Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Honesty and Relationality

Well, Holly and I (and Pax) just got in from a 2-day, 1-night trip to Yosemite with my Dad and Stepmom. It was a good, albeit tiring, time. I tasted some of my newly favorite zinfandel. I'll find their site and blog about that later.

The last few days have been searching for me, being with my father and stepmom. We are on very different (yet sometimes very similar) paths. It's always interesting to attempt to engage in conversation with them. It's as if we speak different languages, but share some common words. The words mean different things to us though...and that's difficult.

In the last couple days we discussed the tragedy of Ted Haggard. I also heard about yet another pastor who had "fallen" and had been let go of by his faith community. I also heard about a 1-800 number that Dobson (or someone else?) set up for pastors to call in to anonymously report their struggles with infidelities or homosexuality or whatnot. Apparently, like 600 pastors a month have been calling in.

It really got me thinking. That's really sad that the solution for all this crisis is an anonymous hotline. I hate to be a critic of a solution, but honestly...anonymity? Is that really helping anything? As I said in the last post, Craig reflected on how this Haggard situation indicts the whole system. I think that a call to real, honest relationships with people is the only way that stuff like this can be properly "dealt with" and that people possessing that sort of fame and power are products of a system where you are more honored and perhaps even "Godly" if you keep all your shit to yourself.

So, that being said, let me share an alternative.

For the last several years of my life (back into High School even), I have always remembered struggling with pornography. It's always been there.

I thought when I got married this would change. It didn't. I soon met others who said the same thing. Holly has known about this for a long time...even her knowing didn't necessarily cause me to change my behavior (although it always pained me to report it to her).

This last year for Holly and I was a year of attempting community in experimental ways. If we really believed that we could not journey through the most difficult parts of life without community, why not explore the boundaries of that. I shared my struggles with so many of the guys I saw along our pilgrimage. It was amazing to hear others' stories of struggle, addiction, pain, emptiness...and sometimes hope. It was both freeing and salvific.

You know, I don't mean this post to paint me in some sort of saintly light...a Pauline "follow me as I follow Christ"...but I must report how healing those conversations with real friends were. It was in real relationships that we are healed...not in some 1-800 anonymous hotline.

I feel bad for all these pastors who slept with whoever. Really, I feel for them and their family. Who likes to have their past catch up with them when there are skeletons in their closet? But can I speak frankly? Some of us would propose that a person given that sort of "power" amidst a community might be a bad idea. Elevating the pastor (as so many in this tradition do) to the status of God's Interpretor is just plain dangerous. And stages do nothing but promote double-lives. Trust me. This I know to be true from personal experience.

So what are we to do? Begin to honestly engage with each other about how fucked up we are...and remind each other about how beautiful we are...and realize that that sort of honesty is a good place to begin...even if it's way messier.


Maria Kenney said...

This is a hell of a post, Ryan. Your honesty is pretty amazing, and it's a gift to your friends and readers. Keep running the race, and know that you're not alone. Thanks for letting all of us (with whatever our struggles) know we're not alone either.

ashdown said...

beautiful post my friend. i am privilidged to be on this journey with you. thanks for your words - they are inspiring.

Brian Aaby said...

Ryan, very intriguing post. You say some very true (and unfortunate) things about pastors (and the "god's" people make them out to be--and they sometimes desire to be).
Read an interesting post from theresurgence.com (Mark Driscoll blog). I would hope we'd have some pastors that not only could be honest (like you have suggested, modeled), but that would take the next step as well. He writes:
"Any pastor who is drifting toward serious sexual sin should have the courage, love for God, devotion to his family, and respect for his church to simply fall on his sword and resign before he goes down in flames. He must get the professional help he needs without fear of losing his position as a pastor. It is much better to be an honest Christian than a wicked pastor."

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

You know, I'll just go ahead and say it... I don't know that "professional help" really is the answer. Certainly your Masters background will confirm this! :)

I think that we are healed in relationship. What's the joke about a shrink being a person who is paid to be your friend? And while it might be a step to take, certainly "professional help" should be no sort of end in the healing process. If necessary, it should prime people to be honest in real relationships. "Professional help" is not real relationship.

Of course, that's just my opinion... - Ryan

Kirsty said...

This post is unbelievably poignant, been thinking about a lot of this stuff lately.

Was actually in a seminar a few weeks back talking about abuse, and bad family practices, and heard a lot of saddening statistics of stuff going on in the church, like incest, and sexual abuse. And I have to wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to be open about these things. I mean church should be a place where people are free to share their struggles and find healing. But yeah community really excites me, I think is definately the key to starting the healing process for things like porn addictions. It is amazing how when people are completely honest in sharing that healing can come. I really think its what Jesus meant when he said confess your sins to each other.

I agree with the above, thanks for your complete honesty here, its inspiring!

Brian Aaby said...

Ryan, appreciate your opinioin... (nice shot at Master's too)! Though I hope you're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater (on counseling)... You went to your Witch Doctor because you wanted help/advice--yet you still stay engaged with your community (and they all give you thoughts too)... do you not think that same thing could be true with counseling. In no way is Mark Driscoll suggesting that you pay someone to be your friend, but how about going to a counselor (wether paid for or not) who has expertise in a specific area. This with the right community could really be help, don't you think? {Trying to work some Biola slam in here... can't really find the right avenue? dang it! :-) }

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Well spoke Brian. I'm not trying to go all Tom Cruise here and say that we do not need professional help ever! I'm jus suggesting that there is something about really being known that is healing...and that a move to anonymity might just be a move further in the wrong direction. And I'm thinking from what you said that we're in agreeance there.

Thanks everyone for the thoughts thus far,

EmmA...er...Pamela said...

i don't think i am saying anything new here, but i just wanted to say that i am a total advocate of professional help + community. when i was 15/16 my parents sent me to a counselor and i just sat and stared at him every $100+ session without talking because i thought "what the f*ck does this guy know about me?" at that point in my life i had no community whatsoever and thus a counselor alone was not the answer...sometimes however, a counselor can also guide someone to utilize the community around them. i know later in my life that a lot of people close to me who have great communities really got so much more from a counselor than they would have ever gotten just purely from the untrained community around them. real breakthroughs required both. but.... that being said anonymous phone calls and counselling are two different things... but for some an anonymous phone call confessional might be the first step to being vulnerable amongst the community that loves that person. just my two cents :)

russ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
russ said...

bravo, ryan... great post.

Chris said...

Thanks for your authenticity, Ryan. I totally see the Ted Haggard situation as a tragedy exposing our lack of the practice of confession in our communities. Thank you for reminding me of that today.

Chris K.