Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Chapter 2

>> Monday, October 11, 2010

If you are reading along, I just want to say, does it not feel like these chapters are written directly to you? That is exactly how they are for me. This second chapter dealt with the top ten symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality. The author begins with a story about a friend who describes himself as being a one-year-old Christian twenty-two times. I became a Christian when I was in the second grade and I have definitely had my highs and lows along the way. But the story made me think, am I still the same Christian I was when I was 7 years old, on repeat for the past 22 years?

Scazzero also brings up in the introduction, "Why is it that so many Christians make such lousy human beings?" I remember one comment someone said to me that will always haunt me. Up until I moved to Boston I would say that I was pretty driven when it came to my sector of the professional world. I happened to work at two very large corporate design firms during my first 5 years out of school and the idea of climbing the corporate ladder was something that very much enticed me. I knew my path and I was on it. The thing I did not realize was in my effort to climb to the top, every morning when I got to the office I was checking Jesus at the door. Now in the afternoon I would pick him back up, go home to make dinner for my husband, and attend my weekly bible study. But from 8-5, I was doing it on my own and it showed. I said whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and thought people should just "deal with it." I criticized people behind their backs if I felt their designs were not up to par. I was jealous if someone got a project I thought I should have. I gossiped....oh did I gossip. One day I was carrying a coffee mug that I had received from a church Bryan and I had visited, it had a bible verse on the side. One of my co-workers saw me drinking out of the mug and walked over and said "Oh, you're a Christian, I never would have guessed that." Wow! and he was right. If I was looking at me from the outside I don't think I would have thought I was a Christian either. How had I been a Christian for 25 years and still continued to be such a lousy human being?

The top ten signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality are laid out as:

1. Using God to run from God
2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear
3. Dying to the wrong things
4. Denying the past's impact on the present
5. Dividing our lives into "secular" and "sacred" compartments
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
8. Covering brokenness, weakness, and failure
9. Living without limits
10. Judging other people's spiritual journey

I think the best part of this chapter is how in several instances the author uses very popular scripture to show us how even the apostles fell into some of the categories above. For instance, Luke 9:23 says "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." He says most people, including me in some ways, feel this verse means "The more miserable you are, the more you suffer, the more God loves you. Disregard your unique personhood; it has no place in God's kingdom." Have you ever looked at someone else and thought "Their Christian walk is so easy." I remember thinking this a lot in middle and high school. I would think because girls were exceptionally pretty or naturally popular that they did not feel the same day to day struggle I did to "fit in" and therefore did not have to deal with peer pressure, etc. I would also be jealous of the girls who were naturally quite and submissive because I have always been loud and impulsive and it was constantly getting me into trouble. I thought "If I were quite, I would be a better Christian." Scazzero elaborates by saying that we are supposed to die to the sinful parts of who we are when we accept Christ- such as defensiveness, arrogance, and hypocrisy, but we are not called to die to the "good" parts of who we are. God made me a very outgoing, sociable person, and while there are still many instances that I do not use that to glorify him, I am not afraid to share the gospel with anyone who will sit still long enough for me to get it out. I love talking about the Lord. He's my favorite thing to gossip about. And for once my gossip is for good.

Another verse this chapter discusses is 2 Corinthians 5:17 where coming to faith is described as "the old has gone, the new has come!" I have always struggled with this one as well. Why doesn't life always feel new? Why am I still haunted by things from my past? Scazzaro says "The work of growing in Christ, or sanctification, does not mean we don't go back to the past as we press ahead to what God has for us. It actually demands we go back in order to break free from unhealthy and destructive patterns that prevent us from living ourselves and others as God designed."

The last thing that really stuck with me was the "spiritualizing away conflict" section. Good Christians don't fight, right? They pray about it and then it's all better. Or they forgive each other and there is no lingering feelings of resentment, right? Wrong. Why do churches fall apart? They do. The elders of the church I grew up in dismissed the head pastor after he built the congregation, literally from 10 people in school gym to a mega church on it's own campus. Crazy things happen in the Christian world and "spiritualizing away conflict" does not work. Scazzaro tells us "Jesus shows that healthy Christians to not avoid conflict. His life was filled with it! He was in regular conflict with religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples- even his own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to "spiritualize away" conflict."

What signs of being spiritually unhealthy really stuck out for you?

How have you addressed or overcome some of these areas to grow stronger in your walk with the Lord?

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