Posts tagged #Brokenness

A Post for The Fallen & The Shamed :: There's Room at Our Table for You.

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I’ve noticed a trend on the interwebs as of late. Many feel-good blog posts are for folks who have been wounded or walked through immense suffering. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has seen grey days, I resonate 110%. But lately God has opened my eyes not only to the wounded, but to the wounders as well. 

So today I have a message for those of you with BIG mistakes. To those of you weighed down with guilt, shame, and regret… 

You are wanted, you are loved, and there is room for you in our homes. There is room for you in our churches. There is room for you in our social circles. There is a seat waiting for you at the table of grace.

Did you mess up big? Have you fallen from society’s good grace? 

No worries, me too.

And I have a word for you today.

Get back up and come sit with us at the table. You might believe that you’ve utterly messed up your life, but I’m here to tell you that a feast is just around the corner. 

“No, you don’t understand what I’ve done,” you say. And you’re right, I don’t know the details of your shame. But what I do know is that God does His greatest work in the most broken places, during the darkest hour. Redemption has always been His strong suit. 

Our hodgepodge heroes of the faith were prostitutes, liars, doubters, adulterers, and murderers (just to name a few), and trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing you can do to out-sin some of God’s best. Not to mention, when Jesus walked this earth, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, people like you and me. And when Pharisees, the religious rule followers, rolled their eyes about the company He kept, Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick… I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You see, it feels good to sit in church and hear how David, a man after God’s own heart cheated, manipulated, and killed. But it’s much more difficult to do the hard work and say, “I am David, and He loves me still,” or equally hard to be like Joseph and say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I forgive you.” 

This is the Gospel and the table of grace you’re welcome to. It’s a table full of misfits and mistake makers, rebels with restored hearts, and I want you to know that today, there’s a seat for you here. 

But before you sit down, let me first say this. 

I’m sorry.

You see the church has this beautiful messy job of being the hands and feet of Jesus, and sometimes, (ahem most of the time), we don’t do it perfectly. But in spite of our brokenness, Jesus left the keys to His kingdom in the hands of a bunch of zealous misfits who rarely get it right. 

And sometimes, in pursuit of holiness we get caught up in our self-righteousness, instead of His righteousness. We “do good” to those it feels good to “do good” to, and forget that the greatest good we could ever do is love our neighbors as ourselves, even if... no, especially if our neighbor is that guy who was charged with embezzling, or that girl who has a reputation. Or what about that brother or sister who wounded us? We can forgive others, but not them; the wound is too deep. Instead of grace upon grace, we heap coals of shame and cries for justice upon each other’s failed shoulders as we pridefully thank God that we’re not like that person.

 Jesus loved the outsider, the doubter, the guy who stole money from others, the woman who had been with multiple men. The broken, messed up people that religious folk turned away, these were the people God-incarnate sought out. Yet we hide our reputations behind the appearance of holiness and keep the folks Jesus loved most at arms length.

We forget that it’s not our reputation we boast in, rather it’s in the one we’ve been given. Not earned by any good deed we’ve accomplished, but by one good deed done once and for ALL. We bought the lie - hook, line, and sinker - that we aren't one of you. We believe the lie that we're all better now, and that the sin nature we were born with is gone now that we've said a prayer. 

And for that, I say, We Are SORRY. I am sorry. We have failed you by making you feel like you aren’t good enough or cleaned up enough or like you don't belong here. The truth is, none of us ever were good enough and we still aren’t.

We’re sorry for creating A-teams and B-teams, varsity and jv, when the gospel says ALL of us are big sinners in need of a BIGGER Savior.

We are sorry for pushing you out, rather than drawing you in. 

But that’s the thing about this beautiful messy table of grace, we all are wounded and wound each other. And all at the table must learn to both dish out and receive forgiveness like it's Thanksgiving Pie. 

So today, I’m begging you. Come sit with us, forgive us, find your place of rest here amongst other sinners like you. Start the journey of healing with us by your side and a God who is fighting for you always, because we’re all healing from something. And by sitting with us, sharing your story, letting us walk these messy days with you, you bless us. You help us see Jesus better by letting us sit with you in your broken story, as we ask you to sit with us in ours. Because make no mistake, regardless of pretense, everyone at the table of grace has a broken story and our common denominator is that we are all deeply loved by a gracious God.   

