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Thicker Skin: The Benefit of the Doubt

I’m currently in a season where I believe the Lord is molding me into having thicker skin. This is simply a part of growing up and maturing, not only as a Christian, but even just as an adult. I’ve learned that overly sensitive people have a pride issue that they are usually unaware of and they require so much validation and affirmation to the point where it pushes people away. For me personally, one way of developing thicker skin is simply giving people the benefit of the doubt. I am learning to choose to believe the best about people, despite their actions or inactions because this is the only way to remain at peace with others and not allow offense come into your heart. Because in actuality, I’ve found myself getting offended with people for a variety of reasons, but I realize that it’s solely based upon my perception of what they did or didn’t do. I’ll give you a couple of examples…

I was part of a men’s small group at my church for about a year and overall it proved to be somewhat of a hurtful experience. However, the good news is that I also learned from it. God will sometimes allow us to experience situations in order to grow us up and to remind of us of our need to keep our focus on Him. During my time with the group, I would often get left off of the email list when it came to group activities and overall, I just seemed to remain on the outside looking in… I would think I was making a connection with some of the fellas through conversations before, during and after group but would soon realize that the connection was only in that setting… However, some of their relationships amongst each other clearly extended outside of the group. Yes, rejection sucks (especially within the body of Christ), but I now realize that it is not always intentional and sometimes it can be more perceived versus being reality. Yes, it would have been nice to have connected with some of the guys on a deeper level, but friendships can’t be forced. Being in the same small group with someone doesn’t guarantee friendship, no matter how much you might try to show yourself friendly, like the Bible says. Hard lesson learned, but it has made me stronger. As a result, thicker skin is forming in my personhood. Now in retrospect, I don’t believe the rejection I experienced was necessarily intentional or malicious. The other men are genuine followers of Christ and just have different interests and have had different life experiences than I.

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As I said earlier, I’m in a difficult season of growth and maturity. Unfortunately, I lost my grandfather and father within months of each other. What shocked me during this whole experience was the number of people whom I’ve known for a long time who didn’t seem to show a whole lot of compassion or empathy. Some folks still to this day haven’t reached out to me or even asked me if I needed anything. As a result, I began questioning my relationships and was very hurt by my perception of their lack of compassion. However, Holy Spirit reminded me that there were those that prayed for me and my family, even though I was unaware. Also, through conversations with others, I also had to consider that people respond to situations differently simply because of the fact that they’re human. What’s best for me is to release the offense and move on. I can’t expect everyone to respond to situations the way that I would. I now realize that’s unfair. People are different and process life events in their own way, and so another layer of thicker skin is being added to me, as I choose to believe the best about folks, even in this situation. I must have peace because offense only keeps me internally conflicted and suspicious of others. Thick skin is a must in order to get promotion from God. Thick skin is a must in order to walk with Him even when you’re disliked and/or ignored. I must have thick skin if I’m ever going to truly be Christ-like. I must have thick skin if I’m going to love God’s people in a way that truly honors Him.

Colossians 3:12-14 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (NKJV)

Jesus Christ’s willingness to the cross as a sinless man was evidence of His thick skin. He had to rise far above human emotions as He was beat, marred, mocked and ultimately killed. But I also notice that he evangelizes one of the thieves on the cross, despite the horrific brutality that He had already suffered. That’s the ultimate example of having thick skin!

Lord help me to continue growing layers of thick skin that will help serve as armor on the battlefield so that I’m not unhealthily dependent on others. I will be the clay as you shape and mold me into who You desire me to be. Help me to love people even when that love isn’t returned and help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Affirm me with Your love and hide me in the shadow of Your wing so that I am free from the opinions of others. Amen.

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The Redemption of Fred Phelps: From Victim to Victor

Many of us have endured various sorts of tragedies and personal traumas that date back to our childhoods. Others have suffered through prolonged adversity and negative circumstances over many years of their lives. What separates certain people from others is their response to these different situations. Many people use these situations as justification for the various behaviors and mindsets that they exhibit, as a result. Unfortunately, these individuals never really move forward and hold on to their crutch for dear life so that they don’t necessarily have to transform. Their spiritual growth is actually stunted, whether they realize it or not. In other cases, their stories end tragically due to the lifestyles they led that were influenced by the sins that were done to them in their early years. They never move from being a victim to being a victor.

Well, I’m privileged to know such a man who is not only an example of someone who is no longer a victim, but someone who is totally sold out for the cause of Jesus Christ. His name is Fred Phelps. He is a devoted husband, father, friend, disciple of Jesus Christ and mentor who continues to be a light, a peacemaker and someone who will always speak the TRUTH in any situation. I don’t know many men who possess the level of sincerity that he does. This is a man who has truly been transformed and his diligence in pursuing righteousness has rewarded him greatly. But the path he has walked is not one from which many emerge victorious.

Starting when he was a toddler, Fred was sexually abused at the hands of his father. This abuse continued, as well as many other negative circumstances that the enemy would use to destroy him. The emotional abuse and evil words spoken over him by many others began to create not only a poor self-image and insecurity, but also a perversion of his identity as a man. He would go on to live and embrace the homosexual lifestyle, and he would look to men to fill the void left in his heart by his abusive and absentee father. The enemy had seemingly succeeded in perverting his identity and attempting to thwart his ordained destiny, but God had other plans…

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Despite the direction his life had gone, Fred had always remained in the church. The hand of God was on his life and would eventually direct him to a ministry called “Living Waters.” There he would address all of the wounds that were done to his person and experience the presence of God in a way in which he never had. Because of his repentance, he began to recapture his true self and God-given identity! However, tragedy would strike again, as he was forced to cope with the murder of his sister. But God… A changed man emerged from the ashes of abuse, neglect and tragedy. He committed his WHOLE life to Christ. As a result, he would go on to minister to others who were sexually and relationally broken, and he will always be a treasure to the healing community.

The beauty of this testimony is how God always does a COMPLETE work. The Father always seeks reconciliation, if we are willing to get out of His way and allow it. Fred’s father was constantly in and out of prison and was never in Fred’s life consistently; even during the times when he was out of prison. As a result, they were estranged for seventeen years, but God intervened… He reunited them and the process of healing began. This all occurred as Fred dealt with his father wounds in the Living Waters ministry. Isn’t it amazing and even exciting how God loves to heal and reconcile His children? For the next couple of years there was forgiveness, reconciliation and the sealing of his true masculine identity. The Lord spoke to him and affirmed, “You are not what your father did to you.” Sadly, his father was terminally ill, but a week before he passed, Fred prayed over his father. Peace descended and fell upon them. God was simply confirming that the reconciliation was complete naturally and eternally. Two weeks later, the Lord instructed Fred to take on his father’s last name because he had always had his mother’s maiden name. I know this was his way to honor his father and spark a new legacy with the Phelps namesake. Look at God…

Some years later, Fred would be introduced to the woman who would become his bride. They would be blessed with two beautiful kids, and they were just recently blessed with a third child. He is living proof that the love of God can transform anyone. Along with being a living testimony and mouthpiece for those whose voices have been silenced, he is a mighty warrior who chose LIFE over death. Fred Phelps is no longer a victim; he is a VICTOR.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 

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