Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Lousy Live Show

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I was asked a while ago what the verse “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” meant to me. (Psalms 34:18) I listened to the question posed by the person on the other end of the phone, and then I let him have it…

At the time this question was asked me, it happened to be THE worst thing anyone could ask or bring up. Why? Well, because I was precisely that – broken hearted and cruched in spirit. And the fact of the matter is that we all speak so well about pain and suffering and overcoming when its a beautiful memory. Hindsight is a pair of rose-coloured glasses. It’s so easy for us, in hindsight, to sit down and draw the lines where God ‘obviously’ helped us and where He worked wonders and how this was all just apart of his plan; all just a bit of his magnificent, celestial blueprint called ‘my life’. And telling the story that way makes for great churchy Testimonial talk. I mean, that’s the really golden stuff there, that gets all the Amens and the Praise the Lords.

But the honest truth is that pain is a lousy show when it’s running live.

Without that pretty editting, our stories are messy and bloody and sweaty and snotty and gritty. And ugly. We don’t want to show them to the crowds before they’re a little fixed up. We want to be a little bent, but not broken. We want to open up a little but not break down. Oh dear, no. That would be awfully awkward and a sure blow to the ol’ pride and it just wouldn’t seem like we were great, spotless Christians who weathered whatever storm came our way. Because, when you think about it, that’s exactly what we want to do. Sure, we know that pain is going to be a part of this walk of faith, but we’re determined to come out sparkling. We don’t want to go under, we want to surf those waves. It’s like we want to have the honour of going through challenges with God, just as long as not a hair is out of place, and we always keep our chin up, and we continue to dress well and smile enough and no curses escape our lips and we never loose faith and never stop praying and remain good girls and boys.

Oh please.

Really. We have GOT to get over this faulty, messed up view on suffering and how we ought to bare our burdens. Yes, pain need not turn us into monsters. But we don’t need to put conditions and expectations to ourselves (and other Christians) that Heaven doesn’t even agree with!

But back to the can of worms that was opened over the phone in the form of that one question….

What does that verse mean to me, God is near to the broken hearted and the crushed in spirit…?

Being broken is not pretty. Being crushed is not a pleasant sight or a romantic pain. It is grueful and ugly and unpopular, and the first reaction of anyone who is around someone who matches this description, is look for the exit. People become desperate and pathetic and low and weak in this state. They beg and grovel and yell and sob. It is like watching a star die, seeing a person feeling deep pain. And we don’t want to be around that feeling of rock bottom, and we’re not naturally comfortable with problems we cannot solve, wounds we cannot stitch together with words.

But that verse means that God doesn’t mind.

Funny thing is that Heaven doesn’t seem to be half as squeemish as Christians often are. With God on the line you can swear and kick and scream and bring up embarressing, unaccetable things. You can rage and rant and cry or be silent. You can admit to what you are. In need. A mess. It’s not pretty. It’s just true.

He doesn’t mind our pain. He doesn’t mind the screams and the anger and the burning and the desperation. He doesn’t mind rock bottom and hell doesn’t not singe him. He will go anywhere we are, so that He can make sure we were not there alone, and so that He can get us out. There is no depth he did not, and will not, stoop to, and not deep dark dungeon of suffering or despair that he will not sit with us in. It’s not a matter of that he once was there. He is near. The verse reads, He is near to all those in the shadowlands, all those walking through the valley of the shadow of death or loneliness or poverty or hate or confusion.

Today that verse means a lot to me. It tells me what I know to be true. No matter where I go, I don’t need to wrap it up pretty for him. He sees, he knows, and he’s near.

Imagine that! (nah!)

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So, imagine this. God knows that human beings would one day look at the world around them; the political unstability, the wars, the famine, the pain, and wonder who in the world is steering this rampant freight train called history. And so, He decided to let them know it wasn’t all lost and hopeless. He comfortingly let them know that He was in charge, he would never step out of the picture and leave them to themselves, and that one day He would fix this mess. Now imagine that the message was not received as “Don’t worry. There’s a point to all of this and I’m in control”.

Imagine that those human beings began obsessing about the message, the numbers, dates, details of the message. They became infatuated with the codes instead of their meaning; as though the alphabet, and not words they formed, was the purpose of the message. What if they even began lording it over each other; showing off how clever they were in deciphering clues in the memo and figuring it all out like a mathematical equation?

What if then the people who were supposed to hear comfort, heard everything but that. They heard everything from “be anxious”, to “be aware”, to “be scared”, and they based entire church denominations on the concept of fear growing out of doom’s day prophecies, hard times to come, and who would be “in” or “out” with Heaven’s posse.

What if the message of comfort created more division than relief? What if the entire message of ‘fear not’ got so lost in the works, that the Youth of the church stopped wanting to hear a single word more about the book of Daniel and Revelation, attend a single more seminar or hear another Evangelist “do the math” with large posters of beasts and statues behind him? And not because they couldn’t stomach it, or because they couldn’t be bothered to hear about it, but because a message had turned into a showing off contest between Christians who knew their Bible so well they didn’t know their Bible, and a dispatch of grace turned into a petty piece of overglorified Numerology. And what if the problem was never that the points made about the prophecies were not valid or important, but simply that first things never came first, and the purpose of it all was exchanged for an overfixation on the process?

 But, surely that would never really happen. Imagine how foolish that would be!