I have been pondering the tendency for all publicly shared Christian testimony to be positive and up beat, it is almost as if our lives and stories as well as our bodies have a Sunday "acceptable" best, the image we feel we ought to project to the world to show that our faith is strong and that God is able! As I listen to these stories I am struck quite often by their brittleness, not that I am saying that good news stories are not valid and have no place, but that we seem to think that these are the only stories we should be telling, stories of praise and victory are our Sunday best stories of faith, and yet we have many more stories to tell some of which will reveal depths and riches of comfort and God-given strength that we dare not reveal because through them we will show ourselves battered and bruised, chipped and flawed and that is not how we want to appear.
I am not judging here, I am speaking from real experience, I have spent years telling my Sunday best testimonies without plumbing the depths beneath, trying to cover up the chips and cracks in my character with a veneer of Sunday best acceptability. I can see now that in doing so I have not only denied my truest expression of faith but also denied the God who delights in filling us, these cracked and battered vessels with his glorious presence, somehow by "putting on a show" I deny his work within, I am in effect saying that I have to show by my strong capable outward experience that he is able, and by doing so all I project is a false if well meant image.
The truth is I am a battered and chipped vessel, I have faults and flaws and I need the God who fills me with his love, power and compassion for living, I need to accept his treasure with this frail clay pot of my ordinary life, and if I am going to be true to my story I need to allow the glory of God to shine through, his resurrection power gloriously at work in my life bringing comfort, healing and transformation. I love this quote from Dallas Willard:
Blessed are the physically repulsive,
Blessed are those who smell bad,
The twisted, mis-shapen, deformed,
The too big, too little, too loud,
The bald, the fat and the old -
For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus.
Blessed are the ‘seriously’ crushed ones.
The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs.
The broke and the broken.
The drug heads and the divorced.
The HIV-positive and the herpes-ridden.
The brain-damaged and the incurably ill.
The barren and the pregnant too many times or at the wrong time.
The over-employed, the under-employed, the unemployed and the unemployable.
The swindled, the shoved-aside and the replaced.
The parents with children living on the street.
The children with parents dying in the rest home.
The lonely, the incompetent and the stupid.
The emotionally starved and the emotionally dead.
Does earth have a sorrow that heaven cannot heal?
For to all such as these the present blessedness of the kingdom is offered.
(from Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy)
"Does earth have a sorrow that heaven cannot heal?", no of course it doesn't, and the God who revealed himself to us in human form knows what it is to struggle and strive and suffer, and in that struggle the depths of his love are revealed to be released in power as the grave was overcome. From the grave he comes with wounds in his hands, feet and side offering us the chance to join him in his resurrected life. Surely to place our hands into the hand of the one who bears such wounds is to accept our need and wounded-ness. It is as wounded healers that we are filled, released, comforted, healed and empowered, and all of this is an ongoing process as he walks with us through the depths and the valleys as well as the peaks of our everyday lives.
I wonder then if our most power testimony is actually "and yet I know that God is with me, and there I find comfort and strength to take the next step", I have to say that this is my testimony at the moment, and as I share it with those around me I find an increasing willingness for them to also share their brokenness and concerns with me and there is a raw reality to this sharing that is deeper, much deeper that our Sunday best stories of faith. I think I am going to leave this post there for now, I'd be interested in your thoughts.