I believe the first time I ever heard someone use the phrase, “the bent will” was when I attended a Leanne Payne Pastoral Care Ministries School in Southern California. Leanne said many things that week that left me confused about the restoration of my soul. In fact, I remember driving home with my friend Shaun and laughing at how much we didn’t understand.
Fast forward twenty-five years and now I teach about “bending into others” for affirmation, validation and even permission to act. As I tell those who will listen, “If I teach it, that means I lived it.”
Left with a huge void because of a lack of nurture in my childhood, I spent much of my early life seeking that nurture in other individuals. I did it through being, nice, good and funny. All my actions were screaming, “Look at me, look at me!” I suppose that’s as good a definition of “being bent” as I can give.
Leanne Payne writes, “Our inner vision of ourselves is diseased.” As I thought about that statement so many years ago I can remember nodding my head. I was acknowledging, “That’s me,” in a nutshell. I don’t like myself; my appearance, my skin color, and my family’s financial lot in life.
The way that I perceived myself and felt about myself was very negative. My failure to accept myself caused me to attempt to find myself in how others responded to my being nice, good and funny. It worked on most people, but honestly, it is exhausting trying to keep up appearances.
Upon becoming a Christian at the age of nineteen, I felt like I had a new lease on life. Filled with the Spirit, forgiven and accepted I didn’t have a care in the world. But my old bent self would raise his ugly head once the newness of my salvation wore off. I would return to performing for people’s acceptance of me. Besides I had “works of service” to show others how righteous I was. ACK!
Finally, after many years of being sick and tired of being sick and tired I cried out to God. God the Holy Spirit called me to “put to death” this false self that performed for others affirmation and validation. Then He gave me wisdom to know that all that I desired could me found as I engaged with God the Father. That’s what was at the core of my failure to accept myself. That void I wrote about at the beginning was a “father wound” that hungrily searched for the nurture it did not receive as a child.
I was to turn my eyes toward God for acceptance and in that I’d find that place of quiet strength and solid being. Hebrews 12:1-2 comes to mind, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”
I now realize I was so engaged with looking to others for their compliments and acceptance that I completely missed God’s desire to speak into those diseased places within me. In my bending into others I could not recognize, understand and fully appropriate God’s love and acceptance of me. This sin that hindered and entangled me had to be thrown off.