That's why I haven't written here much.
But I have been thinking, processing, writing journal entries in my head...and here's where I am today; it's about work, which - for me - is church, and life and friendships and it's all intertwined (which, may I say, is sometimes incredibly challenging. There's nothing else I'd rather do, but it is challenging at times. This season is one of those times.)
Tomorrow we're wrapping up a series that explored what it means to be a Christian. Our teaching pastors put forth four ideas, not meant to be exhaustive, but pertinent. Following Jesus in a way that leads to abundant life requires one to accept and acknowledge that we are broken, blessed, chosen and called.
(We even have a theme song - an excellent worship tune written by our own Artist-in-Residence, Laura K. You'll hear it again tomorrow.)
Every week, we've introduced the new concept while reminding ourselves of what came before. Our church is built for people who are broken; those who are in bad spots, at the end of their ropes, ashamed, stuck - our hope is that people who are hurting can safely worship at PCC and find time and space to be with God. So it's been quite natural that we've hit the "we are broken" refrain every week.
A dear friend sent me a note a few days ago, gently asking if we weren't getting a little too bogged down in the "brokenness" part. He wondered if we shouldn't be introducing other, more positive concepts; encouraging folks to move forward.
I respect my friend's opinion and insight, and so I've been giving this a bit of thought. It's especially applicable because tomorrow, as we teach on the "Called" topic, we're going to be leaning a bit into brokenness again. Jerimy Ford is going to tell his story, about how he came to be a Christian and the difficult path he traveled to get to this point in his life - where he is happily, actively serving a church and, in fact, is considering a move towards vocational ministry. Jerimy has been broken; it's a huge part of the process for him.
I did the programming for this week's service, and I chose a song we did a year or two ago for the message set up. I'm going to sing it, because it suits me, both stylistically and lyrically. I've been singing it in my head for three or four days, working with the words and getting comfortable with the chord progression. Today, I sat at my piano in the living room and ran through the first verse:
Peace as elusive as a shadow dancing on the wall
Life swallowed by the pain of yesterday
Left broken by the shame of things that I had done
No freedom from the choices that I'd made
But with one touch you made me clean
You met me in my deepest need
Well, there it is again, that brokenness bit...
I've thought about it all afternoon, going about the business of caring for our home and our laundry and our kitchen. I've thought about it while I listened to an Ian Morgan Cron podcast about spiritual practices and how essential it is to simply be with God and let that be enough, rather than to always think it necessary to do.
I've considered the very real fear I have of people getting tired of the same old stuff from me, worried that they'll think I'm trying to milk my shame for some sort of attention or awkward validation. I've contemplated the truth about my own desire to "get past it", to move forward, to rise above the past and become a Very Good Church Worker or an Excellent Minister.
It dawned on me this afternoon that I seem to be fighting hard these days to shed that label, to be something more than Beth, the divorced one or Beth, the one who was unfaithful. I think I'm stuck someplace, looking for the new label. Seeking the new identity.
Trying to be a grown up, a big girl. Trying to be successful. Trying to be.
I'd like to say it was an epiphany, or that it became crystal clear...but it did not. It's more like a little nudge, a small idea in the thickest part of my heart. It's wrapped in grace and there's no small amount of mercy offered as well.
I had this thought, and it was this:
You are broken. You will always be broken.
But I love you.
Be who you are. Stop trying to be something else.
I'm going to sing tomorrow morning, a song that is so true of my life that it's almost uncanny.
I will sing, and it will be true, and Jerimy will follow me and tell his story, and then we will sing "Redeemed" and I will proclaim my brokenness. I will claim it.
Because this I know: it wasn't until I was truly broken that I understood that I needed God. I needed to be connected with my creator through the redemptive power of His son. Without that brokenness, I was smart enough and clever enough and good enough to play church.
Brokenness made it real.
If I walk away from my brokenness, everything gets fuzzy. If my life with Christ is going to be authentic, it must be centered on my brokenness.
I don't know if this is solid theology or not, but it's what drives me to my knees and draws me back to the heart of a God I do not understand, a Jesus who somehow transcends time and space and is real to me.
I cannot get there unless I am real.
And I have to stop trying so hard.