What It's About

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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Grief – Journey Through Brokenness Into Healing

LONG, long ago it seems, I was given the vision of grief as an invitation onto the Intrepid — a barely seaworthy vessel — to mount the furious whitecaps of open ocean. Like a bathtub, the vessel I was aboard, seemed so defenceless against the frenzied waves as they licked and lapped at its hull. As I continued to bob and float, somehow managing not to sink nor take on too much water, and despite my seasickness (yes, I do get seasick!), I became aware of the resilience of my vessel, Intrepid.
The longer I managed to float, in spite of the temerity of the swell and roughness of the seas, the more confident I came to feel about my chances of surviving to find dry land. I had gotten so used to feeling sick I was no longer bothered as much by it. My perspective was changing the longer I sojourned the voyage. I was adapting to my environment.
Suddenly there was land in sight. Yet the closer I got to the land the weaker I was feeling. I felt as though I’d die half a step before the finish of this great race.
The next moment I was on my back, struggling to breathe, with people all around me, some trying to revive me. And the following moment I recall — having drifted again into unconsciousness — telling my story… aboard Intrepid.
The Vision Explained Through Real and Raw Experience of Grief
Intrepid is the journey that is our lives with God. Life is the sea, and God is in the sea too, given he’s created everything. The most significant part of the vision is the length of the journey — notice that the longer the journey went, the more confidence I came to have that I’d not sink and be drowned.
The point was not how long I had to endure the grief.
The point was, with God’s help, the longer the grief lasted, the more I was mastering it.
If I’d have died out there on the crests and troughs, God would have taken me to heaven; no loss there for me, only for others who love me. Physical death isn’t what we should be most afraid of — it’s spiritual death of never knowing God we ought to most fear.
The length of the journey out on those wild seas wasn’t to be lamented. The length of the journey out there, away from safe land, taught me something I’d never have known or seen if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. My adapting to my environment was an eternal compensation in this life for what I’d eternally lost — my lost-to-self life; a loss that’s actually a gain.
God was making me stronger for the knowledge of his faithfulness; his unforsaken love couldn’t be seen unless I had every other crutch of my own removed.
I couldn’t understand how faithful a vessel God had given me in Intrepid unless I actually experienced her seaworthiness in the heat of battle. God was with me in Intrepid, all the way, in every way.
In seeing his faithfulness, gaining more and more confidence in him the longer I sojourned, my anxious heart learned to be still. My mind came to accept that life is life, nothing more, nothing less. My mind and heart agreed: trust God in everything.
Grief’s Purpose: to Usher Us, Through Invitation, Into Healing
Grief is an opportunity at healing we’d never get otherwise. Because we have much to be healed, yet we’d never otherwise know, God will allow grief to occur in our lives, so we must trust him. We’d have no reason or call to trust him otherwise.
Intrepid is the passage of faith through life that comes into its own the moment we’re struck by grief.
To be healed of our states of implicit brokenness we must lose everything before we can hope to gain what is truly of value: a true God-shaped perspective for life, without which our lives would be, and have been, utterly forlorn. Only as we stand back from this view are we able to hold both lives in vivid contrast: the life without dependence on God — a life that was vapid in vainglory — and the life with God truly in charge. Once we have the latter we’d never be tempted to go back to the former.
So we have before us two quite striking images. One life that was sailed over the crystal clear ponds without as much as a whisper of hardship — though there were hardships, but we made our own way in prideful ignorance to their meaning in our lives. The other encountered the surreptitious seas first by complaint, then by a surly resolve, then by a calmed acceptance. But the passage to the latter was only possible with God.
The longer we survived the harshest of environments, the more we realised our capacity for resilience.
The longer we grieved the more we saw the purpose in it; to learn that we could cope with any reality of life. And that’s healing; to know we’ve got the capacity to bear anything life could throw at us — with God, not without.
Grief is the invitation to journey through the barren lands of brokenness into the eventual hiatus of healing.
Healing’s not a destination, but a journey sojourning with God, happy with his provision, ever won to doing his will.
Grief’s purpose is to traverse us from self-dependence to God-dependence; from self-consciousness to God-consciousness. Until we’re found we’ll ever be lost.
Grief is the opportunity to adapt to a new environment; the way life has now become. It’s not the end of what was glorious. It’s glorious that a self-dependent life has ended.
Grief shows us that we can live life under any and all circumstances, where adaptation is maturity, and contented acceptance is our soul’s salvation.
Grief shows us where Jesus walks, and where Jesus walks we’re shown how to walk our grief by faith into healing.
Grief’s healing is the manifestation of walking the life of reality with authenticity. The more authenticity we’re blessed with, the more grief we’ll see, experience, and be equipped to handle.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

