When Your Kayak Is Small

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The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Gabrielle,

So if I might, just by way of review, summarize what we have covered? We will be there on our visit soon, and so we can address any remaining questions then.

I began with a theological concern because we always want to begin with God. If this is the case in trivial matters, it most certainly is the case in momentous challenges like this one. I said that the temptation to blame God—since He had the power and ability to keep these things from happening to you—would be a very real temptation. I also urged you to remember that doing this, that “blaming God,” is by definition incoherent. If God can be blamed, then at the end of the day any man can blame him. In the name of taking a most severe line against the crime that was committed against you, you wind up erasing the very idea of crime. If God is evil, or if there is no God, as we read in Karamazov, then everything is permitted. But the permission involved in this is universal—it includes not only your bitterness, but also your father’s lusts.

I then explained how counseling in cases of serious trauma like this one sometimes needs to deal with the really difficult issues right at the first. A doctor in the ER room has to “set the bone.” There is a way of dealing with the hard issues at the front end that is a true kindness. The more gentle aspects of nursing need to come later.

Next we got into the great challenge of living like a Christian—the absolute duty of forgiving those who have sinned against us. In your case, with the sin so grievous, the standard questions about forgiveness are thrown into high relief. Forgiveness is mandatory, but forgiveness is not unilateral. A disposition to forgive is unilateral (and can in a limited way be called forgiveness), but for the transaction of forgiveness to occur, the one who sinned against you must genuinely repent. And once forgiveness has been granted, it is not synonymous with trust. Lack of trust not mean lack of forgiveness. But bitterness and malice do indicate a lack of forgiveness, and every form of bitterness must go. It only destroys the one who holds to it.

I then urged you to turn over all your struggles with this situation over to God. You were made to be treasured. You are precious in God’s sight. He wants to carry these things for you, and so you should relinquish everything to Him. You don’t deal with all the gunk, and then come to God for a reward. You come to God in the first instance, and you do so because in the blood of His Son you have been made most precious.

Anger is not the same thing as bitterness or malice. Anger can be righteous, while bitterness and malice cannot be. But God’s Word gives us clear directions on how to keep our anger constructive. Even when it is a good thing, like manna, it goes rotten overnight. So anger is supposed to be directed at things that Scripture identifies as lawful recipients of it, and anger is supposed to be episodic, and not a standing attitude. As a standing attitude, it would only sour the person who is holding it.

Someone in your position frequently feels a deep need to make a personal statement, one that is permanent, and one that serves notice to the world that you are now free and independent. I urged you to let your baptism be that mark and not to try to “medicate” yourself with therapeutic tattoos, or anything of that kind.

In another letter, I addressed the “normality” battle. You have one experience of a very perverse “normal,” and another set of head definitions that set forth what Scripture, reason, and tradition define as normal. But since your abnormal experience was presented to the world in a hypocritical way, then how is it not possible that all the other things that appear normal really aren’t? Maybe the whole world is a lying farce. This question is important because at some point you are going to be contemplating marriage, and it is the point where normal sexuality will collide most violently with what you have had to deal with. This is why it is important for you not to “stuff” these issues, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) now, long before you meet this fine young man.

Of course you would have to be a block of wood not to sometimes feel the pressure of self-recrimination, the lure of blaming yourself for everything. But it is a lure, it is a temptation, and it must be resisted. There is a way to become complicit in tragedies like this, but there is no indication to me that you gave way to that at all.

As Christians, we are servants of the truth. We are not to be servants of whatever side we happen to be on. And so I explained to you in another letter that we are as supportive of you as we are because your account is true. My correspondence with your father was simply an attempt to get through his self-pity and his rationalizations, and not an indication that I was starting to have doubts about your story.

And so next, I gave you my Dutch uncle spiel. The world is charged with sexuality, and as you are going off to college, you are going to have to navigate this erotic world. The river is big, the rapids are white, and your kayak is small. Boys are going to come around, and you have to know to shut them down without shutting them out. How’s that for a cryptic statement?

The world is unfair. The world is a fallen place. This means that we have to “take measures,” and when we take measures, we are not approving of the things we are guarding against. You should want to see the world accurately, and be prepared for that, which is quite different from preparing for an imaginative world (the kind with green meadows and fluffy clouds all the time) that you hope might be happening somewhere, somehow. This is, if you will pardon my French, a worldview made up of unicorn farts.

