Monday, September 15, 2014

Hardest Spiritual Lesson #9: Humility and Brokenness

9.  Humility and Brokenness
(Once again, another long post which repeats some things that I’ve said in other posts.  But it’s totally worth reading.)

            Matthew 18:4:  “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” 

            Whoever humbles himself like a child!  This, I believe, should be the ultimate goal of every believer.  Humility.  Brokenness.  Now, everyone might define humility a little differently, but here’s my attempt at it: 
            Humility is recognizing and freely admitting that we are needy, helpless, and dependent.  It’s knowing that we need our Heavenly Father desperately, that we are helpless to do anything without Him, and that we are fully dependent on Him daily.  It’s resting in and so completely trusting His goodness and love that no matter what happens, we can still say, “Father, I trust You.”  And it’s knowing that everything is by His power and for His glory, and wanting nothing more than to see Him glorified in our lives.  To me, this is what it means to be humbled, to be “sweetly broken.”

            Of all the things that I have written about, this is the one I am most passionate about: humility and brokenness.  Because until we are broken before the Lord – until we begin to actively seek humility – our relationship with Him will not be what it is supposed to be.  There will be a part of ourselves that is hindering a genuine, complete, fully-dependent relationship with Him.  (And for the record, there will always be a part of ourselves that gets in the way, which is why we have to always work on our relationship with Him and always be aware of what is going on in our hearts and minds.)  I was a Christian for a long time – full of Bible knowledge and pursuing God – before I was broken before Him and really understood what it meant to pursue humility.  
            And just to be clear, this is not the same kind of “broken” that we talk about when we say that we have a broken heart or come from broken pasts or broken homes.  I am not talking about an unhealthy, damaged, incomplete kind of broken, but a brokenness where we are broken of everything that keeps us in bondage and that keeps us away from a complete, healing relationship with our Heavenly Father. 
            Yes, it’s often a painful process, but we shouldn’t fear brokenness before the Lord.  We should desire it and seek after it.  It’s what helps break down our walls, fears, misconceptions, and sinful strongholds.  For when we are broken of our self-sufficiency, we learn to rely on Him and only Him.  When we are broken of our need for control, we learn to follow Him instead of lead.  When we are broken of our fear of being unworthy, we stop trying to earn His unconditional love and become free to live in it.  When we are broken of our misconceptions, we begin to live in Truth.  When we are broken of sinful strongholds, we experience healing and freedom in Him and a deeper relationship with Him.  And when all these things happen, among others, we find out what it means to be humble like a child.       

