The one thing…
What is the one thing that:
- enables God’s forgiveness and mercy to flood our souls?
- ushers us to the point of confession and true repentance?
- takes us to the end of ourselves where we realize that we have no defense before God?
Knowing we are utterly and completely messed up.
We have selfish minds, evil hearts, weak wills, unsatisfactory talents, and we simply can’s make this thing called life work. When it begins to crack, crumble, or utterly implode then we cry out to God, “I can’t do this, I can’t take it anymore” and an almighty loving God says, “I know and I love you.”
My Lent devotional, Journey to the Cross, put it this way yesterday,
“You are worse than you think, but also far more loved by God than you ever imagined.”
Ouch and Hallelujah.
Pride says I’m not that bad. I’ve got this under control. I don’t really need God all the time, just occasionally. I’m really OK.
This pride completely shuts us off from God. Pride is worship of self and God hates me worshiping any idol. I dare say there is no greater idol than ourselves. I often say there is really only one sin, Pride. The rest (greed, lust, envy, anger, laziness, and gluttony) are just symptoms of what I think I deserve or want and when I want them.
The funny thing about God’s answer to pride is humility. Humility has only one prerequisite, absolute brokenness.
The point at which I hold nothing back. I reserve nothing from God, he can take whatever he wants and do what he wants. My response to his astounding love and mercy is to utter only one creed, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17
As I’ve seen God do miraculous open-life surgery on me to rip pride from my chest and have seen brokenness become a beautiful anecdote to so much of my sin…. the question I’m left with is
Why are we Christians, (the church) so consumed with pretending that none of us are broken?
Allow me to give you 2 snapshots from recent months:
- I’m a breakfast with 3 other men from a local church who by any standard are pillars of faith and the community. By anyone’s estimation these men have it all together: successful jobs, good physical health, beautiful families, savings accounts etc… Yet the conversation that morning was about how truly messed up and damaged we are by sin. Make no mistake these are truly good men that are seriously seeking to honor Christ and yet here we find a common bond of brokenness.
- At a recent breakfast with a dear friend we began to share or spiritual journeys over the past 4-5 years. This is a guy who has preached, led worship, can teach the Bible at a moment’s notice, and is a giant in my eyes and guess what? He’s broken too. His life has suffered catastrophic blows when God started trying to get his attention. God has redeemed so much of that pain and blessed him tremendously yet he still struggles. (Glory to God he is an agent of brokenness, seeking and sharing to help others.)
It’s as if God intended for us to be broken and to be broken together.
Yet how would a hurting soul see us on Sunday when we all pretend to have it all figured out. Perhaps they need to hear that we are as messed up as they are (perhaps more so when you consider our complacency and hypocrisy after encountering the gospel.) Yet God loves them and us.
I’ve spent years putting on a mask and pretending that I wasn’t broken all the while suffering in isolation in defeat. When God started to get my attention and by his grace I got vulnerable and real honest it was then that God put brothers and sisters in my life that shared their brokenness and suddenly I feel like I’ve discovered exactly what church should have been the whole time.
I told my accountability partner one morning that I’m ashamed that I’ve missed this for 35yrs of my life. That I feel like I finally discovered what church should have been along. Broken folks that stop pretending and celebrate the love and redemption of God against all odds and logic. Sounds like church to me.
So allow me to say: I’m broken, real broken. I’m messed up, I’ve got way too much sin I’m nourishing in my life, I struggle, I doubt, I waver, and I coming running back hurting and helpless to the throne of YHWH and weep when he shows his mercy.
I’ve spent along time dressing well and putting on an “I’m ok” mask on Sundays. I’ve worked hard to maintain a veneer of having it all together and now by the grace of God I’m no longer doing that. I’d rather be broken, because pride was killing me.
So what do we do now?
- Resolve not to tear others down when their broken parts are exposed. – Whether by gossip or simply coldness we communicate that being broken makes you an outlier and unwelcome. God forgive us. We never simply excuse sin but if Christ died on a rugged cross for it might I find a way to love someone in the midst of it?
- Find a place to get real. – There is certainly a level of wisdom that should be applied. I don’t suggest that the proper place is to ask the Pastor for 15minutes on a Sunday morning to air all that you are struggling with but we must find a safe place to start being real. 1 on 1 or small groups are a good place to start. Ask God to open the door and take courage to walk through. (Relationships have a funny way of requiring us to be vulnerable, why would the family of God be any different.)
- Seek others who are broken. – It might be serving the homeless, going on a mission trip, showing love to a visitor, or just finding a way to go the extra mile when you know someone is hurting. The flames of pride stayed doused when we realize that we are loved regardless and suddenly that love spills out onto others.
God is still God, he can redeem even the chaos and pain that is in your life and perhaps we can give him more glory and spread his good news more authentically once we resolve to be broken… together.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. – Hebrews 3:12-14