Related to all of this is the question of identity. You have certain creational identities, given to you by God, which are to be enjoyed—but not allowed to become idols. If you prevent them from becoming idols in your life, you will enjoy them, along with your foundational identity of being a creation of God’s, and redeemed by Him on top of that. There are competitive identities that are necessarily idolatrous and which must always be resisted.

And last, my exhortation to you was that you make sure to taken refuge from every threat in the fortress of your God. Hide in His pavilions. Let Him be your shield and buckler. He loves you, treasures you, and He will always take care of you.

God bless you richly. May the benedictions of a thousand Sundays rest upon you.

 

Cordially in Christ,

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OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago

Your statements on forgiveness lack clarity as to when and how it should it happen. Specifically, you say “forgiveness is mandatory” and also “for the transaction of forgiveness to occur, the one who sinned against you must genuinely repent”. In the first statement, it is a duty without prerequisites, but in the second, there is a condition. If you mean that the Christian is required to forgive only when there is genuine repentance, then forgiveness is only “mandatory” when that condition is met. However, if you mean that forgiveness must be given even when there is no repentance, there is… Read more »

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

It was fleshed out further in the original letter. I’d suggest digging that out to read.

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  kyriosity

I’ll stick with my position that he should never have said “forgiveness is mandatory” if he believes that forgiveness of others is conditional. It’s too much in line with unconditional forgiveness of others and likely to lead to a reader missing his actual position. No reader should be expected to have a complete knowledge of the writer’s position on a specific topic, nor should they be expected to have to dig to find out their position. Of course, I do not think one must fully restate their entire position and justify it on every occasion. But all he had to… Read more »

Collin
Collin
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Waiting for the Rat to Die

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  Collin

Thank you. Yes, that is the title of the post in this series that addresses forgiveness most directly. As I said before, it would be helpful if all, rather than just some, of the posts in this series were tagged “Letters to a broken girl”. And it would be nice if it were tagged with “forgiveness” as well, for anyone who should wish to find posts on that topic.

John
John
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Forgiveness, as he defined it, is mandatory. That’s accurate.

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  John

“Forgiveness is mandatory, but forgiveness is not unilateral. A disposition to forgive is unilateral (and can in a limited way be called forgiveness), but for the transaction of forgiveness to occur, the one who sinned against you must genuinely repent.” Which definition? The disposition to forgive (forgiveness “in a limited way”), or the transaction of forgiveness? The latter is only “mandatory” when the sinner repents. In other words, it is conditional, which is not what most people understand “mandatory” to mean. I believe that we should always be ready to forgive, although that can be difficult immediately after the sin.… Read more »

MeMe
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Pastor Wilson did not lay that out very well Rick, probably because he is making a brief summery and assuming these things are already known. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness and malice, that is the truth. It hurts us far more than anyone else. It’s like lugging around a bag of rocks. To forgive is to set your own self free, with the Lord’s help of course, because forgiveness often requires some Divine assistance. We cannot manage it on our own. Sometimes it helps me to understand forgiveness is not restoration. Restoration exceeds my authority. I don’t forgive in order to restore… Read more »

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

The reason I commented on the topic is because, it seems to me, two camps of thought on the question of whether repentance by the offender is necessary for the offended to forgive – those who say it is necessary, and those who say it is not. Based on our earlier conversation on the topic, and your comment here, you seem to be putting yourself in the latter camp. I am not certain that this is what you actually believe, primarily because, in my opinion, there is such a great misunderstanding of the meaning of forgiveness. Quoting Wilson (emphases mine):… Read more »

Bibcnsl
Bibcnsl
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Part of the difficulty with the discussion is that the Bible speaks of forgiveness in two different ways, namely a transaction and a posture. Some want to emphasize one set of data to the exclusion of the other, but we must acknowledge both are there. Others want to unbiblically speak of forgiveness from a man-centered perspective as if granting forgiveness, biblically, is about freeing yourself from emotional pain and pursuing psychological wholeness. From the perspective of Scripture there seem to be two different sets of passages which need to be explained: 1) Transaction Passages (representative selections) From God to Us… Read more »

kyriosity
kyriosity
5 years ago
Reply to  Bibcnsl

This is helpful, Bibcnsl. I like Doug’s picture of having the forgiveness all wrapped up and waiting by the front door for whenever the offender is ready to pick it up. It gets at both the transaction and the posture. Another picture I’ve used is of an IOU that the offended party has torn up. The offender may be refusing to acknowledge the debt or in some other way be refusing to receive the forgiveness (the transaction’s not complete), but the offended party is done with the sin (the posture is complete).

