Sacrificial Leadership Makes a Way for Trust

Several years ago, when facing a major decision regarding a move, my wife and I sought counsel. The counsel we got regarding the move changed the way we looked at marriage forever.

“Scott, what if this move was entirely for her benefit, would you be OK with that?” he asked.

“Julie, do you trust Scott?” was the question she got.

I had never thought about such a question prior to that. I was the one that worked to make a living for the family and pursued a career and she was staying home with the kids. How and why would it be entirely for her benefit? I needed to make money. I needed to move forward in my career. Yet, the truth of the question had a weight to it.

While I wasn’t initially willing to make this move “entirely for her benefit,” I was willing to try to change. As I thought and prayed, my prayers changed. We were going through a lot and the pressure of the challenges was shaping me internally. I remember walking through the park and blurting out a prayer, “God, this is hard, but I don’t want the difficultly to be in vain. Take my angst and allow them (Julie and the kids) to benefit from it so they will have it easier.” That was it.

It wasn’t whether or not I did everything perfectly, it was the intention behind it. Something switched inside of me and I went from a strategist trying to figure out what was best to asking God to take my offering and multiply it. It wasn’t about my plans, but their benefit.

Trust is foundational to relationship. It is imperative for submission. Submission seeks a sacrifice and it is a place of benefit. We all desire the protection and sacrifice of a legitimate lead. The first and primary place that is fostered can/should be with our father. If he modeled the role well, we are likely inclined towards a healthy trust. If not, we may be more self-protective and self-promoting to attempt to make a way for ourselves since that pivotal relationship didn’t make a way for us.

Do you want to be a trustworthy leader? Be sacrificial. It doesn’t mean that those that are in a position to benefit from your sacrifice get everything they want. It does mean that everything you want is driven with their interests being primary.

Her answer regarding trusting me was “yes,” by the way. Even before my intentions were entirely for her benefit. While God was working stuff out in me, He was on display in her.

Every Offense Doesn’t Require a Verdict

When I was practicing criminal defense law, the contention of the adversarial system would wear on me. I would have to take a break and get away from time to time to clear my lens. My lens would get cloudy from a residue of accusation, explanation, lies born of self-preservation, consequences and other aspects of the situation. I would get a bit jaded in my view of humanity and I wasn’t the only one. The criminal law bar generally could be a bit cynical and sarcastic with salty language and vices to lube the friction.

All too often, I have chosen to play the part of judge, prosecutor of defense attorney where there is no court of law. In life’s everyday interactions, there are disappointments and disagreements that draw a reaction which is born out of an illusion. The illusion comes when we think we need to get to a verdict regarding right or wrong. Where the verdict is “wrong,” and it often is based on our flawed human condition, we think there needs to be an assessment of blame. But there doesn’t.

There is no freedom in the assessment of justice. Freedom is grace based. It has to be, or the busyness of blame will overcome any of the potential peace of freedom.

Freedom starts and ends with identity. When we realize who we are and why, we are at ground zero of peace. That identity is not earned and doesn’t have to be defended. We don’t have to prove anything because we didn’t do anything in the first place. Jesus died to make us righteous by His sacrifice. Where we are willing to agree with Him, we enjoy the benefit of His victory.

When our identity is based in His perfection and sacrifice, we can stop. We can stop defending ourselves and we can stop prosecuting others to elevate ourselves by comparison. Every mistake does not require a verdict. Every shortcoming doesn’t call for an explanation. Every flaw doesn’t need assignment of a cause.

I don’t have marriage perfected, but I have seen that when I can avoid the traps of judgment, prosecution or defense, the grace that breathes in the void gives us life. It’s not easy because it is often only given room in the wake of a decision to die to myself. I turn fifty in a few months and I’m starting to see it more clearly than ever. Less is more.

Today things are going to happen. Grocery clerks, co-workers, kids and others are going to mess up. So are you. It’s OK. Those mistakes don’t demand a verdict. Rest in the peace of grace. Rest in Jesus.



