Monday, September 29, 2008

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

“Did you hear about . . .” so began the phone conversation where my husband informed me about the arrest of a clergy person in suburb east of Dallas. No, I had not heard. I had been experiencing a challenging work day and had not turned listened to the news on the radio nor had I read the morning paper thoroughly.

When I did find the news reports, my insides began to churn. A young clergyman had been arrested for trafficking in child pornography over the Internet. He apparently admitted that he was the person behind the screen name used for the deed. It is possible we’ve seen just the surface of a life lived with one foot in the world of grace and hope and the other wallowing in horrific and disgusting activities. Just the beginning of the inevitable exposure of yet another person who thought he or she could live a double life and get away with it.

You, and I, really, really can’t have it both ways. We cannot live and work in positions of trust and be systematically betraying that trust in our shadow lives. People have tried this from the beginning of recorded history. It might work for a while, perhaps even years. But at some point, the light will overcome the darkness and all will be exposed.

It’s the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome: the good doctor by day, serving, learning, experimenting; the nasty destroyer at night, using the cover of darkness to release the cruel and debased side of his personality. He was eventually destroyed, as are all who try to live such a decided double life and never reach the point of sorrow and repentance because of it.

All of us have a shadow side, the parts of us we’d rather not come to light. Some, like the clergy man mentioned above, choose to indulge their shadow side. They become destroyers, and are especially destructive to those who trust them most fully. Others seek awareness of their shadow sides. They discover that by facing it and courageously bringing it into a position of accountability to others, it is possible to live in the light. They become healers. It is a hard battle—only the foolish and ignorant suggest any easy path to wholeness. But we’ve all go the choice to make.

The most famous example of someone who gave into his shadow side from the Bible was King David. This gifted and wonderful king decided he could wantonly take another woman, have her husband killed when a pregnancy resulted, and just get away with it. After all, he was powerful and had done much, much good for the nation. Surely people would overlook this one little crossing of the moral line.

But God does not, nor ultimately can we ourselves. Those choosing to hold onto the double life enter a vicious downward cycle of self-hatred and self-indulgence, expending massive amounts of energy covering their tracks, all while trying so maintain exterior respectability and trustworthiness. The drain on the soul increases with each episode. Lying replaces truth, in time eventually shoving truth out completely. The double life kills, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. But it always kills. That is its nature.

We really can’t have it both ways. We can seek wholeness and singleness. Those are other words for heaven, living in the light of the saving grace of our Lord. Or we can continue in duplicity and brokenness. Those are other words for hell, which is separation from our God, from our own souls and from those whom we say we love. We really, really can’t have it both ways.

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