Opposite of Humility:
            Before we dig deeper into humility, let’s look at what I think is the opposite of humility: “control and self-sufficiency.”  It’s attempting to live in our own power and wisdom, to make our own way, order our life the way we want, and to care for ourselves because we can’t trust Anyone else to care for us properly.  It’s living in such a way to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from the risks of relying on or trusting Someone else with our hearts and lives.
            Self-sufficiency can show itself in different ways…
            - always trying harder to achieve more or be more successful (trying to gain as much as we can and prove ourselves worthy)
            - always getting bigger and better things (feeling judged by our belongings, showing others how impressive we are)
            - believing that we always know better or can do better on our own
            - smugly and secretly looking down on those “below us,” those who struggle, who are weak, who are in need, or who are still learning and growing and haven’t yet reached our "superior level of achievement, service, wisdom, and godliness”  
            - always wanting or needing to be the one who “gives” and teaches, but never able to “take” or be taught 
            - never going to others when we are in pain
            - never admitting when we have made a mistake or that we sin
            - never admitting when we are in need (or making sure that we are never in need to begin with)
            - even at church, we can try to serve more, sing louder, or give more, anything to show that we have it all together or are worthy or valuable
            But what all these usually come down to is one of these two things:
            1.  Either we think too highly of ourselves, as if we are so capable, worthy, valuable, wise, and strong on our own . . .
            2.  Or else we don’t feel capable, worthy, valuable, wise or strong, and so we try harder to make ourselves acceptable.  (And these are the people I’m mostly writing about and for, because that’s the place I came from.)  We don’t feel like we really matter to others.  We don’t feel like we can be loved for who we are, warts and all.  We don’t want to “need” others, to have to rely on them, or to be vulnerable.  We don’t want to be real with others because we are uncomfortable with what’s really inside of us.  We don’t want to admit to the doubts and fears and shortcomings and pain inside, so we put on a good face and a good performance.  We try to control everything and have everything in control. 
            Now, it’s one thing to do this with people, because some of this self-protection and caution is valid and necessary.  But it’s a much different thing to do this with God.  And I believe that if we are living this way with others, we are most likely living this way with God, too.
            When we have learned that others can’t be trusted, we don’t trust God.  We might enjoy the luxury of wanting Him, but we never let ourselves need Him.  When we have learned that others don’t really care, we feel like we don’t really matter to God, too.  And so we keep our hearts closed and our true feelings and thoughts to ourselves.  Even keeping them from God because we are afraid to displease Him or we feel like He just doesn’t care.  We live as “good Christians,” trying to please others and God with our performance and service, as we hide the “unacceptable,” painful parts of ourselves. 
            It’s scary to admit the things that we try to keep hidden.  And oftentimes, the only way forward into complete healing is to go backward, to let God go with us into those past hurts.  He doesn’t just apply bandages to old, infected wounds.  He has to open them up again, and clean out all the yucky stuff that doesn’t belong there, and apply His love and insight and healing to it.  And it is only then that true healing can take place. 
            And this is so scary for some of us that we would rather live with the deep, hidden pain than risk going back there again and finding out that God might let us down.  We’d rather just put on a “good Christian performance” than open up our hearts completely to God.  We have been hurt before.  And we have spent our lives protecting the broken parts of our heart.  And it doesn’t feel right to us to let God see all of the ugly stuff inside of us when we want so much to please Him and do right by Him.  It’s a very scary, foreign thing to humble ourselves before God, to trust Him, to give Him our futures, and to fully open our hearts to Him.  And this might just be the hardest part of a Christian’s journey.
            But God doesn’t want us to live a self-protected, self-sufficient, self-focused life.  He doesn’t want our performance as much as He wants our hearts.  Jesus didn’t come to earth and die for us so that we would put on a good Christian performance for Him.  He died for us so that we could have a genuine, close relationship with Him.  He wants our hearts, full access to our hearts so that He can fill them with His love, healing, and truth. 
            The hard part about humility is that it’s not something that we can fake, force, or act out.  And it doesn’t just happen to us.  It doesn’t happen by accident.  (Yes, trials can force us into humility, but only if we allow them to.)  No one stumbles into humility.  We have to actively seek it, lay down our wills to find it.  “Whoever humbles himself . . .”  We have to learn what it means to be His child and to let Him be the Father.  And this doesn’t come easily to those who have been hurt before, especially by our fathers and mothers.    
            As I’ve said before, I come from a very broken, dysfunctional home.  I had three dads by the time I was eight, four by the time I was in my late twenties.  And although they were all good guys, I never really felt like I belonged to any of them.  I didn’t feel like I fit in with them.  And as I came to find out on my journey with the Lord, this had a huge impact with how I related to God as my Heavenly Father.
            I didn’t realize it, but for so long I couldn’t let God be my Father, and I didn’t want to be His child.  I wanted Him to be my God and I wanted to be His follower, but “Father and child” was just too personal and risky.  I wasn’t used to relying on others.  I had been let down too many times, and I learned early on that people leave you.  So don’t get too close.  Don’t need others.  Needing people means you could get let down or hurt.  Needing people means being vulnerable.  And I hated those things. 
            And I didn’t realize, for many years, that I was keeping my distance from Him.  Just a little bit.  I kept Him an arm’s length away from getting too close to the broken parts of my heart.  I kept them locked deep inside me.  And instead of sharing them with Him and asking His help in healing them, I did my best to put on that good Christian front - to smile more, serve better, pray the right words, maintain the right attitude, etc.  I did my best to always be pleasing.  And it was exhausting.  But the thing is, I didn’t even realize I was doing this until a long period of trials “broke” me.
            God put me in a refining furnace of trials (written about on my other blog, in the “Child of Mine” posts) that taught me that I couldn’t do it all and that I wasn’t in control.  And these trials forced me to see and admit to Him that I had broken parts and fears and doubts.  About myself and about Him.  And I needed His healing and His help.  And more than that, I just needed Him to hold onto me. 
            Through those trials and my willingness to allow God to grow me through them, I was broken of the things that I needed to be broken of (my need for control, my strong tendency to be self-sufficient, my over-confidence in myself, the fears that kept Him an arm’s length away, my inability to trust, etc.) and He healed the parts that never should have been broken to begin with.  And this is when I was finally able to move from all that exhausting self-sufficiency to falling down as a child in the arms of my Heavenly Father.
            And this is what I believe that He wants for all of us.  He wants us to vulnerably open up our hearts to Him, to hand over the broken pieces, to admit that we need Him, to reconcile any areas that need to be reconciled, to examine the fears that cause us to keep Him an arm’s length away, and to fall on Him in faith.  He wants to prove to us that He is a loving, good Father.  And this is all in the process of being humbled.  And I think there are at least two critical components of humility: Transparency and A Correct View of God and of Ourselves.

