I can’t lead a life where I have all my shit together; I’m too broken for that. The good news of Gospel tells me that I don’t have to because Jesus did.
That can sound like a cop out, just another excuse and crutch to lean on so that I’m not responsible for my own life. Tonight for me, it’s the exact opposite. Instead of a crutch it’s a lifeline away from despair and giving up.
See, right now I’m not in the best place. My life seems to be filled with potholes, failures, struggles, and defeat. If that’s too vague, here is a rundown: As a family we have dad (me) who is bipolar II with currently no way of getting the medication I have been on, and mom (my wife) who deals with severe anxiety/depression. We are a two income household: I’m a server at a local german restaurant and work as a freelance photographer/designer. Right now, we don’t really have the income to cover rent and living expenses. We are trying to move into a more affordable location, but moving is expensive… and we still need to cover rent where we are at.
It seems/feels like every time we try and get our life in order, an ambush of problems jumps us in a dark alley. Life is hard right now, both from poor choices we have made and from some pretty crappy circumstances. So, when I say, “life seems to be filled with potholes, failures, struggles, and defeat” I’m not talking metaphorically or ‘we can’t afford the good cable package or that new car’.
As a family, we are living in the midst of a very tangible expression of the brokeness that pervades our world; we are experiencing hard living in a sinful, fallen world. Yes, others have it harder than we do… still don’t change the fact that life is uber hard for us.
So, what does the life of some Jewish carpenter turned traveling teacher have to do with the shit storm that we are in?
The tendency of my life is to see all these things going on and react one of two ways: 1) I can fix it. I can work harder, pull my shit together, and make this situation good. I can save us. 2) I give up. There is no hope of solving all these problems. I just hope something good happens some time. So, on the one hand, I try and save myself (and my family) and on the other I give up and resign us all to fate.
Jesus gives us a third way, a better way, a way that leads to life.
Part of the core of Christian belief is that Jesus lived a perfect life. He didn’t screw himself or others up. He led the kind of life that we can only imagine; a life that dealt with pain and suffering by giving compassion; a life that didn’t condescend to bitching about how much stuff sucked; a life that was in perfect harmony with creation, man, and God. Jesus lived the life that I want, the life I can’t ever have on my own because I am broken. Jesus wasn’t broken.
Since Jesus lived the perfect life, when he died in an unjust execution, he became the perfect sacrifice to cover over all my (and your) faults and failings. Three days later, he got up from the dead, declaring the last great enemy of life to be defeated. Then (and here is the part that I’m thinking about tonight) he offered to let his life stand before God in place of mine. So, instead of a screwed up, broken mess, God sees the perfect life of Jesus when he looks at me.
This is good news to me because it means that I don’t have to get my shit together and figure out my life on my own before God will love and embrace me.
What does it mean for me to not have to earn God’s love? It means that now, in the midst of the crap of life (both crap I’ve caused and crap that is piled on) I have the greatest being in all existence on my side. I am free to try and work harder, to solve our problems, to move towards healing and health… with God on my side.
Things don’t magically get better when we begin to believe the hope Jesus offers us. God is in the business of making us fully human, perfectly fit for a perfect creation. The biggest way he does that is by using the shit in life to refine and form us into who we are truly meant to be. I don’t know why he does it this way, but I know he is for me, on my side; I know he loves me no matter how bad things get.
I can learn to do better; I can make better situations; I can begin to accept the things I can’t change; I can learn the wisdom to know what’s mine to work on and what isn’t. I can do all these things with what vigor and strength I have because I’m not working to impress people or God. I can do these things because Jesus gives me his life as he walks beside me in mine.