When we’re broken and distorted, our tendency is to do the most dangerous thing: we tend to withdraw from disclosed connectedness with others and hide out. We live in opposition to God’s economy and God’s commands. Something inside us knows this is true. We are figuratively naked and desperately ashamed. We run and hide to cover up our ugliness with a nice, pretty, happy external veneer.
As the pyramid above depicts, the foundation of our brokenness is rooted in our mere weakness. The Apostle Paul portrays this weakness when he writes, For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. (Romans 7)
Before we address this pyramid further, let us look back to the beginning of creation and remember our true design: we are eternal spirit beings. We are designed to live forever. We are designed to worship God freely. We are designed to have GOD – in all HIS strength – care for us. We are designed to connect with one another without human conflict and without wounding one another. But all of our original design was based in the beauty of Eden where we harmoniously lived with no knowledge of good and evil: in the place where there were no dangers; in the place where God freely and abundantly provided for all of our needs; in the place where there was no self-effort; in the place where there was no failure and no shame; in the place where our souls were wholly satisfied by the presence of our Creator.
With this in mind, the ‘separation’ from God and the Garden HE made for us has left us exposed to the raw and dangerous elements of life. Even though we are still designed to wholly trust in HIM and find HIS strength to cover our every weakness, mere exposure to the elements in this world – the cold, the dark, the threats, the fears, the wounds, the doubts, the worries – leaves us striving in self-effort to self-provide, self-protect and self-medicate when things go bad. But does it work?
We find that all of the self-effort that we can muster is simply NOT enough. The harder we try, the worse off we are. The longer we think we can do life by ourselves in our own strength, the more our weaknesses protrude out of us. We might not see or willingly admit to our weaknesses, but others see our weaknesses quite clearly. And God sees our weakness – He sees it all.
Our Father in Heaven invites us to find our strength in HIS strength. As Jesus told the Apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) God can be our strength but we often refuse to let Him and so we move up the pyramid further.
In addition to our weaknesses, we are filled with many self- and other-inflicted wounds. Many of our wounds are caused directly by our attempts to overcome our weaknesses by relying upon the streams of strength available to us in this world. Listen to what the King of Assyria’s field commander tells Hezekiah:
This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have a strategy and military strength – but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! (Isaiah 36:4-6)
What is he saying? He is describing you and me. In our weaknesses, we try to find our strength in ways that operate under the false economy of this world. Possibly we try to gain love by controlling and dominating others. Or maybe we do not love ourselves and so we turn our bodies over to be used and abused by others. Or maybe we try to secure our future by putting our hopes in a single stock or slot machine. Or maybe we try to comfort ourselves with food or a new car or a nice home. Many of these things are not sinful, but in our weakness (with its associated fears), it becomes all too easy to trust in the things of this world. And more often than not, whether by our own hand or the hand of another, we end up getting wounded.
At this point, I must say that not all wounds are deserved or self-inflicted. Some wounds are inflicted upon us when we are innocent: we rightly trusted parents or relatives or teachers or clergy and they ended up taking advantage of our youthful innocence and ruining our lives. If this is you, please know that this is NOT your fault. You did NOT deserve this! Yet the fact is that these kinds of wounds add to other wounds that we inflict upon ourselves. They may even drive us toward self-inflicting wounds as we attempt to express our anger or escape our pain or drown our memories or artificially medicate our post traumatic stress.
If this is you – if you have been horribly abused by others you trusted – it likely does not relieve your pain to hear how much Jesus loves. I understand. But He does love you! He so wants to comfort you right this moment. You may feel ostracized or persecuted like an outcast but God has not forgotten you. God says to you:
But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds because you are called outcast for whom no one cares. (Jeremiah 30:17) (I) heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3) I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again, and you will be rebuilt.” (Jeremiah 31:3-4)
So, we are weak and we have wounds. If that were not enough, we have our sin nature and all the actual sins we have committed. These further burden us as the weight of our weaknesses, wounds and worldly worldviews start to bear down upon our soul.
If you are like me, you don’t have to look too far to see your sins. Whereas our weaknesses we can deny and our wounds we can try to run from, our sins usually follow us so closely that we fail to escape them – we cannot easily play like they are fiction. This is an important point because this is where our ability to function in life starts to crack under the weight of our weaknesses, our wounds and our sins.
At a certain point, we can no longer go on unless we find some way to cope with all of this. Unfortunately, we usually cope in unhealthy ways. Unable to deal with all this gunk, we realize that we are naked and we feel shame. Shame is our attempt to release all our guilt but it is more like a heavy blanket that smothers us with guilt: guilt that not even God desires us to carry. Yet the shame has dual purposes: first, it prevents us from escaping guilt; but second, it sends us running for cover. Our nakedness is too much to bear and so we resort to covering up.
We can turn toward God to escape the weight of all our weaknesses, wounds, sin and shame. Listen to what Jesus invites us to do:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Despite this awesome invitation, we usually don’t come out from behind the bushes: like Adam, we decide the best course of action is to cover up and hide out. We say, as Adam said, I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid. (Genesis 3:10) Or else we respond to God as if HE is a harsh task-master saying, I knew that you are a hard man. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. (Matthew 25:24-25)
Others of us hide because we fear being judged by others. Listen to what Job says about this:
I have concealed my sin, as Adam did, by hiding my guilt in my heart because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside – Oh, that I had someone to hear me! (Job 31:33-35)
My friend, Jesus is listening. He does hear you. He is inviting you, Come to me…
If I accept that invitation from Christ, my world can start to be rebuilt (Jeremiah 31:3-4). But the temptation not to accept His invitation shouts loudly: the whispers say, He doesn’t love you. He’ll not receive you. He’ll certainly never forgive you! You’ve done too many wrongs…you’ve got a load of sin! There is no hope for someone like you…
This, my friends, is a lie from the pit of hell. God offers you the opportunity to come out from behind the bushes – naked, battered, bruised, sinful – and He says that He loves you just as you are! But the Tempter whispers just as he did to Eve, Surely God does not really say that? (Genesis 3:1) Then, the Tempter leads you through the next door, down the next dark path, toward the next destination on Double Life Highway. Satan will take you further toward destruction. Then, he will lie again saying, You will not surely die. (Genesis 3:4)
There is a way out of this hiding. We are ONE door, ONE step away from getting out of this isolated, fearful place. We looked at this way out in Part 2 – if you feel a desperate need and voluntary willingness to seek your escape, you may right this moment want to go back to Part 2 and read the way of escape.
If not, then we move up the pyramid to further our denial and self-deception. We careen down Double Life Highway when we present ourselves as someone we are not; we present ourselves as something other than the weak, wounded, sin-filled, shame-covered person we are. We believe the Tempter’s lies and continue in darkness. But of course we cannot afford to let others know about this, so we present the False Self – the person we need others to think we are.
Friends, if we are tempted to think that this is only about really evil people, we miss the point. Like Judas, we whisper to ourselves and to God, Surely not I, Lord. This is the story of ALL of our lives: the Apostle Paul could not be any more clear when he said that we all do the same things. (Romans 2:1-4) The question is not whether we present the False Self to others; the real question is how we do it – in small ways or tragically big ways? No matter how we do it, the reality is that we ALL do it…
So where do we go from here?
I think we need to see a doctor, but no doctor on this earth can help us. We need the Great Physician to help us! We now turn our attention towards solutions to our brokenness: solutions given in the form of seven prescriptions for spiritual medicine to enhance the well-being of eternal spirit beings.
I hope you will check out my next entry as we finally seek to uncover the Good News.
Click here to easily navigate to Part 7.