7 Facts of Irony About Forgiveness

COUNTERINTUITIVE. That’s forgiveness. We fight a battle in the spiritual realm — a warfare manifest over the emotions — whenever we wrestle around forgiveness. And if we’re Christian we wrestle because we must. Any outcome short of forgiveness is untenable. That’s the hard part. There are some situations in our lives when we’re offended at the very thought of forgiving someone; we get so hurt. The anger in that attitude should be the golden clue to what we need to do: let go and forget. Move on, for our own benefit.
Anger is a noxious weed that will strangle the life of the little flower of forgiveness. Enslaved to anger we’ll be eroded from the inside out. But letting go of anger is managed by forgetting the transgression. We lay down our anger, because God has laid down his anger toward us (Matthew 6:9-15).
Here are seven astoundingly ironic facts about forgiveness:
1.     Forgiveness is a contradiction. To address conflict we must attend to disharmony by harmony, and love past our indifference. Safety’s created by a risk. We give up our right to stay bitter to take up our responsibility to bless the person who’s wronged us.
2.     Forgiveness is a paradox. We must practice it over and over again, pretending to be its master, before we actually master it. When we practice something we don’t know will work we work by faith. Nothing less than faith pleases God. But remember how big faith is — the size of a mustard seed (Luke 17:6).
3.     Forgiveness is an irony. The more we speak about it, the less we do it. Forgiveness is love in action. But bitterness betrays love’s action. Bitterness rehearses the wrong done to us. Bitterness seems strong. The irony is love is so much stronger.
4.     Forgiveness is an anomaly. It never feels right to do it, but it’s always a blessing when it’s done. Much faith is much love is much healing. An anomaly is usually something wrong. It feels wrong. Not until we actually do it do we realise what feels wrong is actually never more right.
5.     Forgiveness is an enigma. How does knowing it and doing it help how we feel? The enigma is demystified when we see love in our heart has replaced negativity in our preoccupied mind. Forgiveness is an enigma because when we do it love fills our hearts replacing all that anger. Anger is driven by the fear of inferiority, of being abandoned, and of missing out, rooted in the deep abyss of envy.
6.     Forgiveness is antinomy. To forgive is absurd to the worldly, but it’s the law of life for the believer. The enemy will try to confuse us. He will justify our anger. But we ought to know that God so often works in the reverse of logic.
7.     Forgiveness is an anachronism. It seems at first we’re out of step with time, taking the humble path. But the humble path is the pathway to exaltation — of the person forgiven, of the relationship, and finally of ourselves. Forgiveness seems far too generous of spirit to be worthy to make sense of justice. It’s a kindness of yesteryear that is eternally appropriate, but one we never see in those terms until we’ve offered that sort of grace.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

