I hope you take the time to read Christine’s post Managing the “Ick” Factor. For me it was a good reminder and good timing.
As we descend farther into this time of tribulation, there will be a whole raft of new challenges to our faith. Your witness of God’s truth and glory will demand more from you. It’s not so radically different from the situation for the First Century churches, in the sense that God’s power and presence always comes with greater turmoil. Your relationship with Him determines whether you will be on the wrath edge of the sword or the blessing edge, but that sword will most assuredly cut (Hebrews 4:12). It’s a time of clarifying and purifying, making us more like His Son.
A critical element in that clarification is that you learn how to set and maintain boundaries. There’s an awful lot of hidden ick that’s going to come out into the open, and it tends to splash around. The whole point of digging into revelation is to shed your own ick; you surely don’t need someone else’s ick. The problem, then, is to differentiate between genuine moral ick and all the things it rides on into our lives. Ick tends to cling to people, so it’s not really the people who are the problem (Ephesians 6:12). They are the victims just like us.
Keeping sane moral boundaries is compassion and mercy for those who bear a lot of ick. It calls their attention to the ugly truth if you refuse to accept something in your life that is icky. On the one hand, we will see a lot of fresh exposure of ick that people we already know have been hiding from themselves; it’ll expose our own ick. But the turmoil of tribulation will also bring us into contact with a lot more people than usual, people that we would otherwise never encounter. That means a lot of new ick we haven’t encountered before.
For me, it’s a fresh call to remember all those lessons about professional military bearing. What for many is a false veneer they endure as part of wearing the uniform, is for me a truth about the ugly fallen world. Some measure of what the military demanded of me during my service was actually in my best interest. It belongs to me, and I belong to it. Though it seems at times like hiding my true self, it’s a simple matter of civility that not everyone has earned the privilege of getting that close me. It’s not that I can’t use the full range of God’s gifts, but that I don’t have to drop all the barriers to exercise them. Put on the full armor of God.
Some of you may recall a term I used before: cathexis. In the realm of human behavioral science, it refers to the sudden rush of emotional attachment that most people experience when falling in love. But the word does not refer to romantic attachment alone. Rather, it refers to the natural human tendency to look for any safe place to drop all of our boundaries and experience full communion. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s often poorly done. We tend to attach ourselves to a presence that is untrustworthy, and eventually get burned. You can let yourself go (cathect) with the unfallen natural world; it won’t betray your trust. Nature reflects God’s character and you can surely trust Him. But fallen humans are another matter entirely.
We are born with a longing to commune with others; that’s our divine design peeking through. Our fallen nature spoils the whole thing. But as redemption draws us farther and farther into the heart-led way, we find ourselves farther and farther from the common human society around us. It’s not that we have forgotten how they do things, but that we know we can’t go back to that. Don’t be cold; be reserved. Don’t give your pearls to swine; don’t give what is holy to dogs. Until your heart finds evidence that the people around you have begun to operate on a level above pigs and dogs, you’ll have to keep a portion of your true self out of their reach.
All of this, of course, assumes that you are doing your best to explore the true self God made in His image. As you discover more of the beauty and wonders God has planted in your own soul, recognize that they are the pearls and holy things that demand a proper guardianship. Share them in a manner and context that helps expose the glory of God to others. It will polarize the people you encounter, but all of that is just the appearance of things. Be consistent, but let that consistency be rooted in your heart. It doesn’t have to make sense to others. The people you are supposed to help will, sooner or later, be drawn to seek the truth you bear.