Transparency with the Lord:      
            Humility is not just about acknowledging that God is in ultimate control or about assuming a solemn, respectful attitude toward Him.  It’s not about giving lip-service to the fact that “It’s all because of and for God.”  (If only our words and actions are humble – and not our hearts – then it’s false humility.)  It’s not even really about what we do or how we do it. 
            It’s about who we are.  Humility is about our mind, heart, and soul’s position before and in the Lord.  It’s about if we are fully open to Him or if we have held some parts of ourselves back.  It’s about who is really sitting on the throne in our life – God or ourselves - and where our trust is.  It’s about learning to say, “You are God and I am not!  Your Will be done in my life.”  (Which is, in a short sentence, the core of humility). 
            If we are keeping back any part of our heart or trust from Him, or if we try to maintain any of the authority or control that belong to Him, then we have not been truly humbled before Him.  And this is why transparency with the Lord is so important.  There can be no real healing and no genuine, deep relationship if we are trying to lie to the Lord about anything or to cover anything up. 
            Real Healing can’t start until we become real with the Lord.  Transparency is a willingness to open up ourselves to Him completely: our thoughts, fears, doubts, sins, struggles, past pains, broken hearts, negative self-views, etc.  It is a willingness to be open and bare before Him, to realize that we do not have any real wisdom or strength of our own and to admit that we really do need Him desperately.  He wants us to come to Him as we really are, to need Him and to let Him care for us, love us, and heal us.  We can’t fool Him anyway, so I don’t know why we keep trying to act like we’re fine, like we can do it all on our own.  It is only when we open up our hearts to Him in all vulnerability and honesty that He can come in and correct misconceptions, heal old wounds, fix doubts, etc.  But it’s up to us.
            For a lot of us, it is terrifying to be transparent with someone, and opening up to the Lord can be a process full of heartache and doubts and fear.  But if we allow ourselves to start admitting the hard and painful things to the Lord in prayer, we’ll begin to find the Love and Healing that we desperately need.  And we’ll come to realize that we don’t want to live life in our own strength and wisdom anymore.  We are not as smart or strong as we think we are.  And we don’t have to have it all together because God does.  We are needy, helpless, and dependent.  And we’ll be okay with that.  Because we’ll be resting in the arms of the One who is strong enough for both of us, who is wise and good and loving.   

