I was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.
Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.
The world is fraught with bad news. It has been since the beginning and will be until the end. Ironically, after however many thousands or millions of years (depending on your theology, or lack thereof) humans are still surprised wars continue to happen, that people die, and senselessly bad things happen to really good people. We don’t expect this reality. Maybe because God didn’t create the world or its inhabitants to experience the decay that has been unstoppable since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Our expectations match what was to be our original perfect reality and not what became our actual reality post fall.
Andy Crouch, prolific author, speaker, and Executive Editor of Christianity Today, says it like this,
“We live in a bad news to bad news reality in the church. We start in Genesis 3 (the fall) and end with Revelations 20 (the lake of fire).”
Andy’s point is that even the Church, the entity Pastor Bill Hybels calls the hope of the world, has succumbed to this grim, joyless, and visionless existence. As Believers we live like the rest of humanity, in shame and defeat, with a poor image of God the Father, Redeemer, Creator, Author, and Finisher. And, we become a poor reflection of Him.
One year ago this week Leslie and I walked into the dark, unremarkable basement of Hollywood Presbyterian Church and sat down in a circle made up of people whom some in the mainstream Church would rather forget. There was a time when I believed they should be forgotten or at least ignored. I was the leader of Exodus International, the largest Christian organization in the world offering hope for change to anyone impacted by homosexuality. That change had come to mean ridding oneself of homosexuality. These folks all came from Christian backgrounds and had damaging stories about Exodus and the Church. They were no longer interested in the change Exodus represented. Though I hadn’t been connected to or even met most of them, the organization I was leading bore responsibility for some of the anger and hurt they carried into the ominous basement that Sunday afternoon. As the leader of Exodus International, I was their enemy.
I had been intentionally listening to stories like theirs for months. I knew something had to be done. The hurt was extensive and I believed it was my duty to make things right. I needed to repent and apologize to this group. The apology had to be unequivocal, unconditional. I asked Lisa Ling and her crew to capture the apology on camera so others could also hear and receive. The entire 3 hour and 25 minute ordeal was filmed and portions of it ended up being featured in an episode of her hit TV series Our America on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). It only seemed fitting to partner with Lisa as she had facilitated a coming out journey of sorts for me when she pursued me for an interview that aired in March 2011.
One day, only a few short weeks ago, I had the strangest thing happen. I found myself with nothing pressing to do. The kids were at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. The house was clean enough. There was left over lasagna for dinner. The dog was bathed. My family was healthy. I was planning on a bike ride with the kids later so I didn’t need to exercise. I’d been to the grocery store and Target the day before. I’d finished my laundry before the sun rose. I had even given my hair a color tweak so the bothersome greys were history! What to do, what to do….
With the question of how to spend the day before me, it only took a few seconds to feel the weight of what I should do. The schoolroom and office closet was a mess. I should clean it out. The front door needed a coat of paint. I should paint it. The garage had several stacks of things to be sorted. I should sort them. I should work in the yard, pull weeds, and re-pot plants. I should call a friend I haven’t talked to in ages. On and on and on… I started “shoulding” on myself. I couldn’t handle the burden so I decided instead to clean out a drawer. This I could handle. One small drawer. In about an hour a drawer that began the day so full it could neither be opened nor closed became orderly and functional. The best part however, was finding long forgotten trinkets and treasures I gave to my kids when they got home. It was like Christmas! Those other things I should have done, the truly important ones, were still there the next day.
This is the third of five video interviews Alan did with RELEVANT Magazine. The other videos will be posted here throughout this week.
Tune into OWN television on June 20 at 10pm EST for Alan & Leslie Chambers interview with Lisa Ling on the Our America special “Gods & Gays.” This is a new program and not a repeat of their previous shows. Check out the show intro video below:
Cross-posted from the Exodus Blog.
Have you ever wondered what people think of you? As my husband is Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, I have. At present, he is somewhat of a conundrum for a lot of people. There seems to be some confusion about who he is, what he is saying and what he stands for. Here it is in a nutshell: while he has repeatedly stated his biblically orthodox view of sexuality, he has also stated his belief that one particular sin is not some how more offensive to God than another. As his wife, I have stayed out of most of the chaos but there are a few things that I cannot be silent about any longer. So here it goes…
Leslie and I decided many months ago we were done watching people fight on the news and got rid of cable. Now when we sit down to watch TV we pick a feel good movie off of Netflix. It’s glorious. If it weren’t for the emails that came into Exodus we would have completely missed that the Supreme Court was deliberating on gay marriage. Part of me wishes I could have opted out of having to watch, listen and read all that is being said and written by people presumably on “my side” who fail to convey my heart and beliefs as a Christian.
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I am thrilled to be a part of the Body of Christ. Though imperfect, I see a tremendous groundswell of truth, compassion, grace, and service, which accurately reflects the heart of Jesus Christ.
Contrast that to 1991, the year I sought support for my struggles with sexuality outside of the four walls and community of my local congregation. I was afraid of being cast out because my story was different. I had no confidence in the church’s ability to treat me kindly or extend grace. I will never know whether my perceptions of them were right or wrong. I simply couldn’t risk what I believed would be my reality if I “came out” to them. So I sought help from Exodus International.
Nothing says love more than telling gay sinners how much we ‘luuuuuuv’ them and how much we HATE their sin. I think that is why there are so many Christians who have deep friendships with gay and lesbian people. Tolerance is a compelling gift to the gay and lesbian community so anxious for Christians to half-heartedly embrace them with the limp, lukewarm hug of Jesus.
Can you just feel the love?
Before I go too far with the pretense that I am an expert on this subject, please know this pep talk is for me as well. I am relatively new on the scene of wholeheartedly embracing all people, period. Even typing that sentence was full of deep conflict for me. I so badly want to qualify my own superiority in all of this by sharing the type of people I am embracing—compelled to make the comparison between my morality and theirs so that you will know how amazing it is that I, a good (a.k.a. morally superior) Christian, am embracing…well, them (a.k.a. poor things lost in sin).