Archives For Broken

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

Everyone, I have the great privilege of guest posting for Chris Morris today. He is husband, dad, Christ-follower, CPA by day, and a creative. He wrote a post, How Climbing Cliffs is Nothing Like Forgiveness, in which he shared a dream.

This post sparked some thoughts in me.

What follows is an excerpt of Prodigal Brother:

The Prodigal Son. The story of a young man who received his inheritance, and promptly wasted it on a profligate lifestyle. He squandered his blessings on wine, women, and song. He at least finally came to his senses, there in the hog pen, and decided to go home.

Thinking all the while that he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son. What he failed to account for is that once a name is given it cannot be taken away.

Meaning that just because we sin does not mean we are no longer a part of the family. Does this mean we should sin? As Paul said, “God forbid.”

What it means is that we, like the Prodigal Son before, serve a God Who runs. Make no mistake: His love is always there, but somehow when we turn around (repent) God gallops to us with arms wide open. Even when we still have the stench of hog on us.

Please visit Chris’s blog to read the rest. While you’re there, stay awhile, kick the tires, read his work. He’s a great writer.

Bite Me, Joel Osteen

randomlychad  —  March 14, 2013 — 19 Comments
'VATICAN SURPRISE' photo (c) 2005, Tim Engleman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Bite Me, Joel Osteen.

My Best Life Now? Seriously?

Does that best life include:

My sleep apnea

My wife’s:

Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, and allergies so bad she can’t breathe through her nose for months on end?

My son’s chronic back problems?

Loved ones dying of cancer?

What part of this is “best,” Joel?

“But, bless God, brother,” you say. “You just need to take a hold of it.” Well, d’oh! What do you think I’ve been doing? Playing tiddlywinks? I pray–I believe–everyday.

You say “Well maybe you just don’t have faith? Pray for faith, brother.” Doing this, too, bro.

Everyday.

By my reckoning, I’d say that I have much the same faith as:

Abraham–who died without receiving his inheritance

Gideon–who twice laid out his fleece before God

Barak–who wouldn’t go fight unless Deborah accompanied him

David–who killed Uriah to cover up his sin

Job–who suffered it seems so God could win a bet with the devil

The Apostle Paul–who was shipwrecked, stoned (with actual rocks, not pot), and cast adrift in the open ocean

It seems to me, Joel, that their hope was not in having the best life now, but in having a blessed life now.

Which meant walking with God, and trusting him, through hard things. Not being delivered from those hard things, but rather being delivered through them.

Because it seems to me that having the best life now means having a hope in the hereafter, where “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).

Bite me, Joel Osteen: the best is yet to be.

As a small child, I suffered from anemia. So much so that I was
frequently made to toddle across the street to the neighbor’s (a
nurse) house for iron shots. I guess I did not have a problem with
this for two reasons:

1) There was a cookie in it for me; and,
2) Prior to being diagnosed with anemia, there was a trip to the
hospital with my dad…

I remember the sharp tang of antiseptics, the scent of Pine Sol used
to clean the corridors, an endless descent down in an elevator, and a
long walk down a dimly lit hall. I was five, and I was to be getting a
blood test. At the time, I did not know what a “blood test” was
(having never had one). Honestly, I do not recall what I expected.

The stark reality was a cold metal chair under a sun-bright medical in
the middle of a chilly room. I was not, as they say, “down with that.”
I struggled, resisted, fought with every ounce of strength I possessed
to keep from being poked with that sharp, scary, needle.

“Keep him still,” the doctor said to my dad.

“I’m trying,” he replied. In the end, I was too much; I thought I had
won! There would be no needles piercing the delicate flesh of my inner
arm!

How wrong I was! My dad found an off-duty police officer (working
security) in the corridor, and invited him to assist with the
procedure.

I was sunk! Despite my best efforts, two grown men proved to be too
much for me. The needle delicately made its way into my young vein,
and…

I said, “That wasn’t so bad.” All of that fuss, all of that fight, and
it was not so very bad at all. I never feared needles again.

And yet…

How often do we, who should know better, react as I did under threat
of that dreaded needle, when Jesus promises to bring change (and with
it perceived pain)into our lives? We duck, and dodge Him, hoping to
avoid it.

And in the end, only manage to prolong the process, thereby making it
worse. God says that all things work together for the good (not that
the bad things are good–that would be insane) for those that love
Him. The fundamental issue, then, is that, as when I was a boy, we
fail to trust that Father knows best.

We kick, we scream, we fight, when what Father desires is our trust, our surrender. We fight because we are stubborn, willful, creatures–creatures wanting our own way.

And that includes avoiding the pain of growing up. It is past time to face facts: growing is inevitable, and we can either embrace the discomfort, or try to run from it. Either way, it will hurt.

But the path of willing surrender hurts ever so much less. Because it means we are humbling ourselves, surrendering our pride, and no longer
trying to hide.

It means we are partnering with a loving Father Who truly does know best.

The pain, the disappointments, are His appointments–and our opportunities to do that one thing we do not wish to do:

Exercise faith.

Because that means we are not in control.

But that is right where Jesus wants us: broken.

Speak on it: Where do you resist being broken in your life? How is that working out? Is God’s way really so scary?