So today, if you’ve fallen, get back up.

Have you messed up big? Redemption awaits. 

There’s room for you at this table, always has been, always will be. Have a seat and enjoy the feast. Be known, be loved, you are welcome here. 

Posted on September 1, 2016 and filed under Story, Spiritual Journey, Suffering.

Last One Standing

The boxes were packed, most of the house was clean, and it was the last photo hanging on the wall. 

It has always been a favorite of mine. It was taken right before our wedding, right after our first look. 

I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I stood outside those big sanctuary doors, knowing that Ben was waiting inside made me so nervous that I had to run into the bathroom to collect myself. I looked at myself in the mirror, grabbed some paper towels and dabbed my forehead & armpits all super star style (keepin’ it real folks). After giving myself a pep talk, I gathered myself and walked back towards the sanctuary. The doors were opened for my entrance and when I saw him, my stomach dropped. His back was facing me as I walked down the aisle, hands shakily gripping a huge bouquet of flowers. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned around and embraced me. I cried. This candid kiss was captured a few moments after he first laid eyes on me, his new bride. 

We LOVED so many of our wedding photos (shout out to our favs Braun Photography), but this one strikes a different chord. You see, we know what it feels like for us both to break different aspects of our vows, forgive each other, and still stay true to the promise of “til death do us part.”

Those young 25 year olds didn’t have a clue what was in store for their love story, but God knew. And I love that. It wasn’t easy and life wasn’t always fair, but regardless of the bumps and bruises we obtained along the way, we have learned to trust that He is good and all things are for our good and His glory.

This photo is such a good reminder of that.

It was always the first one I’d hang up whenever we moved into a new home. It was also the first one I took down during a hard season in our marriage. I couldn’t look at it; it felt like a cruel joke. So it went up in the attic for a few months. But eventually, by God's grace it found its way back to its rightful place on the wall. 

And a few years later, it was the last one standing. 

I love that.

I love that it wasn’t intentional. 

I love that when I walked into our bedroom to finish cleaning, that photo took my breath away. 

Last. One. Standing. 

Because when I walked down that aisle to Ben the first time, before all the pews were filled and the vows were said, my heart was already there. I was his bride. He was my groom. And together, we were promising to never leave nor forsake the other. Only death would determine who would be the last one standing

Years later, now that we fully understand what those vows mean our photo means so much more.

That photo is a picture of a covenant made between two sinners determined to keep their vows despite the sin that plagues this world and our hearts. It’s a picture of a promise that life is going to be hard, wounds will accrue, and hard seasons will come, but that young bride and groom are going to grow old doing their damnedest to forgive, hand out grace like it’s going out of style, and walk with each other through so many seasons of life. It’s a portrait of an imperfect love that is an earthly, broken picture of a PERFECT, eternal love that will never wound or fail. It is evidence that God loves to redeem broken stories for our good and His glory.

And so I snapped a picture of that photo on the wall and I wept, because God has sustained so much and at the end of it all, we know that He is the one who is truly the last one standing. 

I don’t know your story. I don’t know where God has moved big things for you and what all He has restored. I don’t know what areas of your life He’s said “No” in and left some prayers unanswered. I don’t know the hard parts of your story, but if you’re a believer, I do know your God. 

I know that...

...He is sustainer and provider.

..He is close to the brokenhearted and that His specialty is redeeming broken things.

...He is the perfect groom, and not in some creepy hyper-Christian romantic lingo, but in the most legitimate sense of the word. He has made a covenant with His people that can never be broken.

...His promises will never fail and His mercies are new every morning. 

...He is both the first and the last. He will forever be our Last. One. Standing. 

And when I saw that photo, the last one hanging on our wall, I was reminded of all that the Lord has done in our lives and I’m sharing because I know He can do it in yours too. Nothing is beyond His care or repair. May our story point you to that greater story, and our prayer is that through every season, you'll look to the Last One Standing to guide you through it all. 

Much love to you all,

Suffering & the Church

 

Our society talks a lot about suffering these days. It seems like my generation grew up with bright eyes and dreams to be a generation that helped with all the hurts, only to grow up and realize that none of us are exempt from suffering. At some point, it comes knocking at all of our doors and maybe you’ve not hit that season yet, but the truth is, we live in a broken world and all of us will feel the effects of that brokenness at some point in our lives.