Correct View of God and Ourselves:
            Another absolutely critical part of humility is having a correct view of God and of ourselves, according to the Bible.  Not according to our own misconceptions of Him, our broken pasts, or our own preferences.  But we need to know Him as He is and ourselves as He says we are.  A messed-up view of Him or ourselves will lead to a messed-up relationship with Him.
            As I reflect on my journey and the many different things that God has used to break me, I think that I can boil it down into two main truths about God - two main, overarching truths that ultimately humbled me and moved me from a self-sufficient adult to a child that learned how to rest in her Father’s embrace.  Without these, I never would have really known Him as the good, loving Father that He is.  And although I’ve already explored these in previous posts, let me sum up the two very crucial truths:
            1.  We need a proper understanding of His holiness, His glory.
            2.  We need a proper understanding of His love.       
            For years, I had faced life with a cocky presumptuousness.  I was self-made, prideful, and independent (making up for how weak I felt on the inside).  I lived as though I was really in control of my life and God was just my co-captain.  He was just along for the ride, there when I needed Him.  But for the most part, I could do it myself and I was doing a good job.  I wanted Him; I just didn’t really need Him. 
            And so learning to be a humbled child was not an easy, natural thing.  It went against every self-protective, self-reliant fiber of my being.  And while being adult-like was important in many ways in life, it made me proud in my relationship with the Lord.  It kept me from acknowledging my ultimate dependence on Him, and from letting Him have complete Lordship over my life.  And since I stood on my own two feet and tried to do life in my own power and wisdom, I was unconsciously glorifying myself.  And missing out on a proper, secure relationship with Him.    
            This was the self-sufficient, it’s-all-about-me, I-can-do-it-and-I’m doing-a-good-job part of my personality.  And this is the part that needed to be humbled by, broken by, God’s holiness and glory.  I was too big in my own eyes and God was too small.  I needed to be brought down to the level that God sees me, and I needed to see Him for the huge, glorious, perfectly holy God that He is.  The God that I desperately needed. 
            And to break me of my self-sufficiency - my over-inflated view of myself and my need to be on the throne over my life - God had to remove everything I ever relied on, outside of Him.  He had to strip me of every sense of control I had.  I had to get to the point where I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, that I couldn’t even stand on my own anymore.  And that hurt.  It really hurt. 
            My view of myself had to be shattered, shrunk, and broken before I could see His holiness and glory, before I could experience Him for the magnificent, capable, holy God that He is.  And all of the trials that I went through during my “furnace time” were necessary to do that.  They threw me off of the throne and I landed at His feet.  Well, in His arms, really. 
            In order to know God as He really is (and not just knowing Him out of our misconceptions), we have to learn who He is through His Word.  This is why I firmly believe that reading the Bible – absorbing the Word - is so necessary.  If we are not seeing Him for who He really is - who He says He is in His Word - we are viewing Him from our own ideas.  And they are usually way off-base because of our broken pasts and broken hearts. 
            When I used to read the Old Testament, I only noticed His wrath and the punishments because it was something that I was so afraid of.  And all I could think was How unfair!  How harsh!  How could He do that?  Because of my fears of never being good enough and of failing Him, I was always afraid of a big, harsh God in the sky who had lightning bolts ready to throw at me when I did something wrong.  And I could think that way only because I didn’t really see Him as He is.  I was looking at Him through my fears, and so I only noticed the part of Him that I was afraid of: His justness and His wrath. 
            But when I dug deeply into the Word during my time in the furnace and I began to really find Him in the pages, I began to see Him more clearly, and I began to understand how His holiness related to His justness, and His justness related to His love.  Because He is so holy and great and pure, He can be just and wrathful about our disobedience, our pride, and when we sit on His throne.  But even this is because He loves us and wants the best for us, which He knows is a deep, humbled relationship with Him.  His holiness and love go together.         
            Here was a God whose voice could shake the mountains and terrify the people.  And in His wrath, He could wipe out thousands of them.  And yet, He loved them so much that when He cared for them, He cared for them completely and abundantly.  When He brought the plagues, He shielded His people.  When He led them through the Sea, He led them all to safety.  When He provided, He did so in amazing ways: manna, water from a rock, clothes that didn’t wear out, fighting the wars for and with them.  Even when He was angry, He was righteously angry.  And once I began to understand His holiness and glory, I realize that His punishments were right and good!  (And even then, in His love, He would give chance after chance before He disciplined.)  He is a holy, good God. 
            And as I began to see Him for who He is, I began to see myself for who I really was in comparison to Him.  I wasn’t strong and capable and pleasing.  I didn’t deserve preferential treatment.  I couldn’t manipulate God and make Him do the things that I wanted Him to do.  I couldn’t judge Him for His actions in my life.  Who was I that I could dictate to God what should be?  Who was I that I felt that I could earn my way with Him?  I wasn’t “doing it all right.”  I was forgetful like the Israelites.  I grumbled and complained and doubted and shrunk God. 
            And compared to His greatness, I am a tiny ant.  I am not in control of my life like I like to think I am.  I am not all-knowing and all-powerful.  I am not self-sufficient.  I am a tiny, little ant that gets freaked out if my ant farm shakes a little too much.  And I really did want a big, strong Father to take care of me.  I just didn’t know it for so long.  I was helpless without Him.  And I needed Him desperately!  Daily!
            What happens when we come face to face with the kind of God that He really is, when we get a real glimpse of His glory, of His holiness and majesty?  A real glimpse of ourselves?  Here are a few examples:
            Leviticus 9:23-24:  “Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting.  When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.  Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.  And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.”
            1 Kings 19: 12-13:  “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face . . .”
            Isaiah 6:5:  “‘Woe is me!’ I cried.  ‘I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’”
            Ezekiel 1:28:  “. . . This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.  When I saw it, I fell facedown, . . .”
            Revelation 1:17:   “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. . . .”
            If we haven’t been brought to our knees or our faces before God - if we haven’t become keenly, distressingly aware of our sinful natures - then we haven’t been humbled by God’s glory.  As I saw more and more of just how magnificent He is, I became so, so tiny in comparison.  I was trembling at the foot of the mountain with the Israelites as they experienced the immensity, the power, and the mystery of God. 
            And I learned that I needed a God like this in my life.  One who was so much bigger than me and who was strong enough to handle what I couldn’t.  One who, although I tried, could not be figured out like a formula or forced into something.  I don’t want a God that I can shrink, a God that could be totally figured out or manipulated by me.  He is much bigger and more mysterious and holy than that.  And that’s good with me!  I was humbled by - broken by - His holiness!  His glory!
            But there was another part of me - a deeper, more elusive part - that needed to be broken in a completely different way.  This isn’t the part of me that was too big in my own eyes; it was the part of me that I believed was too small in God’s eyes.  Hidden deep down behind my fortified walls was an insignificant, lonely girl who felt too low, too unworthy to ever really be loved by Him.
            This is the part that didn’t need to see how small I was in comparison to God’s glory and holiness; it’s the part that needed to accept how much God loves me, despite who I am.  The part that needed to be brought up off the worm-infested ground to the level that God sees me.  I am a completely-loved child.  Not some step-child or orphan who should be standing on the outside, looking in.  This is the part of me that needed to be broken by His unconditional love. 
            I’ve known about His unconditional love in my head all my life, because the Bible tells me so.  But my heart was too wounded to live in that love.  As a step-child, I was concerned with earning favor.  As a student, I had to earn good grades.  In high school, I had to earn a spot on the cheerleading team.  I had to earn my way into college and grad school.  I had to earn my job and earn my money. 
            I think for most of us, life feels like one long line of earning our way and proving our worth.  Some people get exhausted at that thought and give up.  They stop caring about being “good enough.”  They stop striving because they don’t really think His love is attainable, or worth the effort.  They get comfortable parked on the side of the road.  And they aimlessly, effortlessly, wander through this boring, old life, doing just enough to get by.  Just whittling away their lifeless days with no sense of joy or purpose or wholeness.  In their minds, no matter what they do, they could never do enough to earn His love, His forgiveness, His generosity, or the abundant life that is available through Him.  Or they just don’t think it’s worth it.  They think, So, why bother?   
            And some people try so hard to do everything expected of them, being self-sufficient and striving for the next accomplishment or possession to prove how valuable they are.  They want so badly to be complete and to experience abundant life and security and joy and love.  But they can’t ever rest and just enjoy those things or an authentic relationship with God or others, because their days are spent doing “more” and being “better,” earning their way.  They have no idea how to accept His love as a gift, so they never really experience it.  In their minds, no matter what they do, they can never do enough to earn it.  So they think, Try harder!               
            I had to learn through pain (ironically) that God loves me just because I am His.  It’s not about me, or about earning it or not earning it.  In fact, I will always sin!  I will always let Him down!  I need to just be up front with that and get it out of the way. 
            Of course, that doesn’t mean that I should become comfortable with sinning because I can’t ever not be a sinner.  This life should always be one of striving for holiness and righteousness, even though we know that we’ll never fully achieve it this side of eternity.  But it also doesn’t mean that I should let it keep me from believing Him when He says He loves me and forgives me.  I shouldn’t let it stop me from delighting in Him and being delightful to Him, from enjoying His goodness and the security and joy of resting in His arms.  I shouldn’t let it render me useless behind my self-protective walls.     
            God made us knowing that we wouldn’t be capable of perfection, that we would sin and grieve Him.  Yet He loved us enough to find a way to remove our sins from His sight.  Out of enormous love for us (in spite of our sins and because of them), Jesus came here to take the punishment for us so that we would not have to be eternally separated from our Heavenly Father.  God loved us so much that He made a way for us to have a genuine relationship with Him. 
            And this is the theme of the whole Bible.  This is the heart of the matter!  God’s love made a way!  God loves us, not based on what we deserve, but because of who He is.  He is love.  And His love is a gift.  An unearnable gift, available to all of us.  He loves us just because we are His.  Unconditionally!  And, I don’t know, but I wonder if the greatest act of humility is this: believing and accepting that Someone loves us! 
            [For many hurting people out there, it is a very hard thing to accept that He loves you just because you are His.  Tell Him this.  Tell Him your honest feelings and ask Him to help you see His love.  He wants to answer that kind of prayer.  He’s always trying to show you how much He loves you anyway.  But you won’t be able to see unless you want to.  So ask Him to help you see how much He loves you.  And then watch!  Wait and watch!]