The Solution to Pornography

love-partnership-friends-friendship-connectionI wrote the other day how pornography is driven by a need for intimate connection, not sexual desire. Men (and women, in some cases) that get stuck in the short-term trap of the physical escape from an emotional and spiritual need spiral into greater frustration. The need for intimacy is legitimate and God breathed. It’s part of our design. It’s part of God’s plan. We are wired to connect.

That design for connection, however, is primarily and fundamentally satisfied with the One that put it in us. The essence of that design is for communion with the Father. It’s the restoration of sons and daughters to the love of the Father. When we know His love, we know our purpose and walk in the satisfaction of intimate fulfillment.

A mistake that married couples make when addressing the intrusion of pornography in their marriage is thinking that it’s about sex. The wife feels inadequate. Even if they take the next step and realize it’s not about sex, but instead it’s about intimacy, the burden of source can be misplaced. The wife is not intended as the husband’s source any more than the husband is intended as the wife’s source.

There is only one Source, and it’s the One that designed our for need connection to the Source. Only the love of the Father fulfills the need for love. Spiritual connection leads to spiritual fulfillment which leads to emotional satisfaction. We are filled by Him to give out to others.

In a marriage, intimacy fulfilled by the Father fills each one up to give to the other. The husband can’t expect the wife to satisfy what was designed to be satisfied by the One who created the need. In the same way, neither can the wife expect that of the husband. That’s co-dependency and even idolatry. If we promote someone to a place that God is intended to sit in our lives, they become gods in those areas of our lives. Not good.

The Source of satisfaction for the legitimate need for intimacy fills us to walk in our purpose as sons and daughters of Him. We have plenty to give from the abundance of eternity, not the temporal limitation of human effort. Wives can’t fix husbands that are disconnected, nor vice versa. Agreement together, the two as one, can bring the power of oneness to the pursuit of the One.

Sin is a twist or substitute to a legitimate need. Intimacy is a legitimate need. To avoid the traps of the cheap substitute, plug into the One that fulfills the need. If there is a life pattern of shortcuts that have become habitual and even addictive, agreement in transparency about the actual need, solution and openness about the struggle are the best way to get beyond the problem.

The Problem Behind Pornography

shamePornography is an illegitimate method of fulfilling a legitimate need and the legitimate need isn’t what we think it is. Pornography isn’t about sex because the need isn’t that shallow. The legitimate need is a need for intimacy. The connection, fulfillment, satisfaction and depth of intimacy gets hijacked by the perverted shortcut of pornography.

There is an epidemic surrounding the use of pornography and it’s much more destructive than many realize. The darkness of isolated dives into depraved imaginations brings shame and further isolation. The secrecy surrounding and perceived rejection from the double life of pornography damages legitimate relationship and frustrates God’s intention for transparent connection.

Once the cycle begins, the downward spiral is inviting. The release of chemicals in the brain consistent with the release that occurs from cocaine use provides a short-term high. As the short-term thrill gives way to lasting shame, the trap is set. That brief euphoric escape requires increasing stimulus to supersede the familiarity that comes with previous experience. In other words, what used to be exciting has to be enhanced to cause the same stir. Dark gets darker.

The escape, however, isn’t into sex because it isn’t sex. It really doesn’t have much of anything to do with sex. It’s an escape from a lack of intimacy that feels like pain, emptiness, disconnection, isolation and frustration. It’s triggered by things such as stress, lack of control, emotional immaturity and other limitations of the soul remedied with a shortcut of the flesh.

This is a critical realization for married couples wanting to walk out of a grip of pornography. If the wife holds onto the hurt of a lie, she won’t be able to partner with her husband who may be willing to break the cycle. The lie that many wives would believe is that they are rejected or found inadequate physically. The reality of an emotional and spiritual void that may have nothing to do with her is the real driver.

Here is the good news; when a married couple is impacted by pornography, the reality is that both husband and wife actually want the same thing. They both want legitimate emotional and spiritual connection for the fulfillment of satisfaction that comes with intimate relationship. The disconnect isn’t her fault; it’s his problem (in cases where it’s the man jammed up in pornography which are still the majority).

