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Fri Mar 07, 2014
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Thu Mar 06, 2014
by Bubba Jennings
For Whose Glory?
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence" (Matthew 23:25).
Gluttony is the sin of excess. Most commonly associated with food and drink, I have been a glutton of another kind, feasting on something more insidious than food, more intoxicating than drink: myself. My greed for glory has grieved God and hurt those around me. Self-indulgence in the most literal sense has been my sin. God is redeeming my gluttony for glory.
God has been gracious and patient with me on this long road of redemption. I can finally tell this story with no demand that I get any glory. This story truly is about the Glorious One—the one who is worthy of all worship.
I Was a Girl in Need of a Savior
I was born a glory glutton. I have always had an uncanny ability to make everything about me. As a young girl, I dreamt up elaborate schemes that every conversation my parents had with me, each other or even on the phone was all a grand plan to lavish blessing upon me. I was truly obsessed with the thought that I was at the center of the world, grasping and grabbing for attention wherever I could get it.
During that same time period, to add confusion to my already sinful heart, I was getting attention from a man that I didn't want. Sexual knowledge, forbidden touch and the awareness of how my body worked was stirred in me far too young.
I became a living paradox. I had such self-love that I went to great lengths to delude myself into thinking others lives were consumed with mine and yet, hid in terrified secrecy as I tried to manage my shame. I longed to be seen, yet wanted to disappear. I craved attention when I wasn't getting any and loathed myself when I was.
On my own, I am for my glory alone. In Christ, I am for his glory alone.
My self-absorbed heart coupled with sexual abuse left me feeling gloriously powerful and grotesquely defiled. A cute enough face and petite enough body leveraged plenty of attention from boys. I was bold in my sin, deftly flaunting my body and my charm. I was as much a sexual predator as the man prowling the bar for a fling. One-night stands numbed my soul. They gave me fleeting feelings of my own greatness and glory. They left me feeling empty and altogether disgusting.
I was a desperately confused young woman. I knew I loved Jesus, but also believed I couldn't be loved by Jesus in all of my sin and shame. Seduced by temptation, I ingested the morsels of self-absorbed lies that the enemy whispered in my soul, "Forget Jesus. You're bigger and better than him. Take control of your life and get what you really want out of it." These lies appealed to my glory-grabbing heart while confirming my greatest fear—my sin placed me out of God's reach.
I was a girl in need of a Saviour.
I Am a Woman in Need of a Savior
My husband Phil came into my life around this time. I believed that marrying a Christian man was the right thing to do, that somehow it would atone for my past. Here was a nice guy who had been praying for a wife, maybe he could rescue me from my shame? I trusted his relationship with God and most certainly did not trust mine so I took the plunge.
I was still very self-aggrandizing, convinced that marrying a man who adored me would only add to my glory and complete the cycle of self-worship. I was shocked when he first told me that I was a difficult woman and hard to live with.
Gorged on an inflated view of self, I made for a demanding wife. We had not spoken in any detail about my past; fear enslaved me. If Phil really found out who I was, he would not love me. If I truly humbled myself before God, he would reject me. These lies were coupled with my husband's passivity and fear of me. We limped along in a marriage that appeared healthy on the surface, but was deeply hurting at its core.
Phil and I each found ourselves on the receiving end of pastoral rebuke that opened our eyes and brought us along in repentance. After learning that Phil had never truly pursued me about my past, a pastor confronted him by asking, "Phil, don't you realize this isn't all about you?" I had a pastor speak to me in a prophetic manner, "Jen, if you would stop believing lies, you and Phil would have huge ministry opportunities."
A humble, broken woman who takes God's word seriously and herself lightly is a woman that God wants to use.
God changed our hearts. God changed our marriage. Phil repented of his nice-guy self-righteousness and I repented of my tough-girl, glory-grabbing facade that covered my ashamed heart.
Eyes opened to my arrogance, God gave me this graphic picture: I saw myself as a bloodied corpse, elevated on a pedastal, covered in the filth of my sin. I was screaming down at Jesus, pleading at him to help me. And he said, "I already have. Come down from there and I will show you."
I am a woman in need of a Savior.
I Will Always Be a Woman in Need of a Savior
Coming to terms with the fact that I desire attention, my first response was to shy away from it. Because of my sinful gluttony for glory, I surmised that my sin eliminated me from leadership completely. Silence and invisibility must be the antidote. I, once again, was believing a lie.
God pressed truth upon my heart, "No Jen. To hide from what I've called you to is still an attempt to steal my glory." He gave me Isaiah 66:2, "But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
As a pastor's wife, writer, teacher, woman of influence, I am sometimes given glory for my accomplishments. I believe I am called to lead and help, but not without admitting I am equally wounded and sinful. A humble, broken woman who takes God's word seriously and herself lightly is a woman that God wants to use. Not for her glory but for his alone. This ongoing heart struggle tethers me to this truth:
I will always be a woman in need of a Savior.
Grace Upon Grace
"Arise, shine, for your light has come,and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you" (Isaiah 60:1). God sees me because he sees his Son. Any good I do, any word I speak, any influence I have, and any redemption lived out is God's grace to me submitted to the power of Christ in me. On my own, I am for my glory alone. In Christ, I am for his glory alone. It's all a gift of his glorious grace. His grace has changed me; I will never be the same.
Redemption: For His Glory Alone
Today, I am a woman, wife, mother, and leader who has been humbled. Repentance and redemption for me as a glory glutton involves:
- Gratitude - Thank you God for your grace to a sinner like me.
- Grief - Lord, my sin breaks my heart as it does yours. Please forgive me.
- Humility - Lord, teach me sober judgement. Let me not think more highly of myself than I ought.
- Belief - God, if you want to use me, I trust you. I will be faithful to follow your lead.
It is still true to this day: my heart loves to be seen by God and man. Every time I teach a group of women or submit a blog post for publication, I have to ask myself, "For whose glory?"
My answer? "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" (Psalm 115:1).
Watch a video below of Jen's story captured at Redemption Groups: