What resonates with me most about Jesus is how he collected the broken and messy people. He wasn’t loud or boisterous about it, he just went where people were hurting and helped them not hurt as much.
That’s why I follow Jesus. That’s why I go to church each week. That’s why I sit down every day and read my Bible. It’s me raising my white flag signaling I’m broken and messy and hurting and I want less of those things. It’s me acknowledging only Jesus can do the healing.
I love that Jesus called out religious leaders who asked him why he was hanging out with prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and tax collectors. Luke 5 makes me giddy.
After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did–walked away from everything and went with him.
Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here to invite outsiders, not insiders–an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” (Luke 5:27-32, The Message)
Jesus is for disreputable characters and the outsiders. He’s here to greatly offend.
He is for the broken.
Which is good news for me because I am really really broken right now.
I’ve been wrestling with my current mess for a while, and I’ve been struggling with how I was supposed to write about it. If I was supposed to write about it. Basically, I realized it came down to this: stop writing all together or address my current mess.
So I’m choosing to write.
I can’t write with resolution. I can’t write with a snappy conclusion. I can’t write with answers and encouragement. I can’t write with humor. I think pretending I can do those things right now is a fake representation of being a Jesus follower.
Rachael Held Evans in Searching for Sunday writes “We Christians don’t get to send our lives through the rinse cycle before showing up to church. We come as we are. No hiding. No acting. No fear.”
So for the next few weeks, we’re going to pretend this is church. I’m going to show up and tell some stories, God is going to do His work, and you–the reader–will be the congregation.
(Typing that little paragraph gave me a thrill. I’m not preaching. I’m just talking…or writing. But some of the things I write here are very similar to a message you might hear on a Sunday morning. And I belong to a church who–along with many, many other similar churches–does not think women should be preaching or teaching. The irony of that is not lost on me. Many of the people who love my writing and encourage others to read it would be the same people who, if I printed out my post and happened to be standing on a church stage or behind a pulpit on a Sunday morning, would lose their minds. Man, I love the Church, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.)
I’m coming as I am, and although I like to pretend I’m brave, I’m actually really scared. I could write a whole post listing the reasons I don’t want to do this. The things that might happen.
But underneath all of that is a little whisper that says this is going to be okay. I will make you brave. Beauty from ashes.
Right now I am living in the tension of knowing God’s promises and believing them with my whole heart while still struggling through the destruction of what I thought my life was. I’m putting one foot in front of the other knowing healing will come but not yet seeing it.
As the wise prophet Bon Jovi said, “I’m living on a prayer.”
The problem is I like to write from the healing side, the part of the story where I’ve seen the good in the land of the living, and I can share it with you. The problem is I like to write from a less-broken place.
But it’s been months, I’m still pretty broken, and so it’s time.
Today starts a series that will last two weeks. That’s right, two weeks. (Yikes.) I’ve got ten posts already written, edited, and scheduled to publish. Some of them have been written for months and some are newer. A disclaimer about what’s coming would be I’ve condensed a lot of life into a small amount of time. The reality of trying to tell a story is the storyteller has to leave some things out. Time, space, privacy, memory, and a million other considerations go into sharing this stuff, and while I’ve tried to do my best, I will fall short.
Also, at heart I’m an English teacher. I get the nuance of telling a good story, how to create interest, how to evoke emotion, how to manipulate a reader. I have tried really hard to just tell a story and not sensationalize any of it. It doesn’t need my help. It’s sensational on its own.
In The Message version of the Bible, Luke 5’s heading is “Invitation to a Changed Life.” It starts with Jesus healing a man with leprosy. After he is healed, Jesus instructs him, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” But the man couldn’t keep it to himself, and the word got out.
For the man with leprosy who was healed, everyone would have noticed. He would have been known as unclean and disease-ridden because leprosy wasn’t something you could hide. His life revolved around leprosy and now his life was going to be drastically different.
You can’t see my leprosy. You can’t see the sin and destruction and brokenness in my life unless I tell you about it. We can’t get to the good stuff–the changed life, inside and out–unless we first call out the parts that need changing.
I want my life to bear witness to what Jesus has done, but first I have to show you the before.
It takes a lot of courage to tell your innermost feelings, problems – and solutions. I have you in my thoughts and prayers. You have always been very special to me!
Thanks, Nancy. I really appreciate it.
John gorman says
Proud of your walk, keep up the good work God Shirley is finished with you yet
I sure hope not. Thanks, John.
When people show there broken it makes them more human and much easier to relate too. People suddenly feel comfortable telling you about there life because the broken doesn’t judge the broken unless they are hiding under self-righteousness.
True, Rachel. If nothing else, I have become a more compassionate person in the midst of the mess.
I’m honored by your courage to share your mess. It’s something not enough Christians do, I think they underestimate the power of the testimony they can have by sharing every day struggles. I know I do that, as it’s easy to think people will feel you’re ungrateful or not joyful if you aren’t constantly sharing your joy. However, I think sharing our struggles and joy in spite of those struggles is where Jesus can truly shine. Thank you for opening your life to the internet. <3
So true, Chelsea. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂
You might want to read Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. It would fit right in with your series.
Strapping myself in for all the messiness. <3
I have read that book! Such a good recommendation.
Vickie Benedict says
Mary, your conviction to write about your brokenness helps you, helps me and others to understand we all share in your pain in someway ! You are a treasured Child of God and now we see on your written pages the Mary we all know and love and can share in the process of your healing. May God Bless you Dear One as you continue to minister to others! Much Love, Vickie Benedict
Vickie, thank you. Your encouragement is really appreciated.
It’s amazing how we often can’t preach redemption in our churches because it makes people so uncomfortable. I praise your courage and tenacity as you become vulnerable about what God has done and is doing in your lives. I will also be praying that God continues to surround you with redemption warriors as you continue to own and preach your story.
This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you, thank you for sharing.
Girl, I’m coming to church to hear what you’re preachin’ and I haven’t been to church in a month of Sundays. I need to hear what you’re saying because I’ve been a broken mess too.
So much love. And strength. And light. Whatever I’ve got, it’s yours. xo