Some Incorrect Views:
            Many of us who have been hurt need to let God heal and correct the faulty views we have of Him and ourselves, the views that have developed because of a dysfunctional past.  Here are some different, incorrect ways we tend to view God and how it might affect us:
            a.  The Harmless, Old Man - This god has his rules, but doesn’t enforce them.  He sits in his rocker and is uninvolved in the world down here.  And so we get comfortable, all focused on our own little life with little regard for seeking righteousness.  We just don’t see or feel the consequences.  Or maybe we accept his forgiveness and payment for our sins, but we don’t respect him enough to live a life that is worthy of it.
            b.  The Smiling Grandfather - This god winks at sin, lets us bend the rules, and allows us to get into a little, harmless mischief now and then.  If we live with this view, we don’t take our sins seriously enough.  We are out for fun and we feel like God likes it that way.  It’s all about our happiness, right?  We have little concern for the building of God’s eternal kingdom and the souls of others, because we are enjoying the temporary too much.  We are just happy to get away with whatever we can get away with.  Live it up while you can! 
            c.  The Harsh, Demanding Father - This god is just waiting for us to step out of line so that he can - Wham! - smack us with a ruler.  He’s all about rules and keeping tight, strict control.  He doesn’t smile, doesn’t laugh, and never, ever, hugs.  And we are always so careful walking this Christian-life-tightrope that we are exhausting ourselves.  There is no joy or peace or life, only fear and so many rules to follow. 
            d.  The Absent Father -  This one just isn’t there.  But we are always looking for him.  Always looking for someone to heal our heart, to carry us through this life, and to love us for who we are.  But there’s no one there.  No one to catch us when we fall.  No one to hold us when we hurt.  And no one who cares about what we are going through.  And, oh, how it hurts! 
            e.  The Checked-Out Father - This god doesn’t care.  He’s got his own things or so many other better people to be concerned about that we are just so far down on his list.  If we want any attention, we have to earn it or shine brighter than others.  And we have to maintain his favor or attention with song and dance and rule-following so that he doesn’t slip away from us.  If we please him, he smiles at us.  And if we don’t, he shuns us.  We are always trying, yet never resting in his love. 
            f.  The Dictator - We are here only for him, to do his bidding.  We are worthless lumps that should just be happy to serve him.  We are the doormats that he wipes his feet on, the clay that he smooshes and contorts just for his own amusement.  And, by golly, we should just be thankful for that much.  And there is never any hope of having a loving, tender, two-way relationship with him.     
            g.  The Loyal Subject - God is only here for me, to do my bidding.  He loves me, loves me, loves me, and is so pleased with all I do.  And he is just waiting there for me to ask for what I want so that he can give it to me.  I can just focus on my life and do my own thing.  And whenever I need him, he’s there for me.  And he’s happy to do it.     
            h.  The Walk Away - He gave up on me a long time ago because I just can’t seem to get my act together.  I’ve lost any hope of ever feeling his love again because I’ve slipped too far away.  He could never love someone like me.  And I deserve it!
            i.  The Jokester/Scientist  – This god is just messing around with us.  He is a cosmic jokester that thinks it’s fun to mess with people’s lives.  Just to see what they do.  Or he’s like a scientist that tests us just for fun, poking at us until we cry.  He causes unnecessary pain just to see what happens.  We don’t mean that much to him.  We are just his experiments or play-things.  The world is just a giant petri dish.  And there is nothing we can do about it.  Why would I want a relationship with a god like that?
            j.  The Ignored – Who cares about God?  Don’t need him.  Never did!  I do just fine on my own.  What has he ever done for me anyway?  He’s never shown me that he’s real.  And I’m supposed to just believe in him?  Sorry, not interested and never was.  (We will not see Him if we don’t want to.  He gives us that choice – at least on this side of eternity.  But if this is your view, try an experiment.  Suspend disbelief for one year.  And say, “Okay, God, I don’t know if You are real.  But I really do want to know.  Show me if You are real.”  And then watch and keep an open mind and see what happens.  But you have to be willing to see what He will show you.  If not, you’ll miss it every time.) 
            And some of the faulty ways we see ourselves are as unlovable, a failure, a loser, never good enough, a burden to others, an embarrassment, so bad that we are beyond forgiveness, beyond hope, a nothing.  Or maybe we go the other way and think we are super special (more so than others), beyond God’s rules, in control.  Maybe we think God “needs” us and leans on us.  Or that all He wants for us is that we be happy or be fulfilled in this life. 
            There are so many ways that we all view ourselves and God wrong.  And it is worth the time and effort to figure out which misconceptions we have, why we have them, and what the truth really is, according to the Bible.

