The Fellowship of Pain

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Luke 5:12, NLT

The Bible text reveals that this man is desperate.  His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’ He’s an outcast now, completely infected by something he never asked for; he is ‘unclean’ and completely without hope. There is no treatment, the doctors can do nothing.

The leper knows that without the touch of Jesus, he’ll never be healed. 

He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced by anyone over the complete hopelessness of his condition. He has heard that he can do incredible miracles. Could it be that Jesus can heal his sickness? The leper comes and falls on his knees before the Lord, with his face in the dirt. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except for Jesus. What else can he do?

Our diseases differ, but our lives have been completely changed by our pain. We all have this in common. 

Our pain and darkness vary. Some hurt more, some less. But we’ve all come to the place where we no longer have illusions of somehow being made whole. Whenever we meet, I think there should be a secret handshake or a password. We all share a comradeship— we’re all part of the same community. 

We’re a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.

We belong to the fellowship of pain.

Lying in the dirt, we start to believe the unbelievable.  Our faith doesn’t activate our healing, as much as it simply guides us to Jesus. We can kneel, and perhaps that’s all we need to do. His presence drives away the fear, the doubt, and the pain. He’s come, and somehow we begin to hope for mercy. Only he can carry us through this.

I have struggled with deep dark depression. I’ve had to take meds.  But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all my melancholy is driven out. He comes and I start to hope again.  Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship?  I think not. But isn’t about us becoming “angels,” perhaps it’s more about us learning how to kneel, and to allow Jesus to touch our hearts.

You must do this. Repeatedly.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.”

“The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”   

–Mike Yaconelli

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Love is On the Loose

“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.

Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality

I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits.  That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach.  It nags on me and betrays me.  The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness  of God’s fantastic grace.

This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being.  I feel worthless and so alone.  Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room.  Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head.  They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.

Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news.  We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life.  And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance.  We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”

As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love.  Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues.  We are sick, we admit it.  We are different than other people (“the norms”).  But the Father delights in us. 

He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.

 

Everything is Broken

I’m really sad today.  There are just too much hurts, too many casualties, too many victims.  Job’s own reflection was that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [not really sure I know what the last part means, but the first part is perfectly clear].

We are all citizens of this fallen world.  It seems we go through life like a bull in a china shop.  We don’t move very gracefully and we break a lot of things just trying to move through it.  No matter how hard we try we always make a mess of it. I’d like to think of it as moving through life sideways. We go through life crashing and smashing.

There is no place in the Bible where God promises us a “trouble-free” journey to heaven, a journey without pains, hassles and the problems of life.  If you are hearing anything else, I strongly suggest finding another voice to listen to.

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.”

— Michael Yaconelli

We all have flawed lives.  Everything gets tangled up and really messy. This is the normal life of being in ministry of some kind.

Our very best efforts give us little hope at resolving these things.  We are agitated by our personal failure and we often feel God is angry with us.  The really hard part is the incessant voices from the sidelines that announce our failures and flaws to everyone. Satan has a cruel and a vicious ministry of hate targeted at you.

Yet these terrible things are redeemed by the Holy Spirit.  He loves failures and weaklings.  When we finally realize we are flawed, he then places something real into our hearts.  In our weakness we finally become strong.  We become authentic.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  (Matthew 5:4).

Be kind to everyone today, to each person you meet. For all of us are fighting a difficult battle. Please, be kind out there.

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His “Irresponsible” Love

“Nothing in the church makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in.

Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)” 

— Michael Yaconelli

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Often there can be a frustrated hostility simmering just below the veneer of a religious person.  It can be seen in sudden outbursts of irritation that seems to come from nowhere.  It is often encountered when they feel the ‘spigot of grace’ has been open too long, too much water is being used, and the people are getting a little wild in showing their enthusiasm.  “They’re acting like ungodly pagans.”

Regulating the watering hole becomes a compulsion, and a necessary work of the “Church.” Jesus’ love is for all is a confirmed fact, but we must have some standards of decorum and appropriate levels of conduct and respect.  “We the keepers-of-the- spigot are called to take some responsibility in this,” we end up saying.

Celebratory shouts of joy are simply not acceptable.  Dancing in the mud is way ‘out-of-line.’  But there is an outrageous element to grace.  It is preposterous and disturbing.  It is untamed and wild, and not at all logical.  “We definitely prefer the thinking side of our faith,” we say.

Judas rebuked Jesus as he was getting a foot massage from the ungodly woman.  She had no business to be there in the first place.  And secondly, she has just poured this incredible fortune on the feet of Jesus!  Judas said, “way out-of-line!”  But there is a irrepressible love that always pushes its way forward.

For those of us who have first experienced God’s love and grace we must keep an alert out for our hard hearts.  First, He is in charge of how the water is utilized.  Second, [and we MUST believe this] when a man or woman connect with the water, there can be spontaneous displays of joy!

The dance of grace

We must change our thinking, e.g. repent, and insist that we ‘cease and desist’.  Our attitude is not acceptable or true to the Spirit of Christ.  We are the ones way “out-of-line” and we have not been good witnesses about his grace and love.  We had better turn from this sin, and ask Jesus to free us again.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32

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