9 Things To Do Before You Contemplate Marriage

THIS article is inspired by the following quote from a post called, Please Don’t Marry Him.
“Never marry someone hoping they will change. Marry someone because they have already changed.”
— Gary Thomas
Not wanting to be unfair to many singles I know who all deserve the blessings of marriage (should they want them), I still feel compelled to write an article based on my own experiences of marriage — my failures and foibles at the fore.
1.     Do all your changing before marrying: this is about overcoming the majority of high-need issues in your life before you commit to another broken individual.
2.     Don’t marry someone who’s in a flux of change: it’s important that if you’re stabilised in single life, having dealt with your own main emotional, relational, and spiritual issues, that you don’t commit to someone who’s not done that work.
3.     Do get honest feedback from those you trust: it’s truly what you may not want to hear. The fact that you don’t want to hear the truth indicates there could be a problem. Listen courageously and promise yourself to be open. If trusted wise advisers give you the thumbs up it’s probably a good thing.
4.     Don’t listen to those people whose opinions don’t matter: we all have people in our lives whose opinions don’t matter, yet our problem is we tend to listen to nobody or everybody. Self-discipline knows sensible limits. Give no regard to some opinions other than those that align with trusted wise advisers.
5.     Do expect the unexpected: marriage is a blessed institution for those who are prepared to work hard at it, for those who will hope for the best whilst planning for the worst.
6.     Don’t expect your partner to stay the same after marriage: actually things may get worse. You’re probably over the romance stage of the relationship in getting married, but actually living with someone brings the crudest of truths to bear. Living with another person is hard work, especially with all the layers of emotion and control that can be overlaid. Once you’re married, the deed is done, and the person can become someone you never predicted you’d ever marry.
7.     Do talk a lot with the person you’re contemplating marrying: discussion dating is a great way to talk about all sorts of items crucial to marriage. There are so many — hundreds, if not thousands — of considerations and decisions to be made before the proposal is made. How many kids, who’ll put the rubbish out, how to interact with parents (in-laws), etc? All of these are potentially massive issues in and of their own right.
8.     Don’t engage in inappropriate physical relationship: engaging in a physical relationship assumes marriage in a crucial part of the relationship. The physical relationship is a runaway train. It takes the relationship into a de facto/marital realm far too quickly. We can’t possibly know all we need to know in the time it takes to jump into bed with one another.
9.     Do take your time: time is something we never think we have plenty of, but the truth is we do have plenty of time to make one of the most important decisions of our lives.
If the best of marriages will face significant pressure, the average marriage will sputter and fail. Don’t settle for an average marriage. You and your potential partner deserve more — so do your kids.
Good marriages occur because a good amount of work goes into them a good amount of the time.
Great marriages involve commitment, hard work, quality time, sexual wholeness, and emotional maturity — and God central.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Love, and How Woefully I Fail It

I, OF ALL PEOPLE, should recognise the truth in this following quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the famed Welsh preacher and medical doctor:
“I would say that people who emphasise love for others in their teaching are those who of all others must watch that they are not bitter in their spirit. They may be more bitter in their spirit than those who are not pacifists, because that is the central thing on which they concentrate.”
I say I should recognise the truth in Dr Lloyd-Jones’ more than most, and I did. It hit me square in the heart as I read his commentary on the Letters of John.
It’s true. My pacifist heart is quickly enraged in unhelpful ways and I’m quickly bitter for the injustices of love-gone-wrong. So very quickly I’m found judging those who may actually be very well intended, but whose results may waver by looking not so loving. Recently, a mentor of mine — a pastoral supervisor — enquired what others’ perceptions of me could be when I play the indignant ‘advocate’ role.
Our loving intent to set a wrong right can so easily backfire.
I was challenged by Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ quote because it struck me as true. I bang on about the importance of Jesus’ last command: “love one another as I have loved you…” Yet, if in my spruiking love I fail love, what benefit has my spruiking for love been? I’ve just been a hypocrite — the worst kind of pacifist.
Lloyd-Jones makes the point that those that advocate so virulently for love make of themselves special targets of Satan. The more righteous we present, the more self-righteous Satan wants to present us as.
If we’re special targets of the enemy we have to expect that our intended love will be shown for what it is; not without some form of selfish intent.
Some of my advocacy is motivated out of the bad things that have happened to me where I vowed I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the indignities I have. The trouble is I can become my own worst enemy. Love for others may easily become something more about me. It’s something I have to be ever on guard about.
Love is action, finely balanced as to never miss the mark, nor offend.
Love is something that means more in deed than word, action than promise, and doing than saying. Love is truth in action.
Love is tuned to the instrument of mutual respect.
Love is as Jesus was; he didn’t demand he be treated like God, becoming nothing, worse than that; death on a cross.
Love is the giving up of our own needs for the needs of someone who is giving up.
Love is even being prepared to like someone again even though they’ve hurt us in the past. That’s forgiveness.
Most of all, if we proclaim love, we probably do so because we’ve been so hurt in the past.
Love holds everything lightly. If we love the concept of love too much, we may find we’re quickly embittered when others fail love.
Love never gets bitter when people fail love. Love forgives as love knows how hard people work to get love right.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Though You Stumble and Fall