Here’s the thing though, we talk a lot about suffering as victims. We talk about how bad things happen to us that we can’t control: ie. Car accidents, cancer, tragedy, someone hurts us, etc.  And Christians and non-Christians alike have immense amount of sympathy for that type of suffering. Yet one thing we don’t talk about well is suffering that is self-induced (suffering as a consequence for bad decisions or sin), suffering that we are pre-disposed to (mental illness, depression, addiction, gender confusion, etc.), or a combination of the two.  

There are a variety of reasons why this is the case. But overall I believe that our culture has very limited sympathy because we don't classify these things as suffering and we're extremely judgmental towards those who have self-induced or pre-disposed trials. Our pull up our bootstraps mentality and our "You did this to yourself" judgmental spirits have permeated our news cycles, education systems, and is just a way of life. 

These approaches can be more harmful than helpful as they dehumanize our struggles and create a false storyline that some people are broken and others whole. This is a critical realization, especially in the church where our message is ALL are broken and in need of a great Savior. It’s hard to claim that message when we are sympathetic to some struggles and judgmental towards others. Yet I've seen churches CHANGE lives by not only acknowledging ALL of our brokenness, but by removing the stigma from suffering by being conduits of grace and healing to those with self-induced or pre-disposed trials. 

This is where the gospel comes in and changes lives. This is where our churches have the opportunity to be counter-cultural and proclaim a GREAT Savior!

When society says, “You messed up BIG” or “You ARE so messed up,” the Gospel says, “There is good news, Jesus redeems broken things!”

When society says, “You’re too weak! Try harder!” the Gospel says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When society says, “There’s no hope for you!” the Gospel says, “We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure, a hope that doesn’t fail.”

When society says, “You’ll never change!” the Gospel proclaims that JESUS is in the business of changing hearts.

When society says, “You’re beyond all help,” the Gospel says, “Jesus is close to the brokenhearted and HE is a very present help in time of trouble.”

When society says, “You’re not good enough,” the Gospel says, “None of us are.”

When society abandons you and leaves you alone in the rubble, the Gospel says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When society says, “What a waste?!” the Gospel says, “No suffering is wasted. All things are for your good and His glory.”

Yall, I’ve seen this done in my current church. I’ve seen it done beautifully, messily, imperfectly, but still attempted and accomplished! I’ve seen the church contradict the lies that society says amidst brokenness. Our churches have everything necessary to battle our tendency to mirror our culture’s response to brokenness, and proclaim in both word and deed that we are ALL in need of this good news! Restoration takes root when our churches and communities say, not only are you welcome here, but we admire your fight. You’re no second string line-up; we’re all in this together. You don’t have to hide anymore, rather, we openly carry this burden with you.

Church, we can do this. I know we can. We can be more gracious with each other and more careful with our words. We can put away pride and stop celebrating, idolizing, or striving for "picture perfect" lives. We can have safe homes and churches that have open doors, where nothing said or confessed will be met with disgust or disdain, but rather met with grace and the truth of redemption. We can do the hard part of showing up, not because we are awesome, but because Christ showed up for us.  

And now to the sufferer, I don’t know your story. I don’t what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, or what you’re walking through. But what I do know is that these wounds you’re carrying, will one day be beautiful scars. For He binds up wounds and He saves the crushed in spirit. And this week especially, our Holy week, we celebrate amidst suffering. For He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes WE ARE HEALED.  

My friend, He was wounded, so your wounds could heal. If you’re suffering please know that you’re not alone and you are not beyond His reach. Find a church that will walk beside you and hold up your arms when the burden is too heavy. Praying for you this week.

Much love,

Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but I love my church. And one of the reasons why I love my church is that they recognize that the Gospel isn’t for “good” people who have all their junk together. They sing, preach, and teach that the Gospel is for broken people and where there’s broken people, there’s a lot of hurt and suffering. But where there are people of God, there will be stories of brokenness, hope, and restoration. Yesterday, our pastor gave a wonderful sermon titled Leviticus 10 & 16: There Will Be Blood that pointed those who wrestle with guilt and shame over brokenness to look to Jesus. This blogpost was influenced significantly by it. If you wanna check it out… listen or watch here