Sunday, June 1, 2014

13. Sweetly Broken

(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.  On this blog, it starts at the bottom of the June posts with “Like a Child.”)

            I had lived in fear for so long that I never really knew His love.  Sure, I had read all about it in the Bible, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I could really understand it.  Just as I delight in my children and in providing for them and experiencing life with them, God delights in being a good, generous Father . . . because His love is so great that just “providing for our basic needs” wouldn’t satisfy Him.  He has to go over and above in His shower of goodness because His love is so great – great enough to hold Jesus on the cross in our place.  And if we can’t feel that love and goodness, it’s because our own sense of unworthiness won’t let it through.
 
            The thing is, once I learned to admit my unworthiness (instead of fighting to change it), I was free from my fear of being unworthy.  I wasn’t trapped by it anymore, trapped into earning His love.  I was free to just accept His free, unconditional gift of love.
            You see, my fears of not being good enough or worthy enough are actually. . . truths.  I am not good enough or worthy enough.  I never will “deserve” His love.  (And He knows me better than I know myself.  So He knows that I am even more wretched and unworthy than I think I am.)  I am insufficient in myself.  I am needy, helpless, and dependent. 
            In fact, the only reason that I can come to the Father at all is not by my own merits, but by the blood of Jesus.  It is because of Jesus’ sacrificial death that I have access to the Father.  On my own, I am too full of sin, too unworthy.  But He loves me anyway.  And because of this great un-earnable love, He wants me near Him.  So He made a way.  He is a good Father, indeed.
            But if Satan can keep us distracted by focusing on how unlovable or unworthy we are, we will spend our days trying to “earn” God’s love, trying to “do it right.”  (Or we’ll just give up altogether.)  We will be focused on us and our performance and efforts.  And when our focus is on us and what we are doing (or not doing), our focus on Him is blurred.  And we will remain hurting, ineffectual Christians. 
            Satan knows that if we were to let God’s unconditional love fill our hearts and heal our pain, we would learn to “Be still, and know that [He] is God.”  (Psalm 46:10)  We would be able to rest in His arms and His care and His wisdom.  We would be able to trust Him with the unknown, and spend our time seeking Him and glorifying Him, instead of trying to manage and control the future.  Things that aren’t ours to control anyway.   
            We would be so awed and humbled by His great love for us that we would “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)  No matter the circumstances. 
            His love would fill us up so much with peace and joy and gratitude that it would spill out to others.  We would look at the people around us through His eyes.  And we would desire to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than [ourselves].”  And we would “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4)
            Out of amazing thankfulness for the mercy and grace and love that God has given us, we would begin to see others not as nuisances or bothers, but as people who need to know God’s mercy and grace and love, too.  We would put aside our petty differences and judgmental attitudes, because we would want them to experience Christ’s love through us.  We would become more careful that we “Love our neighbor as [ourselves].” (Matthew 22:29)  So that they might come to know our good, loving Father, too. 
            We would not let “any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  (Ephesians 4:29)  We would be more concerned about the eternal souls of those around us than with our own “nice, little life.”  If we do not know this kind of love for others, it’s because we haven’t fully grasped the Father’s love for us. 
            To really “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) would make us so hungry and thirsty for Him that we would diligently search for Him - with all that is within us - through prayer and His Word.  We would find that our “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law [we would meditate] day and night.”  (Psalm 1:2)  If we do not know this kind of hunger and thirst for Him, it’s because we haven’t fully grasped the Father’s love for us. 
            We would be free - free to trust, free to exercise faith, free to love Him, to love others, to love ourselves, and free to let Him and others love us.  And as we followed Him boldly into the future - fully confident in His goodness and love - amazing things could be possible.  Life would become so much more than we ever thought it could be, nestled safe in His arms.  If only! 
              Satan knows this.  And so he does what he can to keep us in bondage to the lie that God is not really good and that we have to earn His love, in bondage to our fears that we are not good enough or worthy enough to be loved as we are.  This keeps us busy with our performance, and never really able to experience the love that we work so hard for.  The Love that is already there!
            Or maybe, on the flip side, we are kept in bondage to the lie that we have earned His love and His pleasure.  There are those who feel that they are so lovable, special, and holy that they have earned His love and His extra-special favor.  Maybe you went on a mission’s trip or serve at church?  Maybe you’ve “done it better” than others?  Maybe you wrote a book about your experiences? 
            And to you I say, whose glory are you working for?  Is there any part of you swelling with pride because of the glory and praise that you are stealing from God?  Do you desperately need God or do you live like He desperately needs you?  It might be time to dig deep into the Word and tremble before God’s holiness and glory. 
            I say, again, it’s not about you.  It’s about God and His gift of eternal love, available to the lowest of the low as much as anyone else.  I think sometimes it might be easier for God’s love and holiness to get through to someone who has fallen “lower” and has been “forgiven more,” because they recognize their lowliness compared to God and they appreciate His gifts of love and forgiveness more.  The rest of the “high and mighty, righteous church people” who give so generously of themselves to help those “lowly” others might just be missing out on the kind of genuine, deeply-touching, deeply-thankful relationship with God that the “lowly” experience.  Just a thought.
            Salvation, forgiveness, grace, mercy, faith, His Word, blessings, life, and abundant love - these are all gifts from God, among many others.  Gifts that are meant to bring us closer to Him, to give us a meaningful, abundant, God-glorifying, God-centered life.  We can’t earn them, and we can’t be complete without them.  But it’s not about being (or not being) good enough or worthy enough.  It’s all about our amazingly gracious, merciful, and loving Father, and His choice to make these gifts available to all, in spite of who we are and what we “deserve.” 
            It takes a humble heart to simply accept a gift in genuine thankfulness.  Ever notice how adults can’t just accept gifts without feeling like they have to give one back, like they have to remain on an even level with the gift-giver?  But children - humble children - can just accept the gift and be thankful for it, honoring the giver with genuine gratitude for a gift they didn’t earn.    
            We all need to be broken before God if we want to be used by Him, to glorify Him, to experience all of His gifts, to know His love, and to have the closest, most secure relationship with Him possible.  We need to be broken because we get in the way of all this.  Our accomplishments, our efforts, our wills, our fears, our desires, etc.  All of these things can stunt us, keep us from living life to the fullest as God intends. 
            And so we need to be broken.  Not broken like a vase gets smashed or a broken heart.  He doesn’t break us to destroy us or crush us.  He breaks us so He can rebuild us better, stronger, healed, like a doctor breaking a bone that healed wrong so that he can reset it.  He breaks us so that we learn to be obedient and can be used by Him.  He breaks us from our slavery to self so that we can be fully filled with Him, fully used by Him, fully glorify Him, and feel fully loved by Him.  And this is why they call it being sweetly broken!   

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