Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Clearance

Last week our Sunday services were sweet. Worship was inclusive and powerful and the message was challenging and truthful. And our minister spoke some hard things.

Recently he talked with someone who basically suggested that the church was a group of people who had the same problems as everyone else, but we just tended to hide them behind the walls of our homes. That was the gist of the comment. That was the point of it. Perhaps not verbatim. In the moment that those words came out of my shepherd- brother’s mouth I thought I was going to choke where I sat.

I sat there in my movable church pew chair and I kept thinking, but we are called to be real. Real. And we have every reason to be such. But we are hiding behind walls and masks. And falseness shadows us. And pretensions tangle us. And deception blinds us. And expectations strangle us.

The world wants us to be unbroken. Unblemished. Flawless. Seamless. Not because it wants us whole and complete, but because it can’t stand something broken. The world doesn’t like scars. Surely something broken cannot be beautiful or useful.

Who am I kidding?

Often the church doesn’t like or want anything or anyone broken either.

Broken things get discarded. Set aside. Often treated like trash. Because of this we hide our brokenness. We attempt to cover it up and gloss it over and we try to praise God anyway.

To get us to hide is one of the enemy’s most strategic battle plans.

So, how do we break that strategy?

We acknowledge the truth.

We are all broken.

We are all damaged—slightly or badly. We are all hiding something behind the walls. We all have fault lines running under our surfaces.

Not too long ago a friend of mine grieved because they have realized that they are damaged inside, and because of that damage they can not easily give or receive love.

My heart was broken. My heart was broken for them. My heart was broken for me. My heart was broken because of the cost of that transparency for them. To admit you are damaged is a hard, hard thing. It is a hard place to walk.

Sometimes when you go to a store there will be a clearance; damaged, broken and no-longer-in-demand items will litter the shelves. Placed haphazardly. Thoughtlessly. Carelessly. Why? Because these items no longer have the greatest value to the store. These items will no longer bring them retail. They are no longer in demand, and they are clearanced out.

The world (our culture, our way of life, our sphere of people) discards the broken. Overlooks the damaged. Turns away from the ruined.

God does not work in this way.

How do I know?

Watch Jesus.

Walk back through the Gospels and watch only him. Watch Jesus as he moves through the course of a day. Just keep a careful eye focused on how he engages those who his (and our) world considered to be broken and damaged.

Watch how he treats the lepers.
Watch how he handles the caught-in-sin woman.
Watch how he cares for the sorrow-laden.
Watch how he listens to the confused.
Watch how he comforts the wounded.
Watch how he frees the chained.
Watch how he loves the desperate.

He took and still takes damaged and broken people and makes them whole.


He was careful with them.

With us.

With me.

We have to stop hiding behind walls. We have heard this exhortation before, but we do not heed its wisdom. We have been told, more times than we can count, to take off our masks. We have been told that honesty and transparency are marks of true believers who are invested in and trusting in Jesus.

Why then does it seem that when we do these very things that we become the mark?

We become the target for talk, gossip, criticism, judgment and censorship? Why does it seem that when we allow people to see our weaknesses they attempt to wound us in that very place of fragility?

No wonder people are reluctant to be transparent and real. No wonder we hide. No wonder we camouflage our fears and habits and doubts and sins.

No wonder.

We are called to imitate God. We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ. And yet, do we treat people as he did?

Remember his harshest words were given to the religious who showed and offered no grace to those who were honest and transparent. His most stinging remarks were to those who beat down the broken. His boldest actions were reserved for those who took advantage of the weak.

Yet, the Body of Christ is notorious for hurting its own wounded. I have heard story after story (it’s part of my story too) of broken people who went to the Body of Christ for healing and found little or none. Everyone was too busy giving them solutions and remedies—spouting Scripture that instead of being a healing balm proved to be a dagger, and it is cloaked as speaking the truth in love (We best read that verse in context).

Because of this we are afraid.

We are afraid—if we reveal our darkness to others we fear that any light in us will be dismissed.

We are afraid—if we confess our sins, as James exhorts us to do, we fear that instead of healing we will receive condemnation.

We are afraid—if we share our struggles with others we fear that we will become fodder for the gossip chains.

Therefore, we hide.

Like Adam and Eve. We attempt to cover our nakedness with flimsy leaves.

In our damaged, broken and clearanced states we try to muster up praise for God.  But we don’t believe it. We don’t inhabit our praise. We don’t understand the wholeness he offers.

We can encourage people to be real and transparent. But, Body of Christ, if we don’t stop wounding them when they do…

We can ask people to share and be open. But, Body of Christ, if we don’t stop sending arrows straight into their wounds…

We can exhort people to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. But, Body of Christ, if we don’t stop crucifying them when they do…

People are desperate for something more than fig leaves as clothing.

People are desperate for something other than antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.

People are desperate for their fragmented lives to be made whole.

People are desperate to not be relegated to the clearance rack.

Body of Christ, what are we going to do?

Oh, Tamera, what are you going to do?

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