Can you believe…
“They are going to another church”
“They’re in counseling.”
“She let the family secret out.”
“He said ‘no’ to being a deacon.”
Did you hear…
“They are sleeping in different bedrooms.”
“They’re not coming to Thanksgiving this year.”
“He checked himself into rehab”
“They moved to a new city without a job.”
Of course we all recognize these when we read them because they hit home. We’ve all been there and if we‘re really honest, we’ve all said these things.
The truth is, in our Christian culture, we often make accusations like these based on one small piece of a much larger story. But these accusations might actually point to a person’s spiritual growth, not to their backsliding.
When boundaries are set and truth is told it often becomes the gossip of the day. Sadly when a person is able to set a boundary and courageous to speak truth, it is often assumed to be a spiritual regresstion. This assumption usually leaves people labled as either a renegade or a black sheep. The truth is, it may be the first time that the one being labled is living in a way that is good, true, and beautiful.
People experiencing true spiritual growth are typically the ones being accused of backsliding or spiritual regression. Nothing could be further from the truth. Spiritual growth often looks like falling apart or a breakdown. It looks and feels like darkness, but this is where we find our way. Barbara Brown Taylor invites us to see this darkness in a different light, when she writes, “I wish I could turn to the church for help, but so many congregations are preoccupied with keeping the lights on right now that the last thing they want to talk about is how to befriend the dark.” Sadly, in our evangelical culture our default is to only celebrate life when the lights are on. Living in the dark is most often seen as backsliding.
People experiencing true spiritual growth are typically the ones being accused of backsliding or spiritual regression.
But we have come to find that befriending the dark is not backsliding. On the contrary, living in darkness could be a sign of spiritual growth. There is no difference between darkness and light. Even the Psalmist says so, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light! It’s a fact; darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you” (Psalm 139: 11-12 MSG).
Let us be clear, we are not suggesting that going against the grain, bucking the system or living in the dark are the only ways to experience spiritual growth. But many times, spiritual growth looks like backsliding because someone comes out of hiding. And when you choose to no longer hide, you choose to embrace all of the realities of life, which include pain and suffering. Here’s the thing, we all get a little nervous when people come out of hiding because these people set boundaries, tell the truth, and stop generational sin.
But guess what, when people finally embrace and walk through pain and suffering, it gets messy as hell, and there aren’t too many who are willing to get this messy. Embracing suffering and pain is not a regression in the spiritual journey. It is the only way through it. The lengths that we go through to avoid and minimize pain and suffering are huge. Imagine if our energy was spent more on embracing and walking through it than avoiding it. So when the blacksheep finally speaks up and says, “I am not going to be tethered to doing business as usual, checking the boxes, following the rules, and falling in line,” this is a sign of spiritual growth, not a sign of badness.
Take heed dear friends, wisdom and spiritual health are found in hidden places where Christians often least expect it, in the hearts of renegades and black sheep. So the next time you hear, “He checked into rehab” you might want to check yourself and consider that this may be the greatest indicator of someone’s spiritual growth, not backsliding.