Monday, January 05, 2009


Note....It would be helpful if Part 1
were read as a context.

For years I struggled with who I, the person Paul Burleson, really am. This is terribly important because we tend to act on the basis of who we believe we are. If a person believes they are a victim, they act like one. If a person believes they were abandoned because they were given up for adoption, they act it out in behavior that reveals rejection. Most of what they do will reek of being rejected. If one believes they are superior, they will evidence it. Pharisaic behavior results from this belief. [I'm reminded of what I once heard Peter Lord say, "You believe what you do..everything else is religious talk."]

In the early years of my own identity struggle I settled in on what I'd received/perceived about myself from my environment and family of origin relationships. Not too good. The reasons have been stated in earlier posts and will remain there for now.

I believed then that I was a person who couldn't. Couldn't what? Couldn't whatever. Couldn't anything. At least couldn't and it be right enough or good enough for others to value me personally which no one did by my observation of those original relationships. [All of us want to be valued personally by the way. It's one of the God-given desires created in us. As the Psalmist said.."Lord remember NOT the sins of my youth, but remember ME."]

Do you know how one acts when they believe they're valueless as a person and can't do anything right? They, generally, become super aggressive [Bullies or a false show of being in control.] OR super passive. [People who live between the wallpaper and the wall.] Either crushes. The first crushes others. The second crushes the wallflower. But both will destroy. Mine was the first part b.

Then I became a christian as a young teenager. Now everything is wonderful. Right? Wrong. Oh, it is true that eternity was settled and what a great thing it is to know you're a forgiven person. But for years I found myself struggling with those same feelings and beliefs about myself. I still felt/believed I couldn't. Couldn't what? As I said..couldn't anything. So the pretense of and need to be in control continued unabated and people, as usual, paid the price for my actions.

Oh I'd try to do my best. Sometimes I did extrememly well and sometimes I stunk the place up with failure. My value as a real person had it's highs and lows as you can see and my demands on others continued their crushing effects. [If you think it foolish to even be concerned about this you have much to learn about real life AND yourself in my opinion.]

But finally the Truth intervened, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and I began to understand who I am in Christ in reality. It was no longer an objective truth about me as stated in black print on white paper. It was emotional, intellectual and spiritual reality as declared in the Scriptures. I found I really am, as is true of every believer, a loved, forgiven, accepted, valued, and empowered by His strength for any purposed task commanded to me...person. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God, I'm free at last. [With due respects to Martin Luther King Jr.] I know who I REALLY am according to HIM.

But I'll be if I didn't find myself sometimes struggling [failures] in some of the ways [how I acted as a person] that had haunted me all along. They continued to feel familiar and comfortable and easy in spite of my knowing I am a new person in Christ. [I now call this the 'flesh' as scripture does.] I didn't want to fail in those old areas of course. [Needing to be in control and crushing others by being so.] A longing for change was fervently there. But failure in my familiar areas came periodically anyway. Oh maybe not as often. But the depth of shame was even worse. Failure was an ever present companion. Not a pleasant thing at all.

That's when I began to understand something new and freeing for me. I was responsible for my personal choices good OR bad...and... I was not a victim. You could say, as I read one man say, the statutes of limitations had run out on my childhood traumas. It was about time. Generally I'd blamed everything and everyone under the sun for the wrong in me. It was being a 'Burleson.' It was being the first born son. It was being an ACA. An adult child of an alcoholic. I was a blame giver not a blame taker you see.
But that new understanding of responsibility brought about a whole new battlefield of it's own and no matter how much I might try to deny it, I was/am still a person that is somewhat GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY and I was/am now responsible for it all. That's freeing you might ask. How?

That will be the subject of the next part of this "happy New year " post for 2009. Til then..happy new year again.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...


Wow. Fascinating.

I suffer(ed) from the same thing, of sorts, but in my case it was the "fat boy complex" that put me on the "outside" of everything and not liked by anybody (that's what my insides said, anyway). Also, I was the second of two children.

Maybe everyone wrestles with such monsters; I don't know. But I know that I am blessed in the sense that nobody has to tell me what I was set free from. It's still lurking in there, waiting to remind me of what I felt as a child.

Paul Burleson said...


To know it's 'lurking' there is half the battle. Truth be known..I believe much of the stuff that goes on in the comment section of blogs is evidence of many NOT knowing and understanding that it's 'lurking' there. Those little child feelings in us grow up to be a full fledged man with all the attending lusts doing battle with the Spirit.

So much of our 'actions/words' are not revealing the Spirit because we seem to have lost an understanding of the flesh in our theology and our behavior.

The work of the Cross is sufficient but we must know of that on-going work being done in us as the flesh IS rendered impotent because of the Cross as we faith out who we REALLY are in Christ.

My own struggle is all I can give a first hand report on. But report I must.

Aussie John said...


Yes! Worth holding my breath for.

Familiar ground for me, and as Bob said, all too common. Of course, we three would be seen as weaklings in the Baptist circles in which I began.

Bring on Part 3! Hope you don't mind me sharing this series with a fellow, not quite as ancient as we are, but needing to know that his struggles are part of being of Adamic heritage.

What a lot of pretense would disappear if young leaders could be so honest, and what a weight lifted off congregations who try to attain to the "perfection" before them.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Great comment and your last sentence is a mouthful of truth. Worth more than most may ever know. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If we were all honest with our own selves, and others, each of us has a similar story to yours. The details would be different but the picture is the same. Thanks.

