The Beginning of My Pharisectomy

Today, Sara and I leave on a ten-day vacation with our kids and grandchildren. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and having a break from our normal lives. However, that does mean our offices will be closed until Monday, July 2. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we’re a two-horse operation here and both horses will be gone! However, we will have someone handling book and audio orders for us during that time. If you can hold everything else until we return that will be a gift to us. We tend to come back from such things with inboxes way too full.  So, if you can hold your emails until we return, we would be grateful.

As we go, let me share an email with you I received recently. I love hearing how people who have been schooled in religious performance come alive in the reality of the Father’s love. Pharisectomy is a fun word I first heard a number of years ago in Alaska, from a then seventy-two year-old woman.  What a great way to express having your inner Pharisee cut out so you can discover in every deepening ways just how loved you are.  Unfortunately this is not an easy or quick operation. I’ve been on mine for 24 years now, and find there are still traces of that inner Pharisee running around in there that crop up at the strangest moments. I’m glad to recognize them, though and asking him to keep peeling back the layers that sets me ever-more free to live more freely in the world as his child.

Here’s the letter:

Because I grew up as a missionary kid, I knew all the verses that God is love, but I never believed it for myself.  Although I have the best loving and caring parents they were missionaries, growing up in boarding schools I lived unloved as a child. I tried to win God’s favor and the favor of people for my whole life.

I married a pastor from a conservative denomination, and I got worn out and frustrated by all the “dead works” in the name of for God, Then I read He Loves Me! That was my biggest gift at the age of 50. For the first time I GOT IT!!!!   I am a much loved child!!!!!!!

I have since read that book ten times, as it started my “Pharisectomy”.  Every time I read it, it reveals a new Truth and expose new layers of misconceptions. Your book reveals so much Truth – it sets me free from my prison of performance and wrong perceptions. But so many wrong  perceptions was set in cement in my head over 50 years – it takes time to be “unset” out of hard cement, then be replaced by Truth, and then to live it practically. Fortunately the Holy Spirit is there to do it.

I received In Season the day before the April holiday. What a revelation to me! I have always believed that you bear fruit throughout every year.  I never understood the four seasons that lead to fruitfulness. I also thought the Great Commission was more important than the Great Commandment. I was experiencing a harsh, hot summer at my work place, but then you helped me to embrace my summer and stop praying “Rescue me,” but rather: “Let your name be glorified. Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

My biggest struggle was and still is to trust God, due to misconceptions and bad experiences growing up poor and now struggling although we are “working for the Lord.” Your book Beyond Sundays exposed so many lies I believed about ministry and church and missions. It helped me ignore the guilt and shame that haunted me and to let me enjoy my winter. And let God prune me.

Thank you for the revelations that set me free at an age of 50. I was a full blown Pharisee and my pharisectomy has not been easy, but its wonderful and the best thing that could ever happen to me. God used you mightily in my life. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Letting go of the guilt and shame that makes you feel unworthy of Father’s love is a valuable lesson for all of us. The spiral of unworthiness is debilitating, and every circumstance will seem to prove the deception. Knowing you have always been worthy of a Father’s love, not because of your performance, but because you are his child, will continue to set you free in ways you can’t imagine.  Ask him. Believe him. He’s really good at this stuff!


And if you missed my TEDx talk on “Differences Do Not Make Us Enemies,” you can view it here.

3 thoughts on “The Beginning of My Pharisectomy”

  1. Wow, that is so encouraging! Thank you to the lady who allowed you to share her story. The point about the great commandment being more important than the great commission is such a release!
    Just this morning as I sat to spend time allowing my heart to connect with Father, He reminded me of a story I had read many years ago. I was home-schooling our children & my Mother had given me a book about “the Suzuki Method”.
    Suzuki was a violin teacher whose quiet method of gentle, patient, encouraging instruction allowed for a miracle to occur in the life of a young student he had. This young girl had a brain injury – I don’t recall whether she was born damaged or it was the result of an accident. This meant was that her right arm did not function well & her hand would spasm without warning.
    Each time she came for her lesson, Suzuki would simply remind her of what she was there to learn & get her to follow his example of how to do it. Each time her hand spasmed & the bow was flicked onto the floor, her teacher would quietly return it to her hand & encourage her to try again. I don’t recall how long it took, but the day came when that young girl could play the violin beautifully, & do lots of other things well which she had previously found really difficult. He brain had been healed!!!
    I sensed Father was saying to me that His love & patience are eternal & He is not standing waiting to demean me for my failures back rather to lift me up to reconnect with His life & love so the day will come when my “brain is healed”. The impulses or spasms that cause me to focus on my short-comings & failures will be replaced by freedom to truly LIVE in the light of His LOVE.
    As your correspondent said 50 years (or more as it was for me) in a “foster care facility”, where you have been given such a distorted view of who our Father really is, takes more than a day or two & untwist.
    Praise our Lord for His undying love & unending patience.

  2. Wow! I thought I was reading about me in the email you received! I too am a missionary kid. I just read He Loves Me for the first time at age 54. I pray several times a day that God will help me see and accept His love for me. Then I read So You Don’t want to go to Church Anymore. Now I’m listening to your a Transitions series. I have failed miserably to live up to the religious expectations I understood. I am a decent pretender and repressive, but I believe living this way has sent me into a constant state of depression. My daughter’s rejection of Christianity catapulted me on my own search, which started with me searching for the characteristics of God and reading several books, one of which was re-reading The Shack. That’s where I found reference to your books.

    Diana I want to believe with my whole being that God loves me more than I understand and not just give lip service to God’s love or talk about knowing it in head knowledge. I was encouraged by something you said about this transformation not coming from my effort and something about it may take some time before I see a change in my belief in God’s love for me and the developing of my trust in God.

    Thank you for being a voice of hope

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