With agreement regarding the problem and avoidance of the hurt that comes with the accusation of perceived rejection, the two can agree. He can be honest about when and if he is tempted to isolate and escape. She can support without ownership of the cause to the effect. While it’s still difficult and dark, the clarity of a target facilities hope for healing.

Serving Others Doesn’t Require a Resume

img_0802Julie and I have increasingly gotten involved in speaking into marriages. We’ve spent quite a bit of time away this year with that sole focus. There have been some great stories of redemption and reconciliation that, at times, have been miraculous. As we have invested in other people’s marriages, we’ve had to do quite a bit of work on our marriage, as well.

Things in our marriage have been stirred up and we’ve had to work through things that aren’t always fun or comfortable. Sometimes that happens right in the middle of the times that we are ministering in the marriages of other people. Some of the ministry to the others is “real-time” as we realize things for ourselves.

Since our marriage isn’t perfect and we are having to work on things, ourselves, there is a temptation to believe that we shouldn’t be working with others in this area. That temptation is a lie as there are no perfect ministers. If we all wait until we reach perfection to share our imperfection, there would be no ministry at all.

The things that we think may invalidate us are the exact things that validate us. Our flaws are in need of grace and grace is Jesus. Where we are not afraid to admit that our salvation is being worked out and live transparently where weakness isn’t a disqualification, Jesus will be on display. Jesus will minister through us.

Marriage ministry, men’s ministry, church ministry or any other kind of ministry is not validated by the superior knowledge or training of a guy, it’s validated by the display of Jesus. Where we are weak, He is strong so if we’ll admit what everyone probably knows anyway, then He can do the stuff He is good at through us.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15). He led with transparency, not allowing his failures in keeping the rules to be disqualifiers. His qualifier was the grace and sacrifice of Jesus.

Don’t be afraid to serve others through your imperfect faith. Just be real and honest about the places where you start and He ends, to put His grace on display through your imperfections. Your qualifications are rubbish compared to His glory. Put His glory on display, not your ability.

Moving Forward Requires Moving Together

Prism-waveWe really do need each other to get better. We’ve all got junk and none of it will mature in the vacuum of isolation. The only way for that junk to be transformed within us and for maturity to be produced in those areas is through interacting with others. We have to own our junk and owning it won’t happen in solitude.

I love my wife and for the past several years, we had gone round and round about criticism. Things she would feel would come across to me as criticism of me. It was only a short time ago that I finally saw the value of giving voice to the emotions for the healing and redemption that comes with transparency. It wasn’t an attack, it was an exchange.

When we own our feelings and live in relationship, we have to be honest at the intersections of those feelings in those relationships. For me, anyway, that hasn’t been entirely easy. Since I’ve seen it, however, the fruit of the possibilities has been sweet.

Stuff is there and it’s usually there because of interactions with others. We don’t typically get offended at ourselves, that’s for sure. It takes some third-party to hurt us and in those wounds, lies get spoken and strongholds get formed. We hold onto jacked up twisted beliefs and behaviors from the lies that get rooted in our wounds. That means we have to go back to the wound to determine the lie. Going back to the wound requires more work and pain than simply trying to justify or change the behavior.

The other day, I realized that I held something against Julie for probably three years. It was always there, but I finally realized that I was hurt based on a thing that she never intended. I was holding it against her even though I was trying not to act like it. It would ooze out, though, and little verbal jabs or slights would contribute to a wall in that subsection of our relationship.

Once I realized it, I told her. I didn’t tell her she had done something wrong, however, I apologized and repented. I changed my mind. I was the one that had believed the lie. I was the one that was harboring the offense and allowing the stronghold. I was wrong.

Without an actual interaction between she and I from the realization of that emotion and the resulting conditions, we would have been stuck. It took two of us to start down that road and walk on it for three years. Unbeknownst to her, I had detoured that part of our relationship to stay on that road for way too long. In some ways, it was unbeknown to me, as well. Once it was realized, however, the correction required the transparency of relationship, which allowed for the exchange.

Lies were replaced with truth, darkness was replaced with light and dysfunction was replaced with healthy relationship. Defeat as replaced with the victory that Jesus bought and paid for as the appropriation of that realization required loving people, not just loving God.