Strider said...

Great Post Paul! Thank you for your testimony to the true sufficiency of Christ. How much we could really DO for Him if only we stopped all the doing and started truly resting in Him.

Paul Burleson said...


It is that "picture" that I believe IS true of us all and you're right, it is only different details that separate us in the journey..


Oh how right you are. His sufficiency allows us to serve "FROM" a reality ACCOMPLISHED. Most of us spend our lives serving so a reality will be. There is no faith involved in that. Just human good.

gmommy said...

I am looking forward to reading as you "flesh this truth out" in a way that can be practically absorbed. As much as I understand (and believe!)what you are describing....I don't know how it actually becomes ones reality.
Thank you for your willingness to be real.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for stopping by with a comment.

I'm not sure how correct I am in what I'm about to say, but....I'm not sure but what I may be describing what IS our experience and trying to put words to it rather than describing what CAN be our experience.

Maybe as we go along a bit further it will beome somewhat clearer...maybe not but I hope so.

Again, thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this blog and your comments.

There is a child in all of us that needs to grow up, but when we deny s/he is even there, we cannot help them "grow" so to speak. When we ackowledge them, we can face them and help them grow. I am not talking about we are separate from them and don't want to sound too out there (like we are two different people, that's not what I am saying), but the concepts are true. When we are traumatized as children, our emotional growth is stunted at that point. That's why sometimes when something happens, we feel like we are 2 (and act like it). In essence, inside we are. Outside, of course, is another matter.

Also, in my speaking and teaching, I have begun to rename people. There are not victims or abusers, the are people who are/have been victimized and people who are/were abusive. My thoughts on this are that if we truly believe in people changing and NOT being what happens to them or what they do, then we need to differentiate them from the action. The label they need is not vicitm or abuser, but child of God.

Another phrase I use, "there are reasons we are the way we are, but there are no excuses." We are responsible for our actions, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Paul Burleson said...

Kate Johnson,

Wow..I like the way you think. Your statement "are excuses" has almost bcome a mantra for me personally.

I also think you may have described in relational terms what the "flesh" is scripturally. Our nature is identified by the phrase "child of God" or "new creations" by His Grace. Now when we live choosing the truth of that we live as a true child of God. But that is a "faith" thing the entire journey.

Ken Colson said...

Interesting, because this was not what we saw in Ft Worth. We were always amazed at the strong, scripturally prepared, growing Christian Pastor who had answers for questions we were asking. It makes me want to look beyond the obvious when working with young Christians in our small groups just to make sure they really are who they believe they are.
Thanks for sharing this. You still are the Pastor who helped us begin the journey in "deeper" growth. Thanks.
Ken Colson

Paul Burleson said...


Mary and I have laughingly talked of getting all the Seminary students of those Southcliff years together and having a reunion retreat where we would be able to say "here's what we believed and taught then and here's what we believe and teach now."

Surprisingly, the doctrine we taught hasn't altered much at all. The grace [what little we understood] we taught hasn't either.

So what is different?

Basically two things. One is that, then, we tended toward an Old Covenant lifestyle that, no matter how we fought against it, was performance based. Now we understand the New covenant is a way that has produced in us a graceful way of living. Not that Grace wasn't present then. It was. But always with the human effort to do what was graceful. Now we understand the graceful way of life is and JUST is. All of life is Grace and spiritual.

Two, we understand christianity in a RELATIONAL fashion that wasn't fully developed then. [By the way, this opened the scriptures like they were brand new.] Then a relationship was when I do this she will do that. I had my list for being a good husband for example. When I did that list she was happy and I was successful and life was wonderful. But "woe is me" when those times of turmoil came. If she would just SEE how I had done it she wouldn't BE in such turmoil. It never occured to me that my desire to perform WAS the problem.

Now anything I am to her [to keep the marriage analogy] is BECAUSE He is that to me. Whether she is happy or not is never the issue. That's between her and her Lord. But I WANT to be in an honest and real relationship that doesn't look for success or failure but reality which will include both.

So love and joy and happiness are not goals at all. Being to her [others] what God IS BEING to me is a natural [supernatural] way of life.

I feel another post coming on. :)

gmommy said...

The 2 differences you just described to Ken are probably the very things I would like to understand and grasp on a deeper level.

I would say I live and think with "the law" more than with grace.
It's not where I want to stay!

I don't know where I was when grace was being taught all these years!!
I hope I can learn from your journey. Thank you for being willing to share!

Paul Burleson said...


You are expressing a "hunger" that is the sign of real grace present in you in my opinion.

There is, as you probably well know, no easy explanation because it is not a human understnding thing.

That does happen [understanding] when there is a present tense continual "hungering and thirsting" after Righteouness. [Those who do will be filled] You seem to genuinely have that hunger as reflected in your comment.

By the way, the definite article "the" is just before that word "Righteousness" in the original language of the scripture which indicates it's a reference to the person of Jesus who is our Righteousness. So when one's hunger is after HIM, as opposed to knowledge or peace or power etc, it leads to the Spirit giving understanding of true Grace and the place of law in the New Covenant.

The point of the Law [Law of Christ] is different in the New Covenant. [It is already fulfilled in Him]

The Law of Moses is different because it is something that is to be obeyed so that...whatever. [Performance thus consequence.]

The Law of Christ is to be understood as 'Because I have [fulfilled the law] you are free to...whatever He commands." [His performance and it's consequence for us...freedom.]

A subtle but essentially difference.