Before Brokenness:
            I think that before brokenness, before truly humbling ourselves before Him . . .
            1.  We’ll think of ourselves as either too big or too small, either beyond His love and forgiveness or entitled to His favor. 
            2.  We’ll shrink Him, seeing Him as too small and incapable, too uncaring, too uninvolved, easily manipulated, easily impressed, or easily figured out. 
            3.  We’ll over-emphasize or under-emphasize His love or His justness, instead of seeing them in balance. 
            4.  We won't seek to really get to know Him through His Word and prayer.  We’ll look at those things as "To Do" items to be checked off of our list. 
            5.  When we sin or times are too difficult, we’ll find ourselves running away from God, hiding from Him, or doubting His love and goodness.
            6.  We’ll live for our glory by building up our treasures or successes on earth, with little regard for building God's Kingdom and for the souls of other people.
            7.  We’ll take God’s grace for granted and not be concerned if our life is glorifying to Him or not.  We’ll just live the way we want to live and excuse or rationalize our bad choices.
            8.  We’ll be more concerned with what others think of us than what God thinks, more concerned about how we compare to others than how we match up to God’s standards for us. 
            9.  We’ll be more concerned about other people’s problems, sins, shortcomings, and “heart issues” than about our own and about how it affects our relationship with the Lord. 
            10.  We’ll look more at the outside than we will at the inside – of others and ourselves.
            11.  We’ll try to “steal” His glory by putting on a good Christian show - acting like we are concerned about bringing Him glory - when we are actually (subconsciously) enjoying the glory for ourselves.  (False humility) 
            12.  Or maybe we won’t be concerned at all with His glory because we’ll just be looking to get as much praise as we possibly can, through things like our Christian service, our wisdom, our possessions, our success, etc.
            13.  Maybe, as I once believed when I was young, we’ll feel like it’s selfish on His part to seek glory or to glorify Himself.  (If this is the case, we are not seeing Him for who He really is and we won’t understand why His glory is so important or deserved.  We are still too big in our own eyes and He is too small.)
            14.  We’ll try to please Him while holding back parts of our hearts and keeping up walls.  We’ll still be living out of our fears and relating to Him out of our fears, misconceptions, or preferences. 
            15.  We’ll still be trying to live self-sufficiently, in our own power and wisdom.  We won’t be living in dependence on Him because of fear or because we think we can do better or "just fine" on our own.
            16.  We won’t put in the time and effort to seek His Will and to learn to listen to Him.  We’ll just do what we think is right and glorifying, but won’t talk our lives and choices over with Him or search the Word for His truth. 
            17.  We won’t let Him prune off things that don’t bring Him glory. 
            18.  We’ll believe that we are doing “just fine” with our lazy spiritual disciplines. 

