Reading between the lines

May 17, 2008 — 1 Comment

Like you, I am exposed to so many different information sources each day. Heck, I’m exposed to a wide variety of them each hour these days. What I have come to realize is that the meaning of it all is usually not in the headlines; the meaning lies deep within, available fairly easily to those who would take the time to look.

When the story broke this week of a local minister arrested in a sex sting operation, my heart sank. Thankfully I’ve moved beyond the point in life when my initial emotion was disgust. Today I felt compassion and grief — for any potential victims, for the minister, his family, and his congregation. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I release him in any way from the personal responsibility of extremely poor — and in this case, illegal — choices. I have just come to see things in a different light.

Upon the man’s arrest, items found in his car included condoms, a webcam, a hymnal, and a praise and worship CD. His wallet likely contained photos of his adult children and grandkids. All of this clearly points to the highly compartmentalized life that so commonly characterizes such troubled individuals.

I was deeply moved to see just how profoundly distraught this man was to find himself in such an unthinkable situation. The fact that a three-hour drive did not provide enough time to talk himself out of such a wayward plan seems to indicate the level of powerlessness — or perhaps invincibility — he felt.

And I can’t even begin to describe the disdain I feel for those who seem to revel in the pain of others. I’ve spoken of that in this forum before. We have no right to pass judgment on the spiritual condition of another person, yet it happens all the time. I understand the very real impact that hypocrisy has on the entire Christian community, but for Christians to post gloating and hateful messages does nothing to further the cause of Christ. If anything, it only deepens the pain and shame of the family.

Scripture teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And, there is no one righteous — not even one (Romans 3:10).

I’m going to say something that some will no doubt find disturbing. I believe that every person on our planet has within him- or herself the capacity for all kinds of evil. That’s because we are fallen. We are each one bad choice away from ruin — be that relationally, sexually, financially, or some other area of life. I am keenly aware of the truth of the phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Which brings me to the topic of goals.

Goals are things we hear a lot about, especially in work settings. And, I must admit, I sometimes find the steady work of identifying and evaluating goals to be a tedious process indeed. However, at the end of the day, I surmise that without goals, life would be largely left to chance. And, for me, life is just too precious to allow that to be the case.

As a minister and family therapist, I find myself constantly helping people identify their goals in life. Essentially, I want to understand where they have come from — what people, places, and experiences have shaped them — and where they want to be. These goals include a focus on both the short-term and the long-term.

Having worked as a therapist for a number of years, here are some goals I have NEVER heard:

  • “I want to be a wife beater.”
  • “I want to be an alcoholic.”
  • “I want to be a child molester.”
  • “I want to spend life in prison.”
  • “I want to be so depressed that I eventually kill myself.”
  • “I want to be addicted to drugs and pornography.”
  • “I want to be a prostitute and live on the street.”
  • “I want to bring disgrace to my family and church by having my arrest lead the evening news.”
  • “I want to be a dead-beat dad.”
  • “I want to fake my death and run off with money I embezzled from my employer.”

These all seem so very silly when they’re written as goal statements, don’t they? But the fact of the matter is that I have encountered each one of them in one form or another just in the past year alone.

It’s been said that when we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I think that is true for each person to whom the above “goal statements” belong. We must know what we want life to look like and work diligently to achieve those goals.

Perhaps this quick-read needs to be a wake-up call for you. Maybe you need to re-evaluate your life — and your goals, or lack thereof. What do you need in order to help get on track? Perhaps it’s an accountability partner or support group. Perhaps it’s a Bible-believing church. Perhaps it’s individual or family counseling. After all, having goals is simply not enough. Action must be taken to ensure that goals are attained.

Whatever your need, my prayer today is that you will not allow your lack of goals to one day be expressed between the lines of an unfulfilled dream, an unseemly news story, or an untimely obituary. After all, life has a funny way of writing outcome statements for all the world to read. Wouldn’t you much prefer to exercise some control over something so significant as that?


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  1. White Ribbon Week – Oct. 30-Nov. 6 « - October 30, 2011

    […] Reading Between the Lines […]

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