“All of these I will give you if you just fall down and worship me,” Matthew 4:9.
Teased and smeared, heart smacked down in the halls of a Jr. High, I began to overcompensate at church, at home….everywhere. I lived bent, worshipping the other, hungry for approval, a careful student of a contorted life.
Please tell me the messages are not true, I begged. Tell me the teasing does not mean something is inherently wrong me. Tell me I’m enough, that you are glad I was planted on this slow-turning world.
Can you see it? It is a type of rope between us, right around my heart. I’m bent right forward asking the impossible. I want to serve you, to keep you happy so the messages of approval keep coming and ahhh, I’m seeing it clearly now: I have lived with a thousand handmade gods, begging them for a fresh drink of Life.
I’ve given up co-dependence for Lent. I’m cutting the ropes.
God has been exposing this people pleasing addiction for years. I’ve wrestled with it, nailed it to the cross, stared it down and exposed the lies but it was fuzzy like a channel that wouldn’t come in. I moved the rabbit ears, stepped back, but the monitor never cleared. (I write more about approval addiction here and here, and here.)
This weekend I and about 50 others wound up a mountain in fresh snow to The Castle in Franklin, PA to a Freedom in Christ retreat with The Lazarus Center. We learned and worshipped in the same place Woodrow Wilson had been entertained when he came to visit the DuPonts. Over breakfast we marveled at the mountains awaking in golden light. We sought quiet and took hikes out to a small Methodist church which had been relocated to the retreat center, hymn books still slid into the backs of pews. We slept on bunks and laughed hard into the evening at a talent show where shimmering personalities came out.
Leaders bushwhacked a path forward and led us to the foot of the cross with the lantern of their own stories. Courageous, they knew their own wounds exposed would lead us to the Healer and by the end, we were completely awed. Their vulnerability became the light by which we could see our own truths more clearly.
The stories revealed one bent shape after another toward food, sex, religion, career, performance, etc. It is the promise that this shiny something would fill into the cracks of the empty places left by those who had made gashes in our lives.
Somewhere on day 2 of the retreat, the picture became less fuzzy for me.
It started with this image magnified up on a screen: Two stick figures bent toward each other, a rope attached to each, creating their mutual bentness. The Freedom in Christ retreat uses simple but devastating visuals from The Lazarus Center of Ambridge who puts it on.
I saw truth unmasked: This is worship. Fear. Enslaved devotion. This is co-dependence.
It’s the very unoriginal hiss from the serpent in the desert as he showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and their glory, “All of this I will give you if you just fall down and worship me.”
Jesus rejected what might have been the easy answer: He could be made king without going to the cross. He knew the liar and saw through his lies. With these words He banished the hissing one: “Go Satan, for it is written, worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” He cut the rope, refused a life of bent worship.
With the rope cut, Jesus was free to move about in mission, to preach, to heal, to walk away and rest when he needed resting, to walk steadily toward the cross. Jesus was only tied to One and often walked away from the demands of the crowds, seeking quiet, drawing close to the Voice. It’s why I believe the Father spoke out of the cloud at Jesus’ baptism, so that “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” would fill the chambers of Jesus’ heart, would echo through the desert where temptation lurked.
And that’s my invitation as well. Summer, cut the rope…and this one…and this one. Like the game of telephone, only their voice gets heard through the rope held tight. His voice “Worship Me and serve Me only” becomes clearer when it is not muffled by the fiber of a thousand ropes held taut each demanding obedience.
And only His Voice opens up paths to Freedom.
It’s a journey, my friends. Is it not? He promises we can have confidence that: “He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6) Faithful. Still working.
This Lent I’ve been more focused on listening and growing than on writing. Thank you so much for your patience. Your reading and presence on this journey is pure gift.
Care to come along on the pilgrimage? Slip your email address (I promise not to allow anyone else access to that precious little bit of code) in the front page under the word: CONNECT.
Let’s journey together.