You may stumble and fall,
And whilst you dust yourself off,
You’ll still wish to grow tall,
Just don’t slump into a trough.
For we all do stumble,
Every now and then,
It’s how we’re kept humble,
Whether we’re women or men.
God will do so much,
For those who appease,
For those who touch,
Others’ burdens to relieve.
So don’t worry if you stumble,
Don’t worry if you fall,
Be cheerful and don’t grumble,
In humility, walk tall.
It won’t always feel,
Quite as hard as this,
Keep being real,
And God will return you to bliss.
So there you go,
Keep being real,
The towel you’re tempted to throw,
Is your opportunity to feel.
What can we say when we fall short other than, “Lord, use this indiscretion, this lapse, this silly mistake, as fuel for learning and growth toward progress and perfection.” Yet, we’ll never get to lay claim to perfection. Our lives are what they are — a symphony of brokenness even as we strive for the higher ideal. Still, we’re just as happy if we never find ourselves in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
Times of failure are utterly praiseworthy, for they keep our feet firmly on terra firma. Humiliations are humbling in such a way as to ward us away from pride. So humiliations are good for us. If we can be humble in our mistakes we grant others their role as our admonishers. We have allowed them a strength they may not be otherwise granted to have. Much as Jesus said, “You have no authority over me that the Father did not already give you, so use it.” (John 19:11) People’s power over us is one thing, but we have just as much power, vested of God, to confess on ourselves.
There’s one thing better than someone holding us to account; it’s we, ourselves, holding ourselves to account. And if someone will help us see our fault, let us glory in the truth, and expose ourselves where their exposure is found wanting. Of course, you may think this a ridiculous assertion. But there’s no better character examination than that of the Holy Spirit’s as he searches us as persons — as we can only personally know.
The disciple of Jesus is learning all the time or they default on their pledge of allegiance.
Learning all the time,
Yes, I hope to learn all the time,
God, keep giving me power,
To humble me in my pride.
Thank you, our Father,
For those who love me so much,
To speak the truth in love,
So I would receive Your touch.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why Depression Is the Key to Recovering From Your Grief

DON’T be afraid of the depression in grief. Don’t be afraid of the pain. The fact is that feeling depressed in grief is closest to the reality we find ourselves in. It’s the closest we find ourselves to the truth of our reality.
Feeling depressed is the most authentic of the grief emotions besides acceptance, so to be depressed, and to not regress into anger, bargaining or denial is the promotion of healing.
Depression is vitally necessary in recovering from the grief of loss.
Depression in grief is an irony. It’s a good hope because it’s predicated on truth.
And the depression needs to be more fully felt and experienced, the sorrow allowed to be, and the helpless vacuousness endured, but not without the occasional help.
I’m not advocating that depression in grief must continue to be endured without help. But I do think that hope is found in a type of honest acceptance that’s found in grief’s depression. When we can sit in that pain of a life that’s ended, a life on hold, an identity that’s been deconstructed, we do find the strength of God to continue in spite of the pain.
Depression is the last vestige of grief that cannot let go of what was. It holds two dichotomous ideas in tension — an acceptance of the new status quo with the sadness of that same status quo. Depression is true lament. And we must deal in the truth of our depression substantially enough before we move on in a sustained acceptance.
Denial, anger, and bargaining are presentations of the mind in a flux of railing against the truth — the mind that cannot entertain or comprehend the truth — a mind that cannot handle the truth. Denial is telling ourselves a lie and it’s us believing a falsehood. Not a healthy response, but perfectly understandable. Anger rejects the sadness deeper down as the coward’s way, but it’s only in the sadness that we regale in a truer strength. Again, not a healthy response, and again, it’s naturally plausible. Bargaining is investing in a bad hope. By bargaining, anger, and denial we go against the flow of truth.
If you’re depressed in grief take heart. God won’t waste your sadness, helplessness, or your impossibility of bearing this new reality. By being depressed you’re not denying the truth. By being depressed you’re honouring your truth.
Depression is a key to recovering from the grief of loss because it involves the strength of honest integrity.
Those who are true to themselves within the realities of their life are blessed with eventual healing for what they suffer.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tell Me Even One Good Reason I Should Trust God

