A few weeks ago, at Church in the Park, Muche delivered a powerfully compassionate message using Jesus' dealings with the woman at the well to point us towards Christ in our quests for satisfaction. At one point, as he continually repeated Jesus' words—"Go get your husband!"— to this Samaritan, I held back tears. I've never been married, or had a boyfriend for that matter, but I could imagine the emotions stirring within her. Earlier, Muche had captured the essence of the shame she must have carried with her by drawing attention to the time of day she'd come to the well and noting that she'd made that trip alone. She'd seemingly avoided all the disapproving stares of those who were aware of her five failed marriages and her current relationship, just to end up face-to-face with the son of God. Great. It's one thing for people to kinda know your business; it's another thing for someone to know every single one of your thoughts. Hiding no longer makes sense. But that's what we do. I know I have. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden. Not that our attempts are ever really thought out—I mean can you really win a game of a hide and seek with Someone that has the ability to be everywhere at once? (It's like in scary movies when someone runs frantically to a room, locks themselves in, slowly backs away from the door and then gets a tap on the shoulder from the person they were running from. Busted.) Nevertheless, we run. We run away from people, run away from church, and even worse, we run away from God. But why? Fact: People—Christian or not—cannot always be trusted with knowledge of others' sin. We can be judgmental gossipers that show no grace or compassion. So, we run from people. Besides people, if you've read the Old Testament and all the specifications of the tabernacle and the veils, and the priests, etc., you may have developed this 'touch the steps of the church and you'll die' mentality. Then again, it's also where the judgmental gossipers are, so running from the church makes sense too. (Let's not forget perfectionists like myself who aren't running from gossipers, but just want to look perfect for self righteous reasons.) But why run from God?
"The spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self." -Brennan Manning
I recently read that line in a book I'm hoping will give me a much-needed, fresh perspective of God's love and desire to be in relationship with me. It struck me pretty majorly considering that I've told plenty of people that they don't need to get themselves together before they come to church, because God wants to change them from the inside-out. But obviously, I've just been passing along great song lyrics. I too run from God. I don't think of it that way, but I know for sure that up until recently, I didn't bring all my thoughts, fears, failures, weaknesses, etc. to God and cry out for his help to heal my brokenness. For one, I didn't realize just how wounded and in need of help I was (am), I'm prideful, and even in my weakest moments, just like the woman at the well, I am too embarrassed. Too much shame. But you wouldn't know it. Instead, I have "manufacture[d] a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy." But it seems I'm not alone. "We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like." (Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes)
That is until you encounter Jesus and admit that you are thirsty. Desperate. Addicted. Needy. Lost without Him. Recently, I jotted down all my sinful thought patterns (topically, not trying to recall every single sin), actions I've been ashamed to confess, and the thoughts that I'd want no one to know have actually crossed my mind. I listed them in a letter to God that I concluded with "Help Me. Heal Me." I realized that, over time, the reality of all these flaws and failures, while not previously acknowledged to this magnitude, has made me not too happy about who I am. That means a deficit in the self-love department. I'd been taking a microscope to everything that's wrong with me and subconsciously, and at times consciously, hiding as much as I could from others. Thinking that everything always needs to look good—never let them see you sweat.
"But we cannot assume that [God] feels about us the way we feel about ourselves—unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely and freely...It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate towards us just as we are—not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them. Though God does not condone or sanction evil, He does not withhold His love because there is evil in us" (Manning, p. 16).
I might have just accepted how much of a wretch I am, but He already knew it. And He still decided to love me and never stop loving me. There's no reason to run from that kind of God. And if we, as the Church, become those kind of compassionate people, there's no reason for people to run from us either.
Like the woman at the well, I don't want to thirst anymore. And I don't want to bring my broken cistern to another person for filling only to realize they too carry a cracked jar. But that means I must believe Jesus has living water. And not only does He have it, but that He only wants to expose my thirst so that I will ask Him for his endless supply. He doesn't want to embarrass me; He wants to satisfy me forever and ever. And amazingly, while there will be natural consequences to our sin and times we need to be restored, because we are in Christ, those sins don't ultimately disqualify us from being used by Him. Instead, I have found hope in realizing that Jesus came to heal the sick and to turn the sick into His healing aids in the lives of others. Or as Manning puts it, "In Love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve" (p. 25).
*Quotes taken from Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennan Manning