the beautiful broken