After Brokenness:
            But in contrast, if we have allowed God to break the parts that need to be broken and heal the parts that need to be healed . . . if we have sought to genuinely humble ourselves before Him. . .  
            1.  We will have an unquenchable hunger and thirst to hear from the Lord - through His Word and through prayer.  We’ll want to live life with Him completely.  Reading the Bible and praying won’t just be “duties” anymore; they will be life-lines.  And we will be aware that every time we open the Bible and pray, we are meeting the holy and magnificent - and yet personal and relatable - God of the universe.
            2.  We’ll correctly see our sinfulness, yet accept His love and forgiveness, knowing that they can never be earned.  They can only be gratefully accepted.  And we will try our best to live our life in thankfulness for those amazing, free gifts. 
            3.  When we face a difficulty or trial or choice or hurt, our first instinct will be to run to God about it.  We will lay our request before Him in prayer and search the Word (and seek godly advice) for guidance.        And yet we will still glorify Him when prayers are not answered the way we want. 
            4.  We’ll be more concerned with seeing Him glorified through our words and actions than we will be with our own desires and plans for ourselves.  We will desire that He is seen, and we’ll be content to be invisible and to shift the focus to Him and to give Him all the glory.  We will not want to steal His glory because we know that everything should point back to God. 
            5.  We’ll be more concerned with the plank in our eye than the speck in another person’s eye.  And we’ll be sensitive to the convictions of the Holy Spirit.
            6.  We’ll focus more on the eternal than we will on the temporary.  And so we’ll be more concerned with the eternal souls of other people than we will be with their behavior and attitudes or with our own “nice, little life.”  And we will hold our possessions and accomplishments (and the people in our lives) loosely because we will know that nothing in our life is really ours, to be used for our own pleasure.  But everything is a gift from God and a tool in His hand to be used as He wants.  For His glory and kingdom!
            7.  We also won’t be as concerned with what happens after we obey as we will be with just making sure that we obey.  We will know that our job is to obey and His job is to use our obedience as He will. 
            8.  People won’t just be annoyances or bothers to us.  We’ll look past their rough exteriors and the insults and injuries they inflict, and we’ll see them as God’s dearly loved children.  As hurting people who need God’s love and healing.  And this will lead us to live in a way that reflects God even more and to reach out to them with a kind word or deed or prayer, so that they may see Christ through us.  (And we’ll also remember that God alone has the right to judge and to avenge all wrongs, so we won’t have to judge others or hold a grudge or seek revenge.) 
            9.  We’ll always be aware of the spiritual battle that rages around us, (without being overly preoccupied with spirits and demons and angels) and we’ll desire to be effective in it.  And we’ll know that to do that means seeking righteousness, maintaining our spiritual armor, and refusing to be a “comfortable Christian.”  We’ll also be aware that every action and word is witnessed not only by the physical world, but by the spiritual.  So what we do in private matters.  And we’ll be more careful about how we live and speak and what we fill our minds and homes with.  Angels and demons are watching us.  But which ones are patting their king on the back saying, “Look at what he or she just did or thought.  That brought you a little more glory!”?
            10.  We’ll be concerned with seeking righteousness because it glorifies and pleases God, not just because we are “supposed to” do it.  And consequently, we will seek to be pruned.  We will spend time searching our life, home, and heart to see if anything is quenching the Holy Spirit, blocking God, or is displeasing or dishonoring to Him.  Because we will want our life to be a “living sacrifice” for Him.  Not because of fear, but because of love. 
            11.  But we’ll also know that we can’t handle life, make the right decisions, or live righteously on our own.  God alone will become our source of strength and wisdom.  And so we’ll strive to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and wisdom in prayer and throughout our day.  We’ll search the Word for what God expects out of us and how we can improve.  Once again, not out of fear or just for the sake of improving, but because we’ll be living out our love for Him and out of His love for us.  
            12.  And when we blow it, we’ll seek forgiveness and realign ourselves with God’s truth and heart.  Because we’ll know that nothing can separate us from His love and that we are incomplete unless we are reconciled with Him and walking with Him.       
            13.  We won’t be as concerned with how many flashy positions we fill in church and in society.  We will be more concerned that we serve with the right attitude and for the right reasons.  (Which means that we’ll only and always do what God calls us to do, even if they are small and mundane tasks that we have to do over and over again every day.  But we will do it to the best of our ability because it glorifies God.)
            14.  We’ll be learning to trust God with our life and, especially, with our finances and future.  Which means that we’ll seek to do our part to obey and to tithe and to put others first, and we’ll leave the results up to Him.  We’ll do the job God has given us and trust in His promise to lead us and to meet our needs. 
            15.  We’ll take our job to pray for others and to look out for their welfare seriously.  We’ll feel deeply that it’s our job to live as godly a life as possible as a witness to them and to spread His truth when opportunities arise.  But we’ll also know that it’s God’s job to change hearts.  And so we’ll be content to be the seed-planter or the waterer or the harvester (if God so allows), but we won’t try to force others to change or believe as we do.  Because only the Spirit can change hearts.  We’ll gracefully stand by our convictions, but we won’t condemn others for not agreeing.  Even God allows us to believe as we want to and to choose as we want to.  (And He allows the consequences that go with them!)
            16.  Probably the hardest of all, we’ll have gotten to a point (usually through pain and trials) where we could say, “I know that God is good and that He loves me, regardless of my difficult and painful circumstances.”  This, I have to say, is probably the last and hardest step in brokenness - to vulnerably and humbly lay down in His arms and say, “I trust You and I trust in Your goodness and love, no matter what happens in my life.”  So even when the path looks dark and we can see no end in sight, we’ll still be able to praise Him and say, “I believe that You will work all things out for good in the end, because I love You and I know that You love me.” 

