“Sanctification requires our coming to a place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid.” -Oswald Chambers
There is more to this quote than you may think. A good word for sanctification is “legitimized.” A place of death is the place where you don’t want yourself. And, another word for “morbid” is dispirited.
Consider a man who has held a secret within him for years. He holds the secret because he knows that what he is doing is wrong, but he really believes that he can handle it on his own. When he feels it tugging at him, it’s when he feels some kind of emotion. He’s angry, so he does it. He’s stressed, so he does it. He’s lonely, so he does it. He just peaked a mountain, so he does it.
After he’s done, he feels empty and let down. Let down by himself and let down by the lie he always believes right before he does it. He’s weak after that. Submissive at times and confrontational at others. Like a beat dog, he’s almost bipolar. The people closest to him can’t connect with him because, though he may not do it on purpose, he can’t let them see his eyes. He has to push out some other forced emotion so that it drowns out the truth that he hides. He’s unnatural, and since nobody knows what’s back there hiding in the corner, they are left with this forced mess of abnormal.
It’s like the woman who got too much plastic surgery in her attempt to get closer to perfect. Everyone else sees something unnatural about it, but they can’t tell her because she’s almost delusional. If you isolate all the pieces, the nose, the cheek bones, the chin implant, the skin… they’re all separately fine. Then, put them all together and there is something that is just off about it.
It’s the same with the man. His laugh, his sudden bursts of energy, his unexpected agreeableness…you can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. When you try to describe it, you sound paranoid, but anyone who really knows him can see that something is off.
The longer he goes between doing it, the better and freer he gets. He sees it clearly and part of him really believes that he won’t do it again. Until he does. He’s in a prison. He can’t tell you his secret. He’s terrified, angry, weak, stubborn, and he’s in denial. He feels trapped because he needs help and there is no way to get help without telling the secret. He doesn’t want this anymore, but it’s the only real thing he thinks he has. Everything else gets pushed away to protect it from his secret, but instead of protecting his other areas, he’s protecting his darkness.
Then his worst fear comes knocking. He gets caught. It’s always a surprise. The unknown is known. He panics, wondering how much is known. He braces for all of what caused him terror to come at him with the promised fury that caused him to hide in fear for so long. He sees everything he has felt about himself: disgust, disappointment, confusion, and sadness all reflected on someone else’s face while the truth of his secret is sinking in for the first time.
His first reaction was panic and denial. The second phase is overwhelming relief mixed with a sort of subconscious expectation to be wiped out or be rescued. It’s the big “what now?” and “Who am I, really?” and “Oh, my gosh, …oh, my gosh.” The more it sinks in, the more he hates himself.
That’s the place of death.
The hope is, “sanctification requires our coming to the place of death.”
The Holy Spirit floods in and opens his eyes. The more his eyes are opened to the hope in his worst, the more he sees those who don’t get what has just happened. He sees how others don’t believe in the power of grace and restoration. He’s free from the need to hide and dances in his nakedness while others look on in disgust. They’re still stuck in their view of his secret and they make his dance out out to be something repulsive.
This is the place where the ‘set free’ can become morbid, cynical, and full of pride. He has to move past their failure, just like he wants them to move past his. He has to allow them the space to tangle with the Holy Spirit, just like they couldn’t have been the Holy Spirit to him.
God can rebuild the temple, the temple that you are, into something more profoundly beautiful than you ever were or than anyone previously thought you were. He can do this without the affirmation, agreement, or witness of anyone else. When you see what is happening in your life as a result of the transformation power of grace, don’t be surprised or self-righteously indignant when others don’t believe it.
Try something today. When the ties to your old influences are ripping at your skin because their hooks are still in there, make a point to focus on what God is doing and revealing inside of you, not on what someone else is doing wrong. Don’t speak of it.
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. -Philippians 4:4-5 MSG
You don’t have to fight anymore, just work and ignore the rocks hitting your back. They can’t, with their disbelief and jeering, undo anything that God has done in you. Walk in certainty and let them say whatever they want to say. They’re stuck in that spot, but you don’t have to be. Don’t speak of it.
Don’t speak of what they’re doing wrong. It’s only an attempt to point out how far you’ve come when compared to where they’re currently stuck. Self-promotion taints organic sanctification.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. -Philippians 4:7 MSG
Everything that happened is for a reason and it all comes together for good. Nobody else has to see that to make it true. It’s always true. It’s the one thing that you can focus on to keep you from being ripped apart by the premature and irrelevant judgment of others. It keeps you from becoming morbid.
This is the best bit of advice that I can offer anyone who is in the process of being rebuilt after a horrible, self-inflicted storm. Burrow yourself inside these scriptures and let the truth get in your eyes, scent your skin, and muffle out all the other noises. Sink like a rock in the ocean of this bit of direction and speak of nothing else:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. -Philippians 4:8-9 MSG