in others when restitution has been delivered.
If only we could say sorry for every hurt we have ever thrown,
and if only we could forgive every hurt we’ve suffered.
Although in faith we are perfectly redeemed,
in reality we would experience complete freedom.
Here is something to focus on:
Sorrow for things we did wrong only really remains yesterday, because, having been forgiven, with a relationship restored, and trust rebuilt, we are free to enjoy ‘us’ again.
See how important a true, heartfelt, unconditional apology is?
It is the lifeblood and the wellspring of all relationships.
Our lives are made
all the more abundant when,
through apology, we love one another.
Saying sorry is no weakness.
It is the beginning of new strength.
Saying sorry communicates WE mean more than ME.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Because I Refuse, It Is No Excuse, To Abuse Me

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

First, my disclaimer: I do not write this about you or because I have a particular axe to grind. What I write is general advice. This is a general wisdom to help make your life better by making other lives better.
I need to write this in the first person. I want you to read this as if it is between me and you. Then imagine every other person you are in close contact with saying these words, and not just you saying these words to every other person you are in close contact with.
These are clear and simple relationship considerations that apply in all relationships.
Here goes:
My kindness towards you is no excuse to abuse me. I offer my generosity, because I can, because I want to love you, because I would like to offer that to you, not because I respect you more than any other person, but because I wish to respect you like every other person. My offer of generosity is a common love you are worthy of, but your abuse of that love will affect my deployment of love.
If you prove untrustworthy of the love I want to give you — a love every human being is worthy of in the sight of God — it has to affect how we relate with each other. My love is my vulnerability toward you. It is my invitation for you to know me better. It is my invitation for you, but please do not read these words as meaning anything else than an invitation to know me better at a level where you may reciprocate my love and respect toward you.
My vulnerability is no excuse to abuse me.
My invitation is no reason to cross my boundary.
My offer of love toward you is not saying come and do as you please.
Our whole relationship is dependent upon how we receive each other. If you offer to love me and I betray that love by crossing an easily predicted boundary I do not deserve your love and trust. Please give me information regarding how you perceive my behaviour. Help me know if I am trustworthy or not.
My aim, as we get to know each other more, is to give you information regarding how our relationship is going. I will give you this information is gently as I can. If you do not like what you hear, please let me know as gently as you can, but please don’t use my words against me when I wish to communicate an important truth that is intended to build our relationship. When I give you challenging information about us it is not intended to undermine or destroy you. It is an offer from me to you. I understand if you need to take this information away and think about it. Ponder it and reason about it. Pray about it. But please do not react without thought for me or for others close to us.
Ultimately both you and I have responsibilities
to ourselves, to each other, and to others.
What I am saying in all of this, as we relate with each other, having the privilege to know each other, is please take your responsibility as I take mine.
Relationship is an invitation to take responsibility;
you for you, me for me, us for us.
Please take yours as I take mine.
Relationship is an invitation into maturity.
Just because I refuse you something, it is no excuse to abuse me. Just because I, with the power of my choice, choose a particular course of action does not give you rights to respond in any way you wish.
If you do not like my choice, you may discuss it with me, but be respectfully gentle and kind, and please acknowledge my boundary, which gives me the right of my choice.
Our relationships prosper when we respect the rights of the choice the other person makes.

Our relationship with each other is about mutual enjoyment. It is not just about you or me, it is about both of us being safe and content.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The seasons of grief as we experience them

Photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash
Anyone who’s ever grieved can tell you it’s not a linear process. It’s plain messy. There are so many emotions, and so many states of confusion, intermingled with fleeting fancies that never prove real, interwoven through depression and anger, and just so many more indivisible states of being.
We have often thought about trying to use the four seasons with which to describe grief, and indeed we can now frame our grief in these ways in the upcoming Silent Grief Conference.
For us, Autumn represented the shock of a new revelation — those very seconds when you hear words you’re never prepared in yourself to hear as they teem out of the doctor’s mouth. It’s one of those moments you discover is always potentially there, but, you mistakenly think, just happens to other people. We weren’t ready for it, but somehow eternity spoke in that moment, for, because it is now our historical experience, we accept it as our truth. We possess it. Like the giant oak that collapses with a thud on the forest floor that spreads its acorns over a huge distance, our loss God had granted to us, not simply for the pain of death, but to birth new life in us.
Then came winter; that reality of a frost that bit, and, like a steel sword frozen within its leather sheath, it refused to let go. Through the days of our grief there were fragments of time in the winter place. And there were whole inexplicable days. Days of depression, where all life ebbed away. Times we were inconsolable.
Spring is an unusual, albeit welcome, time in the seasons of grief cycle. Suddenly the things we long hoped for come into view, yet usually in the strangest of ways and in manifestations we could never have predicted. This new life that has its genesis out of deferred hope, which can make the heart sick, gives the heart its longest hope, which is the answer to a prayer we have long forgotten to pray. See how God is just so faithful?
Summer is the presence of peace, enjoyed through hope initially, and then through lived experience ultimately. Even though the grief takes far longer to process than we ever realise, it does have its use-by-date. The rawness of grief is ultimately transfigured into a new normal we find palatable.
All the seasons of grief are important, because without autumn we don’t learn the shocking potential that underpins life in a broken world. Without winter we don’t learn to truly depend on God. Without spring we don’t experience the realisation of hope crucial in rewarding and motivating faith. And without full bloom of summer, we don’t live life to its fullest.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Why is there so little care?

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

On the heels of a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse there is a royal commission mooted for the widespread problems in the aged care sector. Just as not every institution let children down, not every aged care facility is derelict in their discharge of their duty of care.
But the issues are broad enough. There are tens of thousands of people genuinely grieving for the plight of their elderly relative, just as there are tens of thousands of people who have in some way suffered abuse, either as a child or adult or both. For many, they endure within hellish environs.
It’s hard to determine whether the abuse is worse than ever or whether it’s just better reported these days; possibly both amongst other factors. And these issues, although they are incredibly grave, are the tip of the iceberg. There are refugees, the lost and stolen generations, the methamphetamine epidemic, the crisis surrounding mental health and suicide, and a silent grief suffered in myriad ways winning the scope of millions of voiceless lives.
This article is not intended to depress you,
I just ask a simple question:
why is there so little care?
Why is it that those we have come to rely upon have so sorely let us down? How is it that we have slipped so far in terms of care and protection for the vulnerable? If the problems are genuinely systemic, why are so many complicit to silence?
Well, it is debatable whether we have ever cared for the vulnerable as we should have? Now, thanks to investigative journalism and social media, we know we don’t. At least we know. We should wonder how bad any of these issues were 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. Oh, that’s right, the issues were just as bad back then, and in many ways, we are only finding out now! All those decades of the abused suffering in silence. And it’s only those who are in the immediacy of suffering who truly have some grasp of the state we’re in.
We arrived at the point where we wonder where the world is going if it has always been this way, either blissfully unaware of horrors taking place in plain sight or painfully aware of the secret horrors exposed.
Any caring person who has a stake in life is gravely concerned with the status quo, but that grave concern grows tangentially when that caring person, or those they care about, is embroiled as a victim themselves.
First-hand experience of the horrors of abuse
take people on a disparate path toward
an entirely alienating destiny.
First-hand experience is, of itself, unbelievable within the perception, yet entirely believable by fact. Little wonder there is so much post-traumatic stress and the associated disorder.
We learn to care very much when we are wrapped up in some kind of travesty. We may have always cared, but along with the tangential journey that ramps up in crisis, our care ramps up in the concern of a simmering outrage and an indignation beyond words.
So, what can we do? What are we to do when we are faced with such dilemmas of conscience and reality. Somehow, we need to protect what we care about, and even the level of our care. We are easily jaded, and in social media world we too easily inflict our outrage on those we have next to no relationship with.
If we believe in Jesus, we believe that he will return soon and completely transform the earth and bring all injustice to Judgment.
In the meantime, we are charged with caring for everything within our sphere of influence within the bounded limitations we all are personally encumbered by.
Part of it is caring enough
not to be complacent,
whilst not caring so much to be
burned-out with compassion fatigue.
The world needs compassion and kindness and gracious love and gentleness, all these and more.
Our world and our lives will be judged on how we treated the vulnerable. This is something to be seriously reflected upon. It starts from each one of us. We are not powerless, indeed, we within our own lives are very powerful. Are we patient? Are we kind? Are we compassionate within our fallen world?
The object of life in today’s world is to care enough to make the difference we can, whilst not caring so much that the abuses we see and experience destroy us.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Bear your pain, share your kindness

Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

Pain has taught me something in the realm of people: the kindest people have learned to bear their pain, and in bearing their own pain they have discovered the capability to bear others’ pain, also.
With such an enlarged reservoir to bear their own burdens, they inadvertently developed copious reserves for the burdens of others. This is the Mother Teresa type. This is the type of person that absolutely oozes Jesus.
There is space within them within which
anyone can comfortably reside.
The person who has gone from the impetus and genesis of pain, and having used it, to the product of healing, has discovered for themselves, and is a witness for others, of the true purpose for and meaning of life. Nothing else does this person need. They have absolutely everything God could offer.
They learned that despising their pain made no sense as an outcome, even if being angry about the presence of their pain seemed to make sense at the time. They have learned the wisdom of the ages.
They have learned that kindness is the only worthy destiny
for those who have suffered much pain.
Resolving their pain at the destination of acceptance
meant that God’s wisdom camped at their address.
Indeed, God would have us know, that though we live in a failing world, broken in more ways than we can know, He gives to us this kind of world in order that we would transcend the despair of it all, and move on in pragmatic hope that we, too, can be kind, just as the Lord Jesus was kind.
It is a simple matter, then, to come to the realisation that pain is the activator for going on in the graciousness of kindness. But it is only those who have rummaged with and have wrestled with and, to also an extent, have been defeated by their pain, who have arrived at kindness on the other side.
We can only be kind in a consistent way when we have learned how to safely enter and deal with our pain.
Only as we learn to bear our personal pain
are we able to bear interpersonal pain.
Only as we deal with our personal pain
are we given the capacity to contain others’ pain.
Only as we heal can we be used as instruments
of the Holy Spirit to absorb the hurt of others
through acts of surrender unto kindness.
Only when others experience the grace
of the Holy Spirit in us do they entrust
their hurt to God one more time.
The whole purpose of life is to be able to get along with others, and we cannot truly do that until we realise that we are the ones who make getting along with others hard. Pain is meant to make us sit up and take notice.
Without pain there is no healing,
and those who reject healing
deny the pain present in us all.
The challenge that stands before us is that of taking responsibility for our pain. It may not be our fault, that which we have endured, but we are the ones charged with accepting God’s invitation into to deal with its effects.
So, next time you’re asking yourself, who are the kind people in my life, ask yourself also if it is the people who have suffered much but have also overcome their suffering to the point of not resenting it. Is it not the person who has borne more than the usual portion of purgatory?
The kindest people alive can bear much pain,
and they do, ensuring that pain
does not have the final word.
The kindest people can bear much pain,
and in bearing their own pain,
they can bear yours and mine,
and in such strength out of their weakness,
they share their plenteous kindness.

Kindness is the portion of those who
can neither be threatened nor threaten.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Be in the Business of Restoration