            When we are living life for ourselves and in our own strength, life will be hard, exhausting, joyless, and “less than” what we thought it would be.  But if we ever allow ourselves to get to the point of brokenness (humility) before God, we will experience the kind of life that we were meant to live.  It will be vibrant, alive, meaningful, and powerful.  It won’t necessarily be easier, more comfortable, or painless.  And it will be a tough journey to get to that point.  But we’ll find more peace, joy, and security when we learn to face life from the safety of His loving arms.  This is the kind of relationship with Him that we were made for.  And it’s a good thing to reach for! 
            So get into the Word and begin learning about God as He is and about how He sees His us, how sinful we can be and yet how loved we are.  And how much we need Him desperately, daily.  And start praying honestly and about everything inside of you.  Hide nothing.  Share your heart with Him, the good and the bad.  Share all your concerns and doubts and fears and the things you need help with.  Ask Him to help you go back into your past to uncover old wounds that need His healing, and let Him walk with you through the pain.  Find everything you can praise Him for, and do it!  Share your joys with Him.  Share your longings.  Share your insecurities.  And let Him hold you.  Let Him love you.  Give up trying so hard and just fall on Him.  He’s been waiting for that all along.  And after the pain of the “furnace” subsides, you’ll begin to understand why it’s a wonderful thing to be “sweetly broken.” 


            1 John 4:15-18:  “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

            Psalm 26:2-3:  “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”  

            Psalm 34:17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

            James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

            Psalm 139:23-24:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

            Psalm 86:1-6:  “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. . . . Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.  Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you.  Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.”

            Psalm 51:17:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

            Isaiah 29:13:  “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

            1 Peter 5:6-7:  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

            Matthew 5:8:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  

            Psalm 16:7-11:  “I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I have set the Lord always before me. . . Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave. . .You have made known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence. . . “

            Psalm 96:4, 8:  “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise . . . Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name . . .”

            1 Corinthians 10:31:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

            Joshua 24:15:  "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
            (Oh, how I love this verse!  It sends chills down my spine!  To be able to stand before a world that rejects Him and say, "We!  Choose!  God!" is awesome!  What a privilege!)