6. Are ready to have God remove all these defects of attitude and character.
The most important part of this step is that God gets involved. We cannot do this on our own. Just as a Pharisee can’t be righteous without God’s righteousness, so a Pharisee can’t stop being a Pharisee without God’s intervention. That’s the thing about any addiction: it takes God’s power to get over it. You don’t just stop doing what you were doing; you need help.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about a veil that covers the face of those who try to follow the law. It’s a veil of pride and self-adequacy. It’s a veil that hears the law and says, “I can do this.” But because we never can, it becomes a veil that hides our failure and inadequacy and keeps us isolated in our presumed righteousness which is not righteousness at all, but merely our own brand of one-upmanship.
“But their minds were made dull,” wrote Paul, “for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).
Since we sent our then 15-year-old son, Chandler, away to school at a residential treatment center in July (undoubtedly the hardest thing I have ever done), we have been to see him twice, and both times have been incredibly revealing. This difficult experience has clearly not been for Chandler only, but for his mother and me, and extending to our other children as well.
Family therapy that plays an important role in this treatment has been a veil-revealing adventure. I have had to face into my isolation and passive-aggressive nature that keeps everyone at bay and my wife at risk, and it’s been my son who has pointed this out to me. Now it remains for these defects in attitude and character to be removed, and that can never be done without the Lord. I can’t take this veil off. I barely know it’s there.
So what do I do? Look to the Lord and face into what I’m trying to avoid. Look to the Lord and head for that scary turn in the road that leads to intimacy with those I love. Pharisees like to stay aloof; it’s the way they perpetuate their false sense of holiness through separation. Recovering Pharisees head for the open with fear and trepidation, but with great anticipation as well, because they know that if they have their eyes on the Lord the veil will be taken away in the process. Come down off that throne, and leave yourself alone and find out who you are in relationship with others. That’s a recovering Pharisee.
Yesterday I mentioned we were going to be separated from our son, Chandler, during the holidays by 1,000 miles, not meaning that we were not going to overcome that distance; it just will be harder. We will have to go to him, but we will. We will find a way. Believe me, Marti will make sure this happens. She is the family gatherer. And I will come out from behind my protection and travel perhaps even a further distance to get to where the Lord can remove all these defects in attitude and character as I turn to Him. It’s the only way to lose this veil.