Photo by Dietmar Becker on Unsplash

If you have read me recently, you may have detected that I have been struggling; weighed down by the burden of what felt like significant discouragement.
Yet, of course, all I needed to do was challenge and change my bearing. In merely a few moments, that bearing has been restored. It’s like the time when everyone is telling you you’re heading off course, and you somehow know it, but frustratingly you don’t know how to get back on course.
When you read of this restoration,
you will see why it worked:
So much of the time in our lives
we look for results,
when all life asks of us is simply
to make our offering.
For some time, I have been jaded because of the negative results I seem to have gotten, of recent. Of course, this negates the many positive results that have happened in the meantime; but we don’t focus on those do we?
I was given a Word:
we are sowers, not reapers,
for God, alone, is the reaper.
Our example is the Father: the father in the parable of the prodigal son. He gave away half his estate without question, and even as one of his lads squandered this portion of his fortune, the Father willingly accepted him back, indeed, he was overjoyed at his prodigal son’s return. I know as a father I do not behave like this often enough, but I know I need to more often, to love my children, and all God’s children in the same manner, by simply sowing without expectation of a return. It is only with this sort of attitude that I can maintain my joyful service to humanity under God.
This is the love that the Father asks of us in our relationships, to initiate with love, and to respond with grace.
Initiate with love. Respond with grace.
Taken further, I want to suggest it’s like this:
Everything we initiate we are to do with unconditional love,
as if nobody has ever disappointed us.
We give people the choice, even our own children, because they need to learn how to fail and often. If they don’t learn to fail and often, they won’t learn the relevance God in their lives. If they don’t learn the relevance of God in their lives they will never be saved. And the relevance of God in our lives is for restoration. Saving is restoration.
God is restorative. Salvation is restorative.
With everything that we receive,
including the hurtful things,
we respond with grace.
It doesn’t mean we need to keep trusting or even stay in relationship with those people who abuse us. God wants us empowered to develop, implement and use wise boundaries. But when we respond with grace, we prove a power rules in us that is more potent than anything. As we absorb abuse in the moment, trusting God will rescue us at the right time, we show our persecutor that we are not merely flesh and blood; they war with the spiritual leviathan of Jesus in us who can absorb so much.
Absorb the chaos of the moment, reflect and recollect,
and respond in grace,
which can be a firm boundary,
but executed with the power of love.
Absorb the momentary abuse.
But don’t continue to allow it.
Now, everyone around me seems to be in the business of restoration, whether it is restoring a kitchen, or a home, or a car, or even their own body. Everyone, it seems to me, has a goal around restoration. And those that don’t are usually taking a break or they are so imbalanced as to have given up.
If we agree that our purpose in life is restoration — and that purpose runs beyond restoring things, and enters into the domain of restoring people — then we join forces with the most powerful drive known to humankind.
We agree that we want to be restored.
As soon as we express the desire that we want to be restored, we begin to change the way we operate, entering into a kind of contract with God. We pledge our allegiance, and we let His restorative work begin in us and through us. It must start this way. We allow Him to restore us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually through our submitting to and abiding in His truth that He loves us and wishes the best for us. Once this work is started, we recognise that he wants to restore us in the eyes of others, just as we see that He wants to restore them too.
Before long, we see that God
is in the restoration business.
He is the Master Restorer.
He calls us to join His business. This is not about being told what we must do, and it certainly isn’t about telling others what they must do.
Restoration is an operation of love.
Restoration is a mindset whereby we envision goodness and wonder and abundance which together are a tree of life. When we see through the eyes of restoration, we see potential, and we see the purpose in things, and we begin to see like the Father, seeing everyone as 10 out of 10. Only when we see everyone like this will we have any power for restoration in God’s kingdom.
Without a restoration focus we cannot see what God wishes us to see in every person and in every situation; to bring everything into polished completion.
If we are not building for restoration,
we are tearing down through destruction.
We either move forwards or backwards. And God gives us the choice. At any given moment we are restorers or destroyers. So, which will it be?
We are encouraged to be in the business of restoration.
Love is life for all. We can only give love when we give as if nobody has ever hurt us. And though we have been hurt, we aren’t forced to respond from hurt.
We can respond with grace.
Initiate with love. Respond with grace.

