Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Behind Contempt

What kind of Lord Jesus have we? Is He the All-powerful God in our present circumstances, in our providential setting? Is He the All-wise God of our thinking and our planning? Is He the Ever-present God, “closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet”?*
What are my present circumstances? Hmmm. The setting is my home and family. The circumstances are the crisis we’ve been in. This crisis has stirred a lot of fear in me. I discovered a lot of self-contempt, self-loathing yesterday.
As long as contempt is present, shame will not stop a person in her tracks, but will energize action and movement away from the dreaded exposure.**
What exposure am I dreading? That I’m not lovable, desirable, valuable. I’m not worth people’s attention. I’m not worth God’s attention. I’m not worth anything.
...longing for what the heart craves intensifies the anguish of the soul. ...To feel good in relationship with another, like no other experience, opens the door to past horror and future terror. ...a strong ambivalence about the future: on one hand, wanting the relationship to work and on the other, sabotaging the outcome.**
This has been me, wanting a good marriage with strong emotional intimacy and yet sabotaging the process to keep me from attaining that.
As long as I turn my condemnation against myself, I block the potential of your movement toward me and my longing for you to care. When I turn my condemnation against you, I am free from believing that I want anything from you. In either case, contempt kills longing.**
What are the longings I’m trying to kill? The longing to be loved, desired, valued, wanted, cherished.
As long as I believe there is something I can do about my problem, then I am not constrained to feel hopeless. A contemptuous explanation provides a direction to pursue to regain control over my emptiness.**
Why am I not lovable, desirable, valuable? Or, what reasons do I give myself about this? I’m not good enough. So I try to make myself “good enough” except that I can’t.
Contempt hinders the work of God. It directs our sight away from our deepest longings and deflects the focus from our depravity and need for a Savior to an attack against our own or another’s dignity.**
So what is my depravity that I’m avoiding? What is my sin that I’m trying to cover up? My withdrawal from Tom and others? The barriers I’ve placed between us?
[His] heart of...radical selfishness...protected him from responding to her rage. ...His contempt...offered him a strategy to be nicer, but not more involved with his wife ...conviction would have freed him to move toward her with an energy that was other-focused and persevering.**
Have I been “radically selfish”? I can see ways to lower the barriers I’ve erected between Tom and me, but I don’t like the cost: it would rob me of sleep, I’d have less time to do the things I like, I’d have to do things I don’t particularly enjoy. I’ve been trying to be nice but I haven’t wanted to get involved. I’ve made a point of being uninvolved. This is my depravity. What is my need for a Saviour?

I need your forgiveness, God. But I also need you to take away my selfishness. Please give me a compassion for Tom and a desire to put his needs and the needs of others before my own needs. Oh Lord! I don’t know how to do this at all! My focus has always been on me and my needs. How do I change? How do I have a genuine desire to get involved, a genuine willingness to give up my personal comforts for the benefit of our marriage, or to meet someone’s need? I don’t know, Lord. I need you to change me because I can’t do it. Please help me!

Father, you are the All-powerful God in these circumstances of mine. You can do what I cannot. You are the All-wise God of my thinking and planning. You can give me thoughts that honour you and Tom, show me how to change and tell me what to do. You are the Ever-present God, closer than breathing, nearer than my hands or feet. Be present in me and with me! May all of me be filtered through all of you. So be it.



*Oswald Chambers in “Bringing Sons Unto Glory” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers page 237.

**Dan B. Allender in The Wounded Heart, pages 84-88.


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