A friend was on a road trip with her son a few days ago when they passed this church, and her son Bo said, “Someday when I grow up, I want to fix broken churches.” It was a strangely odd, yet telling comment that tugged at my friend’s heart (and mine when I heard it). If only we could fix broken churches. If only we could fix broken people. If only we could fix our broken selves.
Bo’s comment took me back to a few months ago night when I had the privilege of speaking (way too much–I’m sorry!) about my love for God’s Word, and about living a theology of brokenness.
I didn’t see it coming when I was young. I don’t know if was the 80’s –or what– that shaped my Pollyanna view of faith and the church. Somehow, I had a preconceived notion that there was a formula to everything, and the formula, played well, would lead to peace and contentment. Following that, the continual joy I felt would be a light to the world, influencing others to come to Jesus Christ.
Yeah, maybe it was the 80s.
It was a time of relative peace and prosperity in 1981 when I came to the Christian faith and put down roots. It seems there were endless formulas in those days, and for many years to come, that cried out, “do this and this will happen.” Dobson told us how to marry and raise a family. Jim Baker built an amusement park just for Christians. Petra and Stryper taught us how to rock with Jesus.
Those influences ingrained in me a drive to become a Christian that would influence others. I wanted to be the type whose faithfulness would attract others to Christ, and I planned my life to that end. I’d work to make my marriage like a James Dobson book. My children would follow all the right formulas from Ezzo and Sears. And my faith would be a strong factor in my approach to a career in healthcare.
All these things I did, and yet, peace and joy eluded me. And I failed a lot.
I don’t know how many years or how many formulas I wasted trying to create what seemed the perfect Christian life. It was way too many. What I do know is that the last dozen years, God has birthed something new in me that has freed my soul from the chains of perfection and failure.
I’ve come to see what and who I am without my Jesus: a very needy person. And all my formulas, my efforts, and my plans, without The Holy Spirit’s continual work in my life, are but darkened, putrid, empty cisterns, that cannot hold water, much less joy and peace. My focus has shifted from living a stainless Christian life, to that of recognizing my stains day by day, and giving them over to the Savior.
The Apostle Paul was a great example. After explaining in the Letter to Romans, chapters 1-6, how we are justified by faith, stand securely in grace, and are no longer slaves to sin – (awesome!), in chapter 7 Paul turns around to admit what a wretched sinner he really is. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!” (vs. 21-24). Paul is a man who understood his brokenness!
And God has shown me my own brokenness.
And strangely, in brokenness, I found peace.
You see, by bringing my empty self to Jesus, knees bowed and hands open, I had room to receive what God would give me. Triumph, tragedy, joy, pain… it didn’t matter, because what came from Him was good. And what came from Him was filling. And what came from Him was useful to give away to others in their need. By admitting I am broken, I received the joy, peace, and the contentment I had tried to formulate for years.
You see, what God had wanted all along was for me to be conformed, not to the cookie-cutter images I held of Christians, but to be conformed to the image of His son. LORD, forgive me for spending so many years loving you, but trying to show you how I was going to be a good Christian. What you want is for me to bow to you, and to accept what you would give that brings glory to YOUR name in every aspect of my life.
“I know now that without you and your Word, I am but a guide to my own self-destruction.” -St Augustine
Instead, now I find myself seeking out the living, filling water. I get it, LORD, I can’t create it. It’s Yours alone, and mine only as I receive it from you.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Brokenness has done so much for me. It has allowed me to be filled with living water that overflows to others. Maybe somehow God has the same in mind for churches. Maybe He wants a broken church, one so broken that all its family can do is fall on their collective knees, hands in the air, ready to receive whatever He would bring. Maybe a broken church is what God would use to change the world. He sure uses broken people that way.
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor. 12:9-10.
Whatever Your will God. Make me willing. Make us willing. And when we are unwilling, may Your will still be done. Thy will be done, Thy will be done.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things… Phil. 3:15