Acknowledgement to Pastor Nick Rensen.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Why you and me doesn’t equal three

‘The Good Ship Intrepid’
Art therapy class taught me a lot. It consisted of a period of reflective expression in the form of a created piece of art, which was followed by a period of group therapy.
It was amazing what took place through sharing what we had drawn, written, painted or sculpted.
In a class of a dozen pupils sitting in a circle, all looking at each other’s work, it was incredible the divergences in thought from one person to another to another. Finally, the therapist facilitator who moderated the group would arbitrate discussion and ask poignant therapy-related questions that always proved to us that our feedback about others’ work was always more about where we were at than where they were at. It was a remarkably salient lesson.
The fact is we often think we know
what others are thinking and feeling —
in fact we’re geared to perceive that very thing —
but we don’t. We must check assumptions.
This is foundational in being an effective counsellor.
Here’s a term for you: introjection: the unconscious adoption of the ideas and attitudes of others.
It’s a simple definition of a complex theory. It can describe so many behavioural manifestations.
For the present purpose, we can simply imagine that we perceive others through our own filter, and because our own filter is obviously different to others, we run the danger of assuming we know a truth about them when we can be far off knowing at all.
This happens commonly around romantic attractions, when we think someone is attracted to us but in fact they aren’t, or when we imagine people are thinking or saying certain things about us when they really aren’t.
Then there’s the stuff pastors say. People may sit in a sermon, for instance, and one will pick up the emphasis on the Holy Spirit, another how witty the pastor was, and another will be stopped in their tracks by something she or he said at the ten-minute mark.
The point is, we’re all subconsciously
looking for different things.
It explains why pastors have often been so confused at the end of their messages when someone comes up to them and says, ‘thank you for saying such and such,’ and such and such was never said.
Pastors who acknowledge this are mystified by it. Part of that I’m sure is the Holy Spirit, but a big part of it is also about what is going on internally, and our unconscious needs that are suddenly piqued and drawn to our conscious awareness.
Going back to my Art therapy days, take a closer look at one of my pieces in the photograph above. There are a number of things you will notice about this. It’s a picture of a ship at sea on a cloudy day. But there’s much more information in the picture, isn’t there?
You could see the dark clouds and interject something dark or lonely or fearful about me, and you could be right. But one thing you’re almost certainly going to overlook is what darkness, loneliness and fear you feel in looking at my work.
See how my work (or my words) or another’s work (or words) can be read in the way only you read them and then you depict that way of seeing things as the author’s intent — when it almost certainly wasn’t? It wasn’t my view perhaps at all, but yours. It could be what I’m saying, but not entirely.
You can only see what you can see.
I can only communicate myself with a limited sense of clarity.
You will read into what I say with how you see the world.
It’s a bit like what I write.
I can only write what I write, and what
I feel God impresses on me to write.
The reader knows me through their experience as I have interacted with them in their life. All of this I’m completely unaware of. I cannot possibly know your unique circumstances. I cannot even pretend to know.
The truth is I’m not writing about you, even if it seems that I am. The danger in introjecting what I write is you can ascribe power to me that I do not have. Or, you may think I’m referring to such and such a thing because of your experience (good, bad, or otherwise) of me, because at some time in the past you knew me, or you know me now, and you think you know what I’m thinking. Of course, you could be right, but the probabilities are pretty slim. Am I actually saying what I’m saying, that is the question. Of course, I am saying what I’m saying to you, because it means that to you. But I am not a mind reader. Indeed, the more you know me, the less you might truly understand why I write what I write.
If this has confused you, please forgive me. Let me put it plainly.
We cannot control the thoughts of others when they add two and two about us and arrive at fourteen.
Sometimes people arrive at perceptions about us and it’s more because of what’s going on in them than what’s going on in us. Just stay faithful, committed to loving everyone the same, and to being kind no matter what, even if people think you’re being unkind.
It’s good to become aware of our introjections and not to externalise them.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Realities Christians don’t like about Being Christian

Photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash

Selling the Christian faith has come to be one of the core competencies of evangelicals. This has its roots in extending Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) within the circles of our influence.
But, there are parts of the faith-life that don’t always sit well. These are some of the realities that Christians can struggle with:
1.                 Prayers aren’t always answered to our satisfaction. I don’t know any faith-followers of God who enjoy having their prayers answered contrary to what they desire. But God is sovereign, and though we are commanded to pray, none of us can control God through our prayers. This is why prayer involves such supreme faith. It reminds us to pray more holistically, like using the Jesus Prayer,[1] or to pray prayers of praise and thanksgiving, or to pray for the knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out. Prayer isn’t just about us pleading our ‘shopping lists’ before Him. It is also God’s language to us.
2.                 Non-believers often cannot be ‘influenced’. We don’t need to be Christians very long to come face-to-face with the fact that we peddle an unpopular message. It is only those that the Spirit has already been working in who are ripe for the gospel. This is a reality we’re both forced to accept as well as accept that we cannot force anyone to come to faith.
3.                 Christians can seem to suffer more than those who don’t believe. Christians do suffer: John Wesley said, “One of the greatest evidences of God’s love to those that love him is to send them afflictions, with grace to bear them.  So, there are two parts to this one evidence; the fact of afflictions that often come as persecutions, and the grace Christians receive with which to bear them. Being a Jesus follower doesn’t mean that we thrive in our suffering. Nobody does. But it is a biblical idea to consider it pure joy when we suffer trials of many kinds (James 1:2-4). 
4.                 Christians can’t sin and be happy in their sinning. Yes, this is correct. For those who have the Holy Spirit, there is the conviction of the Spirit. A Christian’s conscience won’t allow them to revel in wickedness. This leaves the believer in the unenviable position that they feel guilty for what others may deem as fun. The conscience is piqued.
5.                 Christians can’t stop sinning. It must bemuse the world when it imagines Christians being ‘perfect’ in God, yet as they watch on there are so many Christians that seem hypocritical. As followers of Jesus we sit on a knife’s edge straddling two opposed truths: we are sinners, but we are called beyond our sin. The only difference is the Christian accepts they’re a sinner, whilst the world either doesn’t accept this fact (as a truth about self) and/or doesn’t care.
6.                 Christians are often frustrated with the church. But just as much are we frustrated by how the church is perceived in the world. We know that the church is precious to God, and that it grieves God’s Spirit when the church is defamed. But Christians know full well that the church is corruptible, because it is run by a humanity under the direction of God but not always in submission to Him. If power gets to a person’s head, that power is wielded sinfully. It’s misused and abused. The only hope for the church is that it truly operates with Christ as its head.
7.                 Christians are usually unable to answer non-believers’ questions. Most Christians will struggle to answer theological questions to the satisfaction of those who ask them. It is easy to miss the mark or to miss the timing or to not get our words right. But the point of living the authentic Christlike life is not in what we say, but in what we do and how we do it; in how we live our lives.
8.                 Christians cannot seem to prove God to those who insist He is not real. This really irks some in the faith. They love their doctrines but cannot seem to make some people budge. These same people will only be convinced by God Himself.
9.                 Christians are just as prone to addictions, despair, disappointments, and failure as anyone is. Perhaps more so in many cases. When we place our hope in God it’s easy to lose sight that we face the same temptations that are common to life. We all face the same kinds of enticements. We’re all tempted into envy and greed and lust and pride. And we all fall for these traps, Christian or not.
10.              Christians don’t have any excuse to lash out at people. This doesn’t stop some Christians. But people who follow Christ absorb the hurts cast toward them and they attempt to process their hurts in positive ways. There are times, like for anyone made of feelings and flesh, when we’d like to have our revenge. But we’re told that it’s God’s prerogative to avenge.
Christian faith can be as much about truly accepting the inconvenient and uncomfortable realities of life as enjoying the favour of God’s grace. But it is not without cost. Indeed, new Christians ought to know that the genuine life in Jesus is costly, but of course the rewards far outweigh the costs.
And please don’t get me wrong, most Christians wouldn’t have their lives any other way.
These realities that Christians don’t like about being Christian are paradoxically and precisely what mature them in the faith.

[1] The Jesus Prayer is, “Christ Jesus my Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. AMEN.”