Thursday, July 21, 2011

World-Shaping: Starting with the Life Code

The Life Code: Fear, Anger, and Shame
Every person has a code deep within that governs his behavior. I am calling it a life code. It is a set of principles and convictions about human existence. It forms the centering point to which all of a person’s actions and thoughts are anchored, the axis on which the wheel of one’s behavior turns. Often it is imbedded so deeply that he is unaware both of the code and the forces and experiences that led to its formation. Usually, he cannot see the code’s outworking in his own behavior.

Invariably, it is anger, fear, and shame in some form that mold every person’s life code. A couple years ago, for example, while trying to answer the perceptive questions of a friend and mentor, I realized the extent to which my decisions at the time were governed by fear. Fear was an obstacle in my life. It had been diverting me from trusting obedience. Because of it, I had put myself in a holding pattern for no good reason without even realizing it. How could this have happened? I had just finished Bible college, and the most common command in the Scriptures , after all, is “Do not fear.”

For others, anger rests behind their life code. The source of the anger takes many forms: broken or dysfunctional family relationships, a physical ailment, the death of a loved one, damaging experiences with Christians or Christian organizations, a failed career path, or physical or sexual abuse. People who harbor anger because of their suffering can talk however they want, but in the long run their behavior says, “The world and God and the people around me owe me because of what I’ve been through.”

Next is shame. The list of difficulties above can inspire shame as well as anger. Think of a divorced person, a parent with a rebellious child, a father who loses his job and cannot support his family, a child who grows up knowing her family is poorer than everyone else, an elderly person who can no longer control his body’s functions. People in such situations—and all of us in some way—deal with feelings of shame. It may even be an experience we had in our youth that weighed so heavily upon our person that we bear it the rest of our life. Shame is like a tender bruise that never goes away; we cover it so that no one can touch it and make us hurt. Shame leads us to believe, “I am not worthy because of this.”

Life Codes Set the Format for World-Shaping
A person’s life code drives his or her behavior, and behavior is a way of describing how someone tries to shape his or her world. More than anything, the life code reveals what kind of people make one feel threatened and what kind of people make one feel safe. For example:

A single woman in her thirties or forties may feel threatened by a younger married woman if she believes in her core that being connected to a man validates a woman’s existence. She will order her world in such a way that she can avoid the younger woman and others like her. An old man who cannot work may feel threatened by younger, healthy men if he believes in his core that a man’s worth lies in his work. He will order his world so that he does not have to be around the work he can no longer do or people who still can.

A young man may order his world to invite the companionship of foolish people and keep away those he sees as wise or virtuous if he believes in his core—perhaps because he has heard it since his youth—that he himself is a fool. A young woman may see a louse of a man as a prince only because he shows her attention; she may entrust herself to him if in her core she needs to feel like she belongs. If her friends and family do not like him, she will order her world in a way that distances them because they jeapordize the relationship that makes her feel affirmed.

Salvation and Life Codes
These core convictions—matters of worth, value, and belonging—are the true places where the gospel works in a person’s life. Christ himself comes to encounter the anger, fear, and shame deep within, and at those very places imparts the truth of the Father’s love story. The person’s code then begins to change. Divine love casts out fear. Shame is taken away by Christ. Anger becomes trustful suffering endured under the Father’s goodness.

As the code, the axis, changes, the behavior anchored to it changes, and the person begins to cooperate with the Spirit in the re-ordering of her life. Her world begins to resemble Christ’s kingdom. It becomes a domain where Christ rules and where he is present. The old world becomes new in the following ways:

An appetite for truth will take away deceptive and senseless speech, along with the attractiveness of those who speak it. A person’s possessions may simplify as covetousness is replaced by the ability to celebrate gifts without desiring ownership. Manipulative relationships will heal—or manipulative people find their way out—and loyalty will exist instead. Sexual lust will seem out of place, and those who use sexuality as a tool will no longer be enticing. Other people will no longer be regarded as threats and potential pieces of a self-validating plan. Instead they will be seen as children loved steadfastly by the Father. Routines of complacency will give way to self-sacrificing action. Busy schedules will make room for times of communion with the Father. Private spaces will open up to invite others in to the life of following Christ.

Altogether, faith, hope, love, and peace will come to characterize life as Christ dwells more fully in a person’s being and in his or her sphere of influence. This begins when the gospel enters in and deals with one’s existing life code founded on fear, anger, and shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment