Posts Tagged ‘henri nouwen


Sexologist with deep understanding of marriage problems!

All truth is God’s truth. So it’s not a major surprise that some of God’s created beings who (probably) don’t know him personally can muster up a grain of truth once in a while. And yet, it did catch me by surprise when I read what famed (in Denmark) sexologist Joan Ørting said under the headline “Why everyone gets divorced these days” (the article is in Danish). Of course you could start by objecting that not everybody gets divorced, even though obviously the number of divorces is staggering. But anyway, the answer from the sexologist was to my surprise both clear and true.
Ørting claims that the reason so many people get divorced these days is that people don’t know how to love themselves! She explains that we haven’t learned how to love ourselves, and then in marriage, we’re just somehow supposed to know how to do that. She adds that if we don’t love ourselves, we’re greedy and needy for attention from everybody around us, and especially from our spouses.
Wow…that’s deep for a secular sexologist! Her answer to this problem is shallow and irrelevant, as she claims that all you have to do to fix this problem of not loving yourself is just standing in front of the mirror and tell yourself: “I love you” until you believe it. Yeah, if only it was that easy to fix 🙂

Anyway, encouraging to see such a truth-analysis of one of the major reasons for the break-down of marriages and families. Jesus told his followers “love your neighbor as yourself“. It’s something that most believers and even most people who never attend church have heard numerous times. To the point where we don’t hear what Jesus is really saying. It’s a huge challenge. To love myself doesn’t come easy to most people. I would dare to say that real love and self-acceptance with the good, the bad, and the ugly I see in myself is extremely rare to come across. Sure, lots of people live with a puffed up self-image where they pretend that they are God’s greatest gift to mankind, and we can end up equating that with a healthy self-concept and a healthy love for themselves. But living a lie of pretending doesn’t answer the deeper cries of the heart of learning how to love ourselves.

These days most churches focus A LOT on loving other people. There is a huge focus in most modern, evangelical churches to reach people. (Unfortunately, the focus isn’t so much on actually telling people about who Jesus is and what he has done and wants to do in peoples’ lives, but that’s a soap box issue for another entry). Nonetheless, there is a massive emphasis on loving other people. Washing their bikes, cleaning gardens, helping in prisons, building buildings, staffing orphanages. All great things, but (and the truth always comes after the ‘but’), if all the people involved in all of these good things, don’t do them from a place of loving and accepting themselves, we’re actually not doing what Jesus wanted us to do!

Jesus agrees with sexologist Joan Ørting in so far as if we don’t love ourselves, we end up as attention-grabbing, needy people who need other people to tell us that we’re okay in a never-ending quest to feel good (enough) about ourselves. That’s unfortunately also often the reason why believers sign up for service at their local church or on the missions field. I’ve met many people, and I was one of them at a point in my life, who need to be in missions to feel needed and wanted. It makes you feel loved. But…it’s a very empty feeling, and you end up desperately running from project to project or relationship to relationship trying to get your love tank filled. But it won’t ever be filled, as long as you don’t love and accept yourself.

Henri Nouwen put it this way: “Self-rejection is the single greatest enemy of spiritual life, because it contradicts the voice that calls us the Beloved“. I agree whole-heartedly with Nouwen. I’ve counseled countless individuals and couples, and time and time again we’ve zeroed in on Jesus’ simple words: love your neighbor AS YOURSELF!

If I don’t embrace and accept Jesus’ unconditional acceptance and love for me, there is no way to live in a proper place of self-love and self-acceptance. That’s the key. Without finding the answer to the inner neediness in Jesus, there is no answer. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, and unfortunately most pastors and most books talk very little about it. It’s as if it’s commonly understood that we love ourselves already. When in fact the truth is very different.

Blessings, Torben


Out of self-rejection – new year’s thoughts

A new year is upon us, and I thought it was time to sit and jot down some thoughts about what’s been going on, what is going on, and what I hope will happen in 2012.

To start with the latter first, maybe I should explain the title of this blog entry a bit. My dream for 2012 is to write a book! I want to write a book about how Jesus sets us free from self-rejection to live as people who experience true freedom. I have most of the book in my head. I have lots of thoughts of chapters about brokenness, suffering, self-embrace, etc. I hope I’ll be able to sit down and get it down on paper. I’m terribly nervous about this project. Who on earth would want to read a book that I write? Does that even matter? Is there really a need for a book about these realities? Won’t it just drown with all the other books being published every day? Do I have what it takes to write it? Lots of questions, and I’m okay just letting the questions be there. That’s part of self-acceptance too. To be okay with doubt and fear. Maybe, just maybe, these realities aren’t the opposite of faith. Maybe I can embrace myself in my doubt and fear. Because I know that Jesus does. Anyway, I’m excited about this dream. I have several books I want to write. And I somehow feel released to pursue the first one this year.

My beautiful wife Jeannette is 38 weeks pregnant so at any point our baby will join us and revolutionize our world. I have loved seeing the baby grow inside of Jeannette. I have loved experiencing the gentle journey out of fear and dread into hope and excitement that Jesus has had both Jeannette and I on. I have loved feeling accepted and received at all stages of this journey. I have loved watching Jeannette fall in love with the baby in a way that I can’t even begin to imagine or express. The link of love between my wife and our baby is already unbelievable. I am excited to hold our little miracle in my arms. I’m scared and nervous when I think about so many aspects of parenting. In particular the financial side of things scare me. We live on financial support from friends and family members who support the ministry Jesus is doing through us. How will we survive? I don’t know. But I cling faithfully to the promise Jesus has given me that “he will pay the postage”. We are a letter from Jesus about life, freedom and self-acceptance, and that letter won’t stop being read just because we have a baby. The letter might get a different audience. The letter might change some of its content. But the sender of the letter, Jesus, is the same. And he has promised that he will continue to take care of us. I rest in that as a father to be. I can’t wait to be a father. I am excited about the relationship with our baby. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. And we will be happy either way. We are just excited to be able to invite a new, beautiful person into our family. We are excited to love, live and learn together all three of us. I know Jesus has much he will teach me through this baby. I know I will become a different person and more authentically the Torben I was created to be through this child. I can’t wait.

2011 started out in darkness. We were mourning the loss of our first baby who was lost to us in a long, drawn out nightmare of a miscarriage in the last months of 2010. Tears flowed freely. Darkness surrounded us. And we journeyed with Jesus through that valley of the shadow of death. I didn’t like it. I hated it. Pain was real. Hopelessness was tempting. And yet, I always knew that Jesus knew what he was doing. I didn’t agree with his ways in the midst of the pain and struggles. I still don’t think it was the best way. And that’s okay too. Jesus is, thankfully, very untroubled by my lack of agreement with his plans.

What will happen this year? I have little to no clue. And that’s okay. I am excited to continue my personal journey with Jesus. I’m a different person January 2012 than I was January 2011. There is more fruit in my life. There is more freedom. There is more real honesty. Not the middle-finger-to-the-world-attitude to everybody that passes as honesty today. Not cynicism that I thought for years was real honesty. But real honesty and transparency taught to me by Christ himself. He has overwhelmed me with his acceptance in the midst of my mess. Even in the midst of my sin. He has laughed with me when I’ve screwed up. He has smiled when I’ve lied. This sounds wrong to religious ears. This will be covered more in my book 🙂 But this is, also, how Jesus is! Sin is off the table between Jesus and me. He will never bring sins up against me, and I don’t have to either. I am truly free. I have loved seeing how mercy continues to overtake my life. How the mercy and compassion of Christ is flowing more and more freely through me. Some interpret it as weakness. I know it’s strength. I have loved experiencing more in 2011 than ever before that being a person of mercy and compassion doesn’t take anything away from the passion, strength, directness, and plain old cutting-through-the-crap that Jesus has also given me as parts of my character. Jesus was 100% authentically himself both when he touched the sick, played with the children AND when he attacked people for being sons of Satan and when he cleared out the temple with a home-made whip. There is no separation. It’s all authentic. And I’ve been allowed to see more of that in my own life. And I have fun with it! I have more fun being myself!

Thus I embark on a new leg of the journey. It’s called 2012. I don’t know what will happen. Will there be more smiles than tears this year? I hope so. But I don’t know. And I choose to rest in that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing in and through me.

Happy New Year!

Love, Torben


Characteristics of a broken person

This is part two of two about what brokenness is, and what it is to be a broken person. Here I want to focus on what I believe are the true characteristics of a truly, broken person.

I’ve been blessed to meet a few broken people in the definition of brokenness that I described here. They are beautiful and life-giving to be around! I wish there were more like them, and I know, see, and recognize that there is a growing hunger in the world for what these wonderful people exhibit in their walk with God.

Broken people are humble. They understand that true humility is just agreeing with God. Nothing more. Nothing less. When God says about a broken person that he or she is perfect, pure, holy, and righteous at the center of who this person  is  – no matter what they do/say/think/feel or don’t do/say/think/feel, they humbly agree with it. They understand that superior pride is saying that I’m more than God says I am, and that inferior pride is saying that I’m less than what God says I am.

Broken people are teachable. They understand that God can speak through, challenge through, and bless through anybody of whatever age, gender, educational level or race. They understand that being teachable also means that you’re willing to admit when you are wrong, and they freely do that resting in God’s unconditional acceptance of them.

Broken people don’t control other people. They understand that control is an illusion that insecure people cling to. They embrace the freedom to make choices and live their own lives, and they extend this freedom to other people to make their choices, whether good or bad, without needing to control them.

Broken people are forgivers. They understand that they have been fully forgiven for Christ for all sins and short-comings past, present, and future, and they know that true freedom is hindered if I choose to not forgive other people, myself, or even God (!).

Broken people embrace themselves in their brokenness. They are aware of their sins, faults, and weaknesses. And while not using any of their weaknesses as excuses for making poor choices, they are free to embrace and accept themselves, even when they screw up, because they know that God does the same. They understand that God loves us in light of our weaknesses, not in spite of them. And they understand that Henri Nouwen was right when he wrote: “Self-rejection is the single greatest enemy of spiritual life, because it contradicts the voice that calls us the Beloved

Broken people know that they can’t do anything of real, eternal value in their own strength. They don’t say the absurd sentence “I need to work on that in me”, because they understand that life as a Christian is never about them trying to fix themselves or others. They understand that only as they rest in Christ, and allow him to do his work in them and through them, will their lives have lasting, life-giving impact.

Broken people are in the process of being healed. They understand that they can’t fix the wounds that they have own their souls. They cry out to God to reveal the wounds and idols (Psalm 139:23-24), and for him to heal the wounds (Psalm 23:3) and bring down the idols in their lives, and set them free to live lives of abundance.

Broken people are open and honest. They understand that they are free to live, make mistakes, and be the people that God wants them to be. They see no need to hide who they really are and even the mistakes they make when they try to meet their own needs in their own strength. They are open and honest with people and know that their security as people is not based on what other people think of them.

Broken people are truth-seekers. They know that Jesus is all Truth. And they know that if there is an area in their lives where they are not experiencing full freedom, it is because they still haven’t encountered the Truth in that area of their lives. They have seen and testify to Jesus being the Truth that sets people free (John 8:32)

Broken people are Kingdom-oriented. They understand that they are first and foremost citizens of God’s kingdom that’s breaking forth here on planet earth. They understand that what truly matters is getting to know God more and getting to know who I am in him, and then all other things shall be added as God pleases (Matthew 6:33)

Broken people have laid down their rights in front of God. They understand that we don’t have rights to family, friends, great places to live, health, wonderful stuff, mind-blowing vacations, etc. Because they have laid down these felt rights, and live in the reality that God is the giver of all good gifts, they are excited, surprised and thankful when great things and experiences come their way, but they also accept and embrace the fact that life doesn’t always turn out the way they hope.

Broken people are free to love. They love and accept people where they are, but with their lifestyle of love, acceptance, worth, and a sense of security they draw other people to the only One who is love, God (1. John 4:8).

Broken people don’t have to know everything. In a day and age obsessed with knowing everything that’s going on, always having a plan, and being in control, broken people rely on the fact that they don’t need to know everything. They rest in their Father, trusting that he always knows, and if he chooses to, he’ll let them know what they need to know. They live in the assurance that it’s okay to cry out and admit: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2. Chronicles 20:12)

Broken people rest. They know and have experienced that believers are just called to ‘hang loose’ in Christ as grapes on a vine (John 15). They rest in who they are in Christ, and they bring a fragrance of rest to all the stressed people around them. They have experienced that when you rest in who you are in Christ, you can experience both love (Ephesians 3:19), and peace (Philippians 4:7) that surpass understanding, even when circumstances are crazy, and you feel like your boat is about to go under (Mark 4:35-41)

These were just a few of the characteristics of the precious people that God is truly making a difference through, the truly broken people. I pray that God will take me further on this road of brokenness, that I may display all of these characteristics more and more fully.

Blessings, Torben

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