Broken but Beloved

With this series, we want our blog to invite a spirit of confession & vulnerability that would define our community.

How did I get here?

Who am I?

Now what?

These are the questions I've been asking myself the past couple of days. Where is here? Embarrassed, ashamed, broken, contrite and wishing I could run away or sit in my room watching On Demand all day, so I don't have to deal with reality.  Reaping what I sowed and scared that my future doesn't look so bright anymore. How did I get here? Chasing satisfaction. Consciously and subconsciously. Embracing the tangible because I couldn't feel the invisible. And hiding from the light to keep my dark deeds hidden.

Who am I? Beloved. It cracks me up to hear Iyanla say this so often, but I've been reading a book that has me embracing the truth that I am loved. Trying to root my identity in the fact that the Creator—perfect, holy, and full of light—loves me: prideful, addictive, weak, sinful me. But let me not glaze over who I've been up until a few weeks ago. Someone once said that we make the most fuss about the things we're actually guilty of ourselves. Either we are intentional hypocrites or we think if we insist on the wrongness or rightness of something long enough we will actually get the memo we've been passing around to others. Arrogant and prideful either way. You've seen it: preachers and gospel artists ruined by affairs, the down-low population, and conservative politicians caught in scandals. I fell in the latter category: looking at specks and ignoring my plank. I've often acknowledged my wrongdoing inwardly, but rather than confessing it to others, I set out to cure myself or minimize my shortcomings thinking they'd go away. And I've been very protective of my golden child image. But that old Baptist pastor was right when he said, "You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow." Or better yet, my mom's warning: "What's in you is gonna come out!"

It felt good to become a Christian in college. Not only did I think I had a Heavenly hook-up for my dreams to come true, but it rounded out my already well-rounded Cosby-kid life. Yet, believing that now there was the divine requirement for me to be perfect,  I went right into performance mode. What are all the do's and don'ts? Ok. Got em. But what happened when I did a don't?  Rather than prostrating myself on an altar, I developed an alter ego that was so righteous it made up for the wretch in me. What I didn't realize was that because that wretch was still in me, whether I acknowledged its presence or not, it was growing. I was feeding it in my darkest hours, and caging it when the sun came up. But it peeked out every now and then and broke loose this summer: every unchecked thought, every explicit visual, and all the lonely moments I'd ever filled with something or someone that I wasn't supposed to. They collided with my desires for childhood and adolescent friendship that would make me feel wanted, accepted and loved—sin was the result. My shiny car that had long been admired was totaled.

Here I am now—wrecked. I can't just patch myself up. I can't look at anyone else's dents to distract me from my own ruin. And I can't pretend that I don't need healing, because I've shown people my scars now. Scared and ashamed, I confessed to others my shortcomings and need for healing. There goes the image I worked so hard to construct. I feel so dumb. So exposed. Is this my true self? This person controlled by passion, emotion, desires and lust? Yes and no. Born sinners. We all are. And what I didn't get all these years was that God is not asking us to pretend like we're not. He's not asking us to fix ourselves up before we come to Him. He's pleading with us to see ourselves as people in need of redemption, so He can come in and do what He loves: make beautiful things out of dust. He doesn't want us to think we can muster up enough strength to overcome our dark pasts (and even the dark presents we find ourselves in) or earn our way into His grace. Nor does He want us to be independent of Him and others. He wants us to need Him, not because He needs attention but because He knows our hearts are restless until they rest in Him as Augustine confessed. Kinda makes sense. We were created by Him for intimate relationship with Him. Unfortunately, there's countless miles literally and spiritually between us. But He wants us back and has gone through great lengths to display His love. He's asking us to come out of hiding behind relationships, in closets, under sheets, in front of our computers, alone in our rooms, in the pews and in the pulpit and meet Him at the foot of the cross. He's been beckoning me to find all the love I've longed for in Him first and foremost. He's asking me to trust that all that I can feast my eyes on here and wrap my arms around is not all there is to life. What I see now are just shadows of something greater. There is more. But I have to fight to see it. And do whatever it takes to stay in the light as gravity works against me.

It's not easy though. No need for misconceptions or false expectations. And considering that we'll never reach perfection in this life and the world around us won't either, I have to accept that I will not live my best life now. He hasn't promised that. As one noted, "Every day with Jesus will not be  'sweeter than the day before.'  Some days with Jesus we are so sad we feel our heart will break open. Some days with Jesus we are so depressed and discouraged that between the garage and the house we just want to sit down on the grass and cry ... The reason David praised God with the words, 'He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,' is because he had bad days."

What's the point then? Is ultimate satisfaction here and now to be found in my faith?  If not now, then why not instead pursue happiness and pleasure here the best I know how? Well, that's what I've been doing and today I'm farther from happy than I was when I began my pursuit. I'm seeing that nothing here lasts forever and there are consequences to the chase. Everything is fleeting, so once the pleasure fades and you come down off the high, the reality of what you sacrificed along the way sinks in. There's no turning back the hands of time. And there's no red carpet laid out just because you decide to move forward.

There's no easy way to travel the path that leads back to God. It's a narrow, humbling road, but I hear rest for the weary soul awaits now and forevermore. And the good news is that not only has He given us His son as the way to reconnect with Him, but He's given us His word so that we may know Him. Even more, He will bestow His spirit to guide us from within and wants to connect us with others journeying towards Him as well. Confessing to others was hard, but now I'm not alone in fighting sin. I had to realize that while others may not have had a tainted view of me as I kept my sin hidden, God knew who and what was behind the mask.

I've claimed Christianity for years and gone to church even longer, but I feel like I'm just starting down this rocky road. It's time for a new platform. Not one built on perfection. Instead, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power—the power I need to lift my head out of the rubble—may rest on me. Besides, I have nothing left to boast in.

All is Vanity.