broken beyond repair-apart from grace

                 There is this ever-present struggle as a Christian to be perfect. There is something in us as a human that doesn’t want to face failure, neglect, loneliness, disappointment, judgment, disownment. Before we know Christ, it is exactly these things that bring us to his feet in humility of the state of our heart, our brokenness. And yet from that point forward we begin to run this rat race of trying to make up for all the junk we did, for all the pain we caused, for all the unforgiveness we deserve.  We begin to try and try, to do and do, in order to gain some sort of position, a position of worth before Christ. And before we know it, our pride has become our god. Our pride has become the most important, vital part of our relationship with God.
            Slowly and in his perfect timing God tries to begin breaking us apart so we can come back to a point of reconciliation-of starting over in realizing the depth of our brokenness and the depth of our need for his grace and mercy to reign over our lives. And all the while he is standing beside us and reaching out his hand to us, though we ignore and blame him in anger and bitterness.
             Yesterday I read a part of The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias about this exact struggle. During her time serving in Indonesia after the devastating 2004 earthquakes she writes, “When disaster happens in our own lives, we accept it as anything but natural and spend sleepless night and countless dollars on therapy to try to define exactly what went wrong and why. I think, in part, we long for it to be quantified because this will validate our own personal sense of loss and pain. Wouldn’t it be easier to say, ‘I just registered a 7.8 on the Heartache Scale?’ There would be no need for further explanation, and everyone could understand exactly what you suffered. But we have no such measuring stick and often feel isolated by disappointment and loss we can’t even describe. Worse still are the interactions with those who know just a portion of the story and offer their opinions on exactly what went wrong. The perceived error they confidently pinpoint as the cause more often than not just leaves us further confused and unsure of our own step. But any human tragedy is rarely so simple and instead frequently is the result of a sequence of events that let to the catastrophic outcome. We long for scientific terms and numbers to classify the shattered hopes, the level of calamity, the survey of damage, and we seek some type of formula for repair with measure to ensure it will never happen again.”
            It is because we don’t really understand what it means to be broken until we experience what it is to feel alone that he begins to strip us of all the things and people that make us feel comfortable, worthy, together. And our brokenness over those losses just leads us further away from them, closer to him. He begins to break apart the relationships we held onto, that proved our pride was enough. He begins to tear away the things we hold in such high esteem about ourselves to make us realize how weak and vulnerable our flesh is.  He takes away our plans, our dreams-our comfort. He gives us only barely enough to get by, to get by with him alone. He gives us only the few words here and there of encouragement and the glimpse of hope that comes maybe once a month and we only catch when we are really in tune with his Spirit. He makes us more lonely than we want to be so we will see how truly broken we are and how truly desperate we are for him.
            I have known this process before. I have felt its pain and torment and yet the all-surpassing peace that comes with the knowledge that God is in control.

            Yet I have done it all over again. All my life I have been this girl, this daughter, this student, this friend, this girlfriend, this athlete, this servant, this …that is perfect.

            But the truth is, I am not. I am so far from anything of the sort. And I am so incredibly afraid of anyone seeing the true depth to my pain and hurt and heartache that I try even harder to appear perfect. To appear put together and confident and happy. The reality is I am running away from something I cannot fix, a self I cannot forgive, and a story I cannot escape.

She’s been here before
This very same path
The one marked by tears
And heart wrenching pain

She walks through the halls
Smiles like everything’s normal
Underneath everything’s broken
She’s dying to scream aloud

She’s so sick of trying to be strong
Of holding up, impressing every one
Being the perfect girl
Who has everything figured out

The ones who know her see it’s an act
Yet they have become so numb
They simply watch without a care

She knows she isn’t perfect
Dig she dig herself this pit?
Much can cause her to be blamed
She realizes the extent of her sin

But how come all she sees is:

Unforgiving, grief, tears, unforgivable
Lifeless, dying, hopeless, guilt, fear
Shame, jealous, imperfect…
Never enough.

She has forgotten that she is:

Forgiven, saved, guiltless, shameless
Perfect, beautiful, hopeful, fearless,
Loving, forgiving, redeemed…
He is enough.

She knows He can make a way through the wilderness
But right now all she sees is unmarked roads and no direction

She wants to be free, to follow Him with an undivided heart
God save her, she needs you, she can’t do this on her own.

            I wrote that poem four years ago, and I read it today, ashamed that I see that girl in me once again. Ashamed that I see myself running away, not forgiving myself, and not accepting the story God is writing through my life.
            But as I reach the end, forgiveness slowly begins replacing blame and shame. Restoration slowly begins replacing brokenness. This brokenness that I can’t seem to outrun or out smart is finally showing me that I have to run to God. I have to depend on him and him alone. Going through this season today, in the past few weeks, and the weeks to come reveals the desperate state of my heart once again. It reveals once again that I am imperfect.

            I am broken beyond repair.

            Apart from grace.

            I have to start over in understanding what grace means. What the story of the gospel means for my life. Who Jesus is.  And in those truths, in the discovery I begin to find myself again. Still broken into pieces, but slowly being put back together by the sovereign hand of the God who knows all things and yet knows me personally and intimately. I am still struggling, even in sitting here writing all these things I know are truth and I know I believe, to actually believe them. I am still struggling with not running away in an attempt to avoid the pain and hurt, with forgiving myself for the mistakes I’ve made and the pain and hurt I have caused, and with accepting that any of this is happening, with not ignoring it completely because I can hardly believe it is real.
            Yet I have to believe. I have to trust. Trusting in his grace is the only way. It is the only healing, the only redemption, the only restoration for this girl’s broken heart. And he never tires of my neediness. He gives more grace. (James 4:6) He didn’t save me only once, he didn’t free me only once, he does again every morning. His mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3)
            And every day is it my choice to accept or reject. To believe or to doubt. To be secure or to run in fear. And I will fail. I am not perfect. Like the leaves falling from the trees all around me, so these things are being literally stripped from my life, and yet I realize that the foundation, the roots connected through my faith to the word and person of Jesus Christ are enough. They are enough to get me through this cold winter and dreary season.

            How I need him. Oh how I desperately need Jesus. I am broken beyond repair apart from his grace.

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