Harsh outside, still cold within,
Want to hide, can’t get out of this spin,
Feeling unsafe, turbulent heart,
This feeling I hate, don’t know where to start.
Through seasons of pain, with grace estranged,
The energy drain, my life is changed,
Yet all is still, deeper within,
Up this hill, I won’t give in.
Here am I, crushed by this circumstance,
Feel I could die, no way can I dance,
Yet I’ll hold on, God my Rock,
You’ll keep me strong, as long as I knock.
Jaded understanding, so lapsed is my soul,
No secure landing, can’t figure out my role,
Yet I’ll maintain resolve, my heart will be strong,
My trust will revolve around God all day and night long.
Long, so long, I’ve stayed my hope,
Even when I’m wrong I know I can cope,
God, my Tower, you keep me here,
God, my Power, to me you’re so dear.
By your might, I can endure the day,
You give me light, which shows me the way,
God, in your story, help me believe,
God, to your glory, make my heart to cleave.
Great God, my Lord, Saviour, and King,
You’ve restored my reason to sing,
Glorious God who’s deserved my trust,
To keep trusting is to do what I simply just must.
Life takes us to the abysmal depths whether we believe in God or not. Some lives are sheltered, but most only for so long. Sooner or later the winds of change blow through the attics and basements of our lives sending our past into oblivion, our future to the dogs.
There is one reason to believe in God. Forget about the stumbling blocks of theology. Don’t dwell on the mysteries that cannot be answered. Instead, trust.
Trust is the key to a way of life called faith. Faith is the key to a way of life called belief. Belief is the key to a way of life called hope. Hope is the key to a way of life called joy. Joy is the key to a way of life called peace. Peace is the key to a way of life called love. And love is the key to a way of life called life, with all the foregoing thrown in: a bargain.
Trust costs us only that which we should not want to keep: our own self-absorbed, convoluted, and frustrated misery.
Trust sees us through every abysmal tribulation. God there with us.
Trust engenders faith. Faith, belief. Belief, hope. Hope, joy. Joy, peace. Peace, love. And love makes life; the capacity, with God, to overcome.
One good reason to trust God and to keep trusting: life will collapse at some point and trust, faith, belief, hope, joy, peace, and love are our only strength for life. These, from God.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Glory Experienced In Experiencing God’s Grace

FORGIVENESS, whenever we experience it, is a very definite portion of God’s glory, in and through the mode of God’s grace being extended.
Think of a time you received the undeserved favour of someone, where they forgave you something you felt tremendous guilt or shame for, and think of that feeling; being let off the hook. Sure, you were honest. You fell on your sword (as Saul did in 1 Chronicles 10:4), so to speak. You held no defence for yourself. The other party could see you totally vulnerable. Your honesty pleaded for their mercy. And their mercy was given, as a gift of “be restored to me, my brother or sister.”
When we’re truthful about mistakes we’ve made, errors of judgment and the like, and we resist the fear of being exposed, God often does something in the transaction of confession. Something miraculous takes place. Our faith is buoyed in courage.
In simply being honest about our mistakes, God’s glory, and not simply his grace, is made available.
Honesty makes it possible that we can be forgiven.
In being forgiven, God’s glory, and not simply his grace, is made manifest.
God does so much with our honesty. I was talking in the park with a fellow parent recently; a person who rehabilitates people after serious injury. He talked about how sad it is when people aren’t honest about what actually happened in vehicle accident. Sometimes people won’t tell the truth for fear of financial loss. So, a thing that could easily be sorted out — though it might cost them a little more financially — gets very messy and the issue gets dragged through the courts. Not only that, but there are warring parties. There are children in families who watch on and learn the wrong way for dealing with conflict. There are also the protagonists who must endure great stress which propagates fear and feeds the conflict. And, as the conflict goes on, sometimes year after year, less and less life is lived by all parties. Just because one or both parties weren’t honest. If the person in the fault is able to be honest, even though they might lose out financially, they gain integrity, for anyone can make a mistake. And what better result can an unsatisfactory event produce than a restitution that everyone can bear?
As we bring honesty to the table, relationship is built, and trust is enhanced, because justice proves bigger than we are. Justice is big enough only for God.
Everybody is interested in an easily observable justice. When we tell the truth and don’t hide behind our shame God shows the other party that we deserve mercy and how to extend grace. It’s easier for mercy to emanate from the person from whom forgiveness is sought.
God’s glory is magnified within God’s grace. As someone extends that merciful grace in forgiveness, grace compounds and it becomes glory — for both parties — for the honest person and for the merciful person.
In forgiving and in being forgiven, God’s grace is known between the two, and God’s glory is shown for all to see.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Faith, the Friend We Need When Forgiveness Is Foreign