Bibcnsl
Bibcnsl
5 years ago
Reply to  kyriosity

Those are both good metaphors. Thank you for that. Another good metaphor is the adjoining room analogy. The posture of forgiveness is represented by one party opening their door in readiness. The transaction occurs when the other party opens their door and walks through. Also, because I lack an edit button :) There are clearly psychological benefits of extending forgiveness (the way of the transgressor is hard, envy makes the bones rot, there is a path which leads to life, etc.), however, if these become primary then you have embraced moralistic therapeutic deism and/or the prosperity gospel. Primarily, we forgive… Read more »

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  Bibcnsl

Bibcnsl: “the Bible speaks of forgiveness in two different ways, namely a transaction and a posture.”

It seems some find this helpful, but I am troubled by the idea that you seem to consider it acceptable to call both of these concepts forgiveness. Perhaps you do this because you regularly work with people who have been led to mistakenly believe that releasing the offense to God is the transaction of forgiveness, not simply the posture. [Now if you meant “the Bible speaks about the subject of forgiveness …”, I am relatively in agreement with your comment.]

Bibcnsl
Bibcnsl
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

Honestly, the only thing that is motivating me to try to make distinctions between two different types of forgiveness is the textual data. I don’t think it is helpful to make things up or blur concepts in order to help people. The main problem is that you have Jesus using the verb ἀφίημι (forgive) for individuals who haven’t asked. Stephen seems to have the same impulse to ask the Father to not hold the unconfessed/unrepented sins of others against them, which semantically seems no different than Jesus’ own words. Then, you have Jesus encouraging us to “forgive from the heart”… Read more »

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  Bibcnsl

Bibcnsl: “I don’t think it is helpful to make things up or blur concepts in order to help people.” I didn’t mean to imply that you wanted to blur the concepts (although I think your wording of the one statement did blur them ), but it is probably difficult to get counselees to correct their long-held understanding and wording. ‘Therefore, I am forced to make some sort of distinction between “forgiveness” and a “forgiving posture/stance/heart attitude.”’ Well, you should make a distinction, as any logical analysis, even non-textually, would recognize that being prepared to engage in a bilateral interaction is… Read more »

Bibcnsl
Bibcnsl
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

I think it might be less of a translation issue and more of a discussion about execution. In both Luke 23:34 and 1 John 1:9 the verb ἀφίημι is being used in the sense of “to release from legal or moral obligation or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon (BDAG).” As a result, we rightly translate both instances as “forgive.” Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to speak of two “types” of forgiveness and doesn’t seem to be a mistake for us in English to do the same thing that is being done in Greek. In terms of execution, it is correct to… Read more »

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  Bibcnsl

Yes, I think you and I are saying the same thing. I am absolutely, not “just more”, hesitant to speak about forgiveness without absolute clarity that repentance is necessary for the transaction of forgiveness. If most people believe this, I cannot tell it. They certainly do not seem to recognize, much less attempt to distinguish, the distinction between “heart forgiveness” and “transactional forgiveness”. This is true both inside and outside of the Church. Have you ever studied what the Jewish scholars teach about forgiveness? If not, I suggest you do. As I understand it, they intrinsically connect repentance and restitution… Read more »

Bibcnsl
Bibcnsl
5 years ago
Reply to  OKRickety

I haven’t studied what Jewish scholars have said on the subject, but that seems to make sense of what we see in the Bible. The common rules of the game seem to be: 1) if someone tells you that you hurt then, then say you’re sorry 2) forgiveness is optional and supererogatory 3) forgiveness is primarily meant to be beneficial for the granter psychologically 4) forgiveness is mainly a personal decision that one makes to be a generous person and not let the horrible actions of others keep you down 5) if you forgive someone in your heart, there is… Read more »

Silas
Silas
5 years ago

Typically the smaller the kayak the better suited it is for while water.

MeMe
5 years ago

“The river is big, the rapids are white, and your kayak is small. Boys are going to come around, and you have to know to shut them down without shutting them out. How’s that for a cryptic statement?” For the record, I totally object. Her kayak is not small and the urge to make her smaller than she is, is a typical one among men. Her entire problem is going to revolve around the deception that insists and demands her kayak be small. She needs to become the unsinkable Molly Brown instead Also, she can shut down the boys, shut… Read more »

adad0
adad0
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

Sounds like God actually should be mindful of Gabrielles, you make them sound pretty big!????
How big are you again Memi?

I myself am big enough for some tasks and I am probably supposed to do them.

But then there are tasks and issues that are too big for me, and as our host notes, we have to let God carry those for us.

Spouting bluster at those times is actually kind of embarrassing! ????

MeMe
5 years ago
Reply to  adad0

God is mindful of the Gabrielles, so mindful of them He laid down His very life for them. That’s not bluster, that’s the Truth. How big is she? As big as her Father says she is. Why so many men insist on trying to reduce women to a tiny kayak amid the rapids who’s biggest danger is going to going to come from boys, is beyond me. I suppose it’ s a comforting thought however, I am the rapids, you are just a tiny kayak at my mercy. That’s a concept so deeply rooted in fear, it throws me sometimes.… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

I think it’s a paraphrase of the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer: O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small. I don’t think Wilson is intending this only for women; it’s true for everyone. It’s the universal call for God’s mercy when we are tossed by life’s stormy waves.

adad0
adad0
5 years ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

But Hey! At least the boats are Ladies! ????

adad0
adad0
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

4what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5You have made them alittle lower than the Angeles and crowned them with glory and honor. 6You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: Still Memi, whatever we have, and whatever we are,it’s a gift. Hence, we should have some pride, but it should not be misplaced. In the above sense, we are all pretty small. I think our host was talking about the human condition, not the female condition. I continue to find it funny… Read more »

MeMe
5 years ago
Reply to  adad0

“I continue to find it funny that you take some metaphors as anti female, where I take them as gender neutral.”

Quite true. You have to read the whole of Wilson to get a good feel for that, I suppose. There’s nothing quite like attempting to assert gender neutrality, racial neutrality, “fair and equal,” when it’s quite obvious you don’t believe in “neutrality” at all and we are not actually all self identifying as Switzerland here.

adad0
adad0
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

So……….,at least “unicorn farts” is a gender neutral term , right?
????????????

Also, our host lives in a college town, so he may see the fallout from the “erotic world” he mentions, far more frequently than we would see the same.????

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

Bingo! Well put.

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

MeMe:“It actually reflects that very idea, that even God Himself fears her,…” You often stridently object to men’s statements about women that you construe to be demeaning to women, and, on top of that, state the reason to be that men are afraid of women. I posit that, in many cases, you grossly misunderstand the reason for the statements. In fact, I believe it is just the opposite of what you claim. Men, the good ones, anyway, are afraid for women and want to protect them. For example, in this case, I believe Wilson fears that Gabrielle may be taken… Read more »

OKRickety
OKRickety
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

Okay, MeMe. You object just as you did in the previous post where this concept was first presented to her by Wilson. I continue to believe you misinterpret Wilson’s meaning and intention. Would you be kind enough to ask your husband to read the entirety of the two relevant posts (the other was A Dutch Uncle) without you providing your thoughts beforehand, and see what his thoughts are on the posts. If he does not pick up on Wilson’s treatment of the girl, then tell him your thoughts and see if he agrees with you. I look forward to hearing… Read more »

bethyada
bethyada
5 years ago
Reply to  MeMe

I didn’t read the boy being the rapids, I read the world of relationships being it.

I think it is fine to use various metaphors depending on what is being communicated. David often talks of himself as being small surrounded by foes and armies etc. But he also says that with God he can bend a bow of bronze.

Andrew Lohr
Andrew Lohr
5 years ago

If Gabrielle’s father does later repent, or claim to, does his repentance need to include confessing his sins against Gabrielle to her and asking her specifically for forgiveness? And asking the rest of her family? (MAYbe it’d be OK for him to convey this thru a mutually trusted third party, or maybe not; probably with such a party present; but does he himself need to repent to her herself? [If “repent” is the right word between people; if not, insert whatever is.}) Erratum: para under photo, starting “Next we got into…,” end of line six, should say “Lack of trust… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
5 years ago

Speaking of kayaks, I just heard that my daughter, aka The Snowflake, went kayaking on the River Jordan yesterday. How cool is that?