Monday, February 8, 2016

You're No One's Higher Power

Any 12 step program will tell you step 1 is admitting there is a problem, everyone knows that. People even crack jokes about it--someone will Instagram their red shopping cart full of stuff with the hashtag "#AddictedToTarget" followed by "#ThatsStepOne". People will double tap that situation and giggle about it because step one is so well known it's become a punchline. The lesser known {and less glamorous} step is step 2: "Come to believe that a higher power greater than ourselves will restore us to our sanity". The rest of the steps involve reliance and dependance on a higher power IN ORDER TO stop addictive behavior--NOT to stop addictive behavior and THEN thank your higher power for self control. To do the latter is to put the cart before the horse, and it's just not sustainable.

This Jesus life…it's so easy to get self-righteous, isn't it? [Self-righteousness = a smug display of moral or intellectual superiority that comes from the idea that the self's ideas, beliefs, dogma, house of worship, actions, or even afflictions are superior to another's]. We thank God that at least we aren't in THAT SITUATION. You know the one…the person who committed THAT SIN. That one that we whisper about. We love our God, we support Him, we want to live for Him, and yet we grasp for confidence that He is on our side. So out of our own fear and insecurities, we can start to believe that He's more on our side than others to make us feel better about us. It's so much easier to point to someone else's struggle than it is to deal with our own.

Life is like a roller coaster with precariously assembled tracks that can often fall apart. Life as a Christian…can still be like a roller coaster with precariously assembled tracks that can often fall apart. Even living this Jesus life, rooted in our beliefs, the roller coaster can implode. Disasters happen. We can torch our own roller coaster, and sometimes some else's roller coaster crashes into ours on the way down. Other people's sins are just as destructive to our tracks as our own sin is. Sin is naturally destructive, and that destruction splashes out on other people. When our roller coaster implodes, we experience shame and we crave forgiveness. When someone else's roller coaster implodes and wrecks ours, we point fingers and whisper with about how mad/sad/frustrated/judgmental we are. We're quick to hold people responsible for the wreckage they caused, and we're just as quick to want help picking up the pieces of the wreckage we caused.

Obviously, any religious person is going to want to become better. No matter what religion you follow, your goal will be to better at it, whether you succeed at it or not. Then, that goal can be extended to everyone who follows your religion, and it's a slippery slope from caring about your fellow man to self-righteousness. For me, I work really hard at fixing my flaws [not trying to be boastful here--I'm only this way because people in my life have let their wreckage crash over me time & time again--with no apology or effort to improve their behavior. I never want to make anyone hurt the way that I do]. I have always struggled with depression and self hatred every single day of my life. These low places led me down a path of choices that I'm not at all proud of. I was drunk every day at 18 due to my own brokenness, and I ended up having a baby at 19.  I wore the proverbial Scarlet Letter and lost almost every friend I had. People pointed at and whispered about me. As my belly grew, so did the shame. 

By the sheer grace of God, my family was the best possible outcome for a lot of stupid decisions. That period of my life led me back to church, and I became more focused on self-improvement and growth with each passing year. Multiple people have told me to "let it go" when I make amends for hurting their feelings. When I do something that's causes someone else pain, I often hurt far more than they do. The depths of my shame and regret tear me up for weeks, months, or even years to come. I torture myself over mistakes I make. I study my personality type, I look at weaknesses I have and work hard at making them better. I read a lot of literature [both Christian and secular] on self-improvement. Even though I admit my brokenness more easily than others, I also rely more heavily on myself instead of my higher power. This too, is sin. 

I used to think that brokenness was a temporary state. I used to think one day he'd be "finished" with me. I used to think he'd pick me up, superglue me back together, and I'd be good to go. That's not how this works. You can glue a broken vase back together, but it'll never be one piece again. I am broken right now, and I'll continue to be broken. I stop and think about how foolish I am to rely on my broken self to fix my broken self. #FixItJesus 

Everyone has their own unique brand of brokenness. It is something to be embraced, not hidden. After a storm, it's the enclosed dark places that grow mold and filth. The same can be said for sin. Brokenness is no secret, but we treat it like it is. As long as we keep the mold in our hearts covered up, it will continue to grow and flourish. It will also continue to choke out what is good and healthy. We all have moldy corners inside us. And yet he loves. You're broken, I'm broken, we all are. So when we witness a roller coaster crash, let us remember than Jesus is weeping and praying, not pointing and whispering. Then let us model that, let us never forget that. Self-righteousness has never fixed any thing. Not once. Guaranteed. The fusion of truth and love is the only way to move forward. Love is the only thing that matters, and it's the only thing that has ever helped.

"Later Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house. Many tax collectors and other sinners came. They ate with Jesus and the disciples. The Pharisees saw this. So they asked the disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'

Jesus heard this. So he said "Those who are healthy don't need a doctor. Sick people do. Go and learn what this means, 'I want mercy and not sacrifice.' [Hosea 6:6] I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to follow me."

Matthew 9:10-13


WHOA. Well played, Jesus. So well played. We can think we're right with God. We can think we're fixed. We can think we've been restored. We can stand in church smiling, with coffee in hand, thinking we have it all together. We can think it's all good now, and that's a dangerous thought. We're all sinners. The moment we declare that the battle is over and that we are "right" with God is the same moment we declare that we don't need Him anymore. But we do, dear ones. Oh, how we do.

If we could be completely fixed with higher morals or a better conduct code, then what the heck was the point of Jesus even coming for us? I have a higher power, but I'm not it [neither are you]. I love Jesus, but I'm not Him [neither are you]. Whether it's your crash or someone else's, you are no one's higher power. This means that you can't fix it. But you can sure hurt it. Be careful. Be mindful. And look up.

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