NATURAL to our instincts… forgiveness certainly is not. None of us find forgiveness easy for the pure fact that the stakes are irretrievably high when it comes to loss.
Forgiveness Facilitates Reconciliation
In all our losses there’s a thread of forgiveness, which is reconciliation, to wrestle with — forgiveness, the process; reconciliation, the hoped-for outcome. Whenever we’ve lost an element of our lives, holistically, we rally against that loss initially; we have to. We have no choice. Loss seems so irreconcilable. Reality is all too big.
But forgiveness gets us along the way to reconciliation. Faith is the friend we need.
Losses are changeworthy. They take us into a foreign land far from the crucial knowledge we have of ourselves. Loss affects us at the level of our core values. None of us expect life to be so harsh as to land us in a place of no return. Our core values involve the assumption that we’ll always be safe. And loss takes us far out into the choppy seas far from the shore which is safe land.
Loss is that place of no return where a new normal must be engineered and procured.
So, if we accept that forgiveness is an inherent part of reconciling loss — and there are possibly many threads to reconcile — and we accept that forgiveness is foreign — we have a head start in at least acknowledging how hard things actually are.
It’s a miracle to actually achieve forgiveness. But, when it’s achieved, we have a vital command post for reconciliation. We have an important vantage point for reconciling our inner discord, a relationship, and for forging a new way of life.
Reconciliation starts when we have forgiven.
Where Faith’s No Substitute
Faith is no generalised concept. It’s a very real action-oriented vestibule of hope and love. Faith blends the hope for a better present and future with the love that compels action.
When life’s hard and seemingly impossible at times, for the gravity of loss is starker than we ever thought pain could be, faith is the risk we have to take. Faith generates hope, but faith also sows in hope. And hope fuels faith. Love is an output of faith.
Choosing the Right Days
We take such a risk of faith only on a stronger day.
A weaker day in loss makes grief insurmountable. Days like this we’re gentle with ourselves.
But stronger days are days to advance the vision for what could be — a future we might hope for, but probably cannot yet see.
Wisdom is in picking the right day.
Knowing forgiveness is hard helps us not to force the pace beyond God’s will. God will heal us, but forgiveness is a process, and sometimes it can take years. We learn to praise God when forgiveness comes easier, which is always a miracle of God’s grace; a thing we cannot easily explain away.
Safety in forgiveness is not fighting our feelings, but being gently inquisitive of our struggles, whilst being willing to push ahead when it comes easier.
What a wonderful thing to be inspired to forgive. We need to make the most of those God-indwelled moments. Suddenly there’s the moment of humility to call things for what they are; those things we can take some direct responsibility for. Taking responsibility is receiving blessing.
Forgiveness is foreign to our nature, but when we adopt God’s nature forgiveness becomes natural and healing.
Progress is about reconciliation, as forgiveness, which requires humility, which is honesty; a key to progress.
Faith is the friend we need when forgiveness is foreign.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.