The Brokenness that Heals

Have you ever felt acutely aware of your own brokenness?  Like something very deep inside of you is broken, and irreparable?  Do you ever feel like you have tried every day to fix yourself, just to wake up later and realize that you are more broken than you were before?

That is where I was at about 1:00 this afternoon.

I found myself there, crying in a professor’s office, trying to face doubt and cynicism with courage and faith, and failing miserably.  Lately I have found myself trapped in a cycle of cynicism and unbelief, unhealthy life patterns, and hopeless pride.  What kind of life do I want?  A vibrant faith expressed in indomitable, feminine courage and compassion.  What do I feel I have? Exactly the opposite.  I desperately needed the fatherly hug and encouragement my prof offered.

Also in that moment, I desperately needed a glimpse of Jesus’ attitude toward people like me.

The Paralytic and Me

I was reminded of the story of the paralytic in John 5.  He had been lying beside a pool for thirty-eight years, hoping that somehow its rumored “magical” powers would heal him.  But his solution failed.  He was too paralyzed to get into the pool fast enough to be healed, if it would have healed him at all.  On top of that, no one even cared enough about him to help him.  Then Jesus came along.  The renowned Healer looked at that crippled man and said, “Do you want to be healed?” (I believe, “Um, YES, duh. And thank you,” is the correct response.)  But the paralyzed man was still so stuck in his human solutions that he said, “But I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool.  How can I be healed?”  He said that to God.  Like, the One who could raise dead people — so dead that they stunk (aka Lazarus).  The paralytic didn’t think he could be healed, not unless Jesus was there to put him in the pool.  He wanted Jesus to empower his man-made solution, but he couldn’t see that Jesus had a much bigger plan, one that didn’t include his superstitious, futile resources.

The truth is, I am just like that guy. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get myself out of my mess so I can get back to Jesus.  But Jesus has come to me.  Jesus came to that man while he was still broken, when he was hopeless, when he had exhausted every human healing resource.  Now Jesus has come to me, and I am trying to use Him to empower my own human answers, when He is looking at me and saying, “Do you want to be healed??”

What I need is not another fabricated solution.  I need Jesus Himself.  I need to say “YES! I want to be healed!” And then I need Him to reach down His hand and lift me to my feet. To say, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”

The LORD Who Heals

Jesus is Yahweh Rapha — the self-sufficient, promise-keeping God who heals.  He has reached so far into our brokenness that He even took on the likeness of our sinful flesh in order to restore us.  He is no stranger to the fragmented nature of our existence — “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  The most happy, most perfect One, entered into our pain and restored us by being broken Himself.  “He took bread and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body that is given for you’” (Luke 22:19).  “With His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).  The hands that reach down to heal us are scarred, and their mutilation is their deepest beauty.  Jesus feels the deepest aches of our humanity, the desperation of our ineffective self-efforts to find peace.  And He doesn’t deride us for the duct tape that we put repeatedly on the cracks of our souls because we thought it could fix everything.  Instead, He gently peels it off and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

Every morning I wake up and take an anti-depressant pill.  I have a tangible reminder every day that my body and my mind and my emotions are broken.  Part of it is humiliating — I am too proud to admit that I need help.  The other part of it is thankfulness-producing — God has used the miracle of man-made drugs to help me.  However, my hope does not lie in resources crafted by human ingenuity.  It lies in my Lord Jesus.  He is the master of metamorphosing our pain into beauty.

Yet the fact remains that in this fallen world, part of me will always be broken, and I will constantly desire to be fully restored.  That final restoration will come, in the glory of heaven where in perfect wholeness I will worship at mutilated feet, be lifted up by pierced hands, and hug a body with a gashed side.  There, where I will forever be reminded of the brokenness that healed me.

It Starts with Us

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“When?”  The whisper in my soul is louder than a jet plane.  For weeks I have been irritated — no, beyond that — I have been deeply disturbed by how much hate I see in the name of love.  And not just from the world; from those who claim to be followers of Jesus — the one who said His people would be known by their love.  I have even felt traces of this sentiment in my own heart.  I want to see change, but I’ve wondered what can be done.  We are afraid.  Living in the middle of a seismic culture shift, we are afraid that the ground is disappearing beneath our feet, and so we are grasping at anything that will maintain our fantasy that this nation is somehow still Christian.

Again I heard it. “When?”  When what?  I see marches and protests in the name of everything anti-Christian on TV.   When will all this be over?  When will Jesus’ kingdom come and true peace be experienced under His perfect rule?  This cultural earthquake is part of the groaning that I feel, groaning for the creation to be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

When?

But the question goes deeper than that.  It is personal.  When will I?  When will I what?  What could I do anyway?  I didn’t know.  So I did what I sometimes do when I have a question I can’t answer but I’m feeling too lazy to think through it.  I ignored it and got on Facebook.

How many more articles did I see outlining everyone’s opinion on women’s rights, the refugee crisis, abortion, politics… you know what I mean.  I have no idea.  But I do know that in the middle of my frustration, the answer started to dawn on me.   

When will I let my desire for change change me?

Then the answers in the form of questions flooded me so fast that I could hardly keep up.

When will I personally choose to not be afraid but to courageously love the person who seems to be threatening me?  When will the Gospel take priority over my comfort?  When will my heavenly citizenship take priority over my earthly one?

When will I care more about the person sitting across from me than I do about the rights I think I deserve?  When will I audaciously fight for the Biblical rights that person should have no matter the effect on my own?

When am I going to look into the eyes of the desperate refugee, and see a person rather than a stereotype?  What about the illegal immigrant, my LGBT friends, my Muslim neighbor, the unwed pregnant girl, her unborn child?  When will I refuse to jump on a bandwagon shouting “Black Lives Matter” or even “All Lives Matter,” and instead look a person in the eyes and say “Friend, YOUR LIFE MATTERS.  You matter, because you are loved by God. You are important, and I love you.”  Because the truth is, often our rhetoric is just a socially beneficial way of saying “my life matters.”  And our lives in service to Christ have never been about us.

When?

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When will I relinquish my “right” to be well thought of?  When will I love people by speaking the truth even if I am misrepresented as a bigot or a homophobe or a culturally-irrelevant, Bible-thumping zealot?

When will I step back from the hate and the mockery, and find the true Gospel love that popular culture cannot comprehend?  When will I realize that love cannot be sacrificed on the altar of conviction, and that I must do the work to hold the two in tension?  When will I realize that our freedom cannot be maintained by denying freedom to others, and that we will be most hopeful when we are a beacon of hope to the world?  

When will I, like Jesus, lay down my life for others, rather than grasping for it as it slips through my fingers? 

When will I realize that a culture shift starts with one person choosing to make the right decision and inspiring everyone around them to do the same?  

When will I realize that I am the only person whose actions I can control, and that the change has to start within me before it can ripple out? 

The time is now.  You and I are the next generation.  It starts with us.  Love, freedom, truth, grace, and evangelism in this generation start with us.  We will live in fear until we learn to love freely out of our titanium confidence in God’s secure hold of us.  Perfect love casts out fear.

When?  When will I?

When will you?