Don't do it, Manasclerk!

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I admire Christian bloggers who are willing to open their hearts and let us readers watch as God works in their lives, especially when they write with expressive power.

One such blogger, Manasclerk, has announced that Manasclerk's Power Struggle is closing up shop, possibly as soon as today. Time to move on, he says, and while he'll be migrating the stuff about information technology and organization to other sites, what he's written about personal and spiritual matters is "going into storage." (NOTE: There's an update at the end of this entry -- click the "continue reading" link if you're reading this on the home page.)

That's a shame, because it is challenging and thought-provoking material. He's Reformed, and that informs his perspective, but he doesn't write theological essays. He writes about Christians in community, from his own observations and his own struggles in relationships with friends, family, and churches. He writes about the work God does sanctifying him through those relationships. It's worthy of your consideration no matter what your theological or denominational affiliation.

I first noticed this blog last year. Manasclerk had recommended a PCA congregation to another blogger looking for a church home. The other blogger visited and was offended by the "fencing of the table" -- the statement of requirements for participating in the Lord's Supper, including the requirement that you must be a member of an evangelical church somewhere. (The actual requirement is a bit more subtle, and there are exceptions. Even after 14 years as a member, I find the explanation somewhat confusing, and it seems to come across differently each time, so I can imagine how perplexing it must have been to someone hearing it for the first time.)

Anyway, Manasclerk put together three entries (here, here, and here) about the rationale behind this policy, including comments from an elder of the particular church in question. It was good information, and it communicated that at the heart of fencing the table is a belief that what happens in the Lord's Supper really matters and that it is something that happens to Christians in community.

For whatever reason, though, I didn't blogroll Manasclerk at the time and lost track of his blog until I recently joined the League of Reformed Bloggers. A few days ago noticed in that blogroll that his blog was recently updated. The update announced his imminent retirement, and that sent me back to discover what I'd missed. Here are a couple of gems I've found so far.

There's this about church and membership, about the temptation to wallow in alienation, to remain an outsider, and the choice to claim a visible, particular community of Christians as your own. Here are excerpts, but you need to read it all:

I used to think that the church was something outside of me, an entity that I had to convince to let me stay around. I've been asked to shut up more than a few times, and have experienced being blown off in ways that would make my seventh graders blush. The church always seemed like a club that I didn't belong to, couldn't belong to. My story was that Jesus had invited me to the party, but the churchpeople wouldn't let me in. ...

You are the Church. You. Not some other person. Why not ask if you have a question? Why does the church have to give to you always, always take care of you? Are you still a child? It's a lie straight from Satan's mouth to our ears that we are not part of the Body, that we do not belong, that someone else has to do something. God, for whatever reason, changes the world one person at a time. Let go. Let his wild, reckless power take you where he will.

It's an easy thing to claim your identity as part of a great world movement, whether its Campus Crusade, Calvinism, Catholicism, or just plain Christianity. You can feel a part of something bigger than yourself, joined with millions of others around the world. But those millions are just abstractions. It's a lot harder for some of us -- maybe us blogger types in particular -- or maybe just me -- to connect with and remain connected with the flawed, flesh-and-blood believers who make up a local congregation, who are prone to give offense and take offense. Remaining aloof and detached allows me to steer clear of pain and messiness, but it means I fail the visible proof that I am Christ's disciple.

In an entry that touched me deeply, he tells of a visit to the home some friends, where he observes the same twisted family dynamics he grew up with:

There are a lot of weird things that go on in the family. The father is incapable of showing physical affection to his girls, it seems, and he shows no affection to his wife whatsoever. She, in turn, is contemptuous of him, blaming him for all of the girls' problems. The girls have each adopted a parent whose pain they will internalize and act on.

I am in hell and watching my life again and again, played out large.

The oldest girl takes on her mother's pain. Rather, to be more clear, the daughter takes on her mother's sinful responses to the mother's pain. ... My young friend has internalized her mother's sinful responses to pain and become weird, bizarre. Desperate for love and affection, she loves too strongly (it's scary what she can say to her friends) and acts erratically, hostilely. Of at least average intelligence, she believes herself to be stupid. She works hard to ruin anything that she makes. I internalized my mother's own sinful repsonses to pain, to lessen her distress, by becoming weird, odd, not knowing how to form any relationship that mattered. ...

Our other young friend has taken her father's sinful responses to his pain as her own. ... We talk together the last night before L and I leave. I tell her that I'm sorry that her father doesn't show her affection, and that this is not her fault. "But what if I want it to be my fault so that he doesn't hurt so much any more?" ...

I hear my young friend say these words and my soul cracks, my heart breaks. She will do things to be normal, yet she cannot have deep relationships. Part of her never shows up. It stays safely hidden, safe behind the anger and aggressiveness.

The father hates his wife with an avoidance that is hard for those who did not grow up with this (like me) or who have lived like this with their spouses (like me) to understand. She, in turn, blames him for every evil in her life.

Yet he has hope for this family, because he has seen transformation in his own life:

You want to see a miracle? Watch what God will do with this family. The things that are hidden will be made known. He is preparing to do something unheard of, the complete redemption of a family locked in a pattern of abuse. Why would he do this? Just so that I will know that he is who he is. Can the God who took the people of Abraham from out of Egypt, mightiest nation on the earth, be frustrated by a small family? The players are set. The warriors of God are arrayed against the forces of evil. Watch and see redemption brought to these people, not by my hand -- I can save no one -- but only through the hand of God. He has seen fit to let me see this mighty work, this great act of grace and redemption. Watch what happens.

You see, God has redeemed my own sinful responses to pain given to me. He has begun the work of transformation, as I crucify the old man and put on the new, clothe myself in garments washed white in Christ's blood (such a metaphor!). You think it isn't true? My brother and I were talking before I left. "I just want you to know how much I enjoy having you as my brother," he said. From secrets and lies we have been redeemed, are being redeemed, new creations in Christ.

There's a lot more, and I don't want it to go away until I've had the chance to read through it all. A few more days at least, pretty please?

UPDATE: I e-mailed him to let him know about this entry, and he replied that he's moved the technical content elsewhere but is leaving the personal stuff in place and has begun posting again. Great!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 15, 2005 7:20 AM.

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