What follows is a synopsis of a larger message that God continues to lay on my heart. I am writing, these days, and while it’s mostly stored on my hard drive I thought I would trot out the premise to you, and ask for your honest feedback. Is this a subject that we need to explore? Please do share your thoughts with me.
Thankful for you,
Isn’t it time?
Time to stop pretending we’re ok?
To be brave enough to say, “No. I’m not ok. I hurt. I’m
wrecked. I’m broken.”
To be open with our brokenness?
I’m weary of my brave face. It feels frozen and fake. It’s a
The truth is, my brokenness feels like weakness and failure.
And haven’t we been taught not to trust our emotion, to find the joy of the
Lord despite our circumstances, to believe that God is good, all the time, to
trust that He works all things together for good for those who love Him?
Of course we have.
Because all of it is true.
But what happens next is a lie.
We take all that in, and
turn them into dos and don’ts, and we lie. We say, “Oh I’m doing fine! God is
good!” Which is a lie followed by the truth. Or “I’m truly thankful for this
[horrible thing], because I know that God works all things together for good!”
Lie, followed by truth.
Why do we do that?
We are afraid. Afraid that if we’re honest with ourselves,
somehow we’re failing at our faith. That we’re not spiritual enough. If only we
prayed more, read the Bible more, went to church more … if only, if only, if
only … we’d feel better. And perhaps even afraid that God is unhappy with us
because we’re in pain and can’t figure out how to live in the light of those
truths right now.
Lies, all of it. To our own faces, we lie.
And so, naturally, we lie to everyone around us. After all,
if WE think we are failing, we are certainly sure that everyone else will too.
So we hold it in, keep a grip, white knuckle it through another day. And we are
And we are doubly afraid that if we’re honest with others,
they’ll see us as spiritual failures.
Afraid they’ll leave us, emotionally and maybe even
physically, if we speak this truth: “I AM A COMPLETE DISASTER RIGHT NOW. And I
We are TAUGHT truth, but we aren’t given permission to TELL
the truth. Even if we have permission, we don’t know how to do it safely.
Often, those around us don’t know what to do with us if we do. We need to be
taught how to be broken open.
This is certainly a conversation worth having involving so many aspects I hardly know where to begin including:
– The problem of evil
– The theology of glory instead of the theology of the cross (Martin Luther)
– The ongoing nature of bearing one another's burdens
etc…etc. I've wondered how to be vulnerable and realistic without being a total drain on everyone around me. A testimony of brokenness is not readily received; especially when I have yet to put the bow on the package…come to the good part of the story where I understand everything and can tell the moral of the story. I've also wondered why I've often found better fellowship in a 12 step recovery program than at church. I think it's because when people come to an Al-anon meeting, for example, we are all broken. We are learning to think and live in better ways, but there's no pretending that things are rosy in our lives. In church, we get the kind of thing you talked about because of the predominance of the theology of glory where "faith" is meant to be a bargaining chip with God for a better life. I've found a lot of good articles about this in "Modern Reformation" magazine and I'm going to try to post one here. Thanks for letting me comment.
I couldn't figure out how to post the article but here's an excerpt from
"When Happiness Comes" by Rick Ritchie in Modern Reformation Magazine Issue: "WHY?" March/April 2014 Vol. 23 No. 2 Page number(s): 34-39
The unhelpful answer can often be identified by its tone. I get the impression that some who try to "help" fancy themselves to be like the kid on the playground who knows there is no Santa Claus and wants to spread the word to others. There's a self-congratulatory presentation of personal toughness. Now if only the listener could embody the same toughness, then everything will be okay.
This flies in the face of what has been revealed to us of the human condition. The Fall of man occurred when the first couple tried to make a power grab that would have placed them outside of any need for God. They were not created for it to work this way. The solution to this problem involves, among other things, a recognition of need. To try to make toughness the solution is to try to avoid the recognition of the problem. The "realistic" solution is actually a denial of reality, and the reality is that we are needy. We need things to be good and they aren't, and suffering makes us more aware of this. "Tough" people are often those who have found ways to mask one or another kind of pain that reality has thrown at them, and so imagine they can do this in the face of any kind of pain. Or at least they imagine they can do this in the face of your pain, which to them is probably less than that with which they have dealt. They think they know what you're going through, and this usually involves a lack of imagination. Healthy people imagine they can live without their health.
Cindy – first of all, thanks for reading and taking the time to share. You said so many excellent things! I totally agree about AA/Al-Anon – I think, sadly, we put our plastic faces on to go to church and take them off in recovery programs or support groups. It's sad to me that our primary need for compassion and understanding and acceptance in our brokenness is easier to find outside the church. I DO think it's possible to find it in the church, but there is teaching that must be done, and a willingness by the "participants" to get real.
The first paragraph of that quote is SO good – "There's a self-congratulatory presentation of personal toughness. Now if only the listener could embody the same toughness, then everything will be ok." That's the equivalent of pushing people and their hurt away with our words.
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Thanks, Angie, for writing about this subject with such brilliant awareness that I'm guessing was hard earned. I've come to believe that the change has to come from the pulpit. In his book, "A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God Centered Worship," Michael Horton describes our desperate need for a weekly "covenant renewal service" where our need for absolution and hope is front and center. How great would it be to leave church every week with a benediction instead of burdened with a list of "convictions" left unabsolved and the burden to transform our community. We leave not only in our crippled and broken condition, but now we've been whipped and scolded and told to "do better." Oh, I have been thinking about this for many years. p.s. say hi to your inlaws for me…I knew them at WB church
Angie, fortunately the lies you talk about are necessary for us to be what we want to be, or what we have been persuade to become. Without those lies there will be mayhem in the world.
"How are you?"
"Fine, thank you," is a standard greeting and answer that make us civil. It does not actually tell how we really are. What benefit would it afford us to tell everyone how bad things were?
Religion has is benefits. It is not possible to deliver all those benefits telling things as they really are.
For instance, in your piece, you pin point all the lies except where it is to do with God and you would say, "which is the truth”. But the truth is that most of what is said about the Creator are human imaginations -lies we tell ourselves to feel better. Life is so hard and unpredictable, so we consciously make effort to be in the good books of God. The wise knowing this trend, condemn us in order to point the way to salvation.
The most difficult instruction Christ gave to mankind is: ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ We pretend to believe and preach this impossibility, because we lie to ourselves that it is possible; that we can do it—pretentious piety.
God is good all the time? To describe God as being good is to compare the incomparable Creator with whose quality? We lie in most of the things we say about our Maker, for no creature can fathom its maker. I think that God is purposeful, not sentimental.
We can say what we imagine, but must not categorize and restrict them by reservation as the truth. Who dares to say that things written about God are human imaginations? Even so, I believe that the mind of God is like a Hard disc that contains all things in existence in this world – the Monitor.
Religions and all they say are files there in the Holy Hard disc too. That is why I do not condemn, lest I condemn the Maker.
Therefore, let us not question what is true and what is not. Even though reality sucks, the will of God drives all things we see and feel, love or hate.
God is perfect and his will cannot be overridden. If you read the book of Job and think, you will see that even the so called Satan does not do outside the will God.