I am an expert at blowing things out of proportion. Under the guise of being a ‘cautious’ person, I home in on the dangers, the pitfalls, the ‘What if?’s in all kinds of situations. (You might consider stopping reading this and praying for Martyn; this guy truly knows how it feels to spend an entire evening listening to me bang on about the fact that we haven’t bought the right kind of mattress for our child’s bed.)
Don’t get me wrong, lots of what we see in the world IS dangerous and horrific, isn’t it? (Not mattresses.) And often it’s right to feel furious – it breaks God’s heart so it should break ours too. And it’s often from that position of helplessness and horror that we’re spurred to action. That’s a whole other blog post! But actually, in my life, I can’t think of anything warranting that kind of reaction. When I hear myself whining that evil has gained a foothold in my life, I need to stop and ask myself – is that really the case? Or is it just that I’m broken?
When God made us he made us complete but we chose to lose that completeness. So it’s no surprise that we experience brokenness. We are not tough – we are frail.
One of the most powerful things I have learned since I began to follow Jesus is that I’m not perfect. And with that has come great relief. I can’t be like the people who claim to know ‘what’s right’ in all these broken situations; I can only ask Jesus to help me live in a fallen world. I can’t be like the people who belittle the actions and choices of others; I can only be mindful that other human beings are broken, like me (and that there is no condemnation in Jesus anyway). I can’t be like the people who trumpet their academic qualifications and other triumphs on social media; I can only boast in Jesus. All I can do in any situation, including the topic I’m blogging about right now, is admit that I’m still learning – and seek Jesus.
Jesus didn’t come for the healthy. He came for the sick. I don’t wish to celebrate my failings, but when I pick them up and look at them, admit they are there, God can do a lot more in me than on the days when I’ve got it all sewn up. And he is so gracious – when I start exploring, that’s when he can really work in my life. He wants to release this power, the power that is made perfect in weakness. I can only wonder at the strength of this power as I let him take up the burden for me.
Learning from Jesus in this way has also blessed me more than I can say in my relationships with others. It’s when we can be open with our friends that we can get beyond that surface level in our friendships. It’s when we can say sorry to our spouse that we can be the person God made us to be in our marriage. It’s when we can admit our weaknesses to our children that we free them from the straitjacket of perfection, too. (And by that I absolutely don’t mean ‘Oh gosh, Mummy’s so stupid’ – why not try ‘Mummy’s made a mistake’, or even ‘Mummy’s going on a parenting course to learn how to be a better mummy’*).
I hope I never use ‘It’s just that I’m broken’ as an excuse to neglect my responsibilities or behave unlovingly to others. But, next time I’m about to blow something out of proportion, I hope I will remember these musings. I pray that I won’t fixate on what’s bad about my circumstances, but on how God might work through them. One day, I’ll be in the place where God is completely present and I will stand faultless before him. I see glimpses of that place everywhere. But for now, it’s just that I’m broken. And that’s OK.
* Here’s a chance I’ve been waiting for to give a shout-out to an excellent parenting course run by a York-based charity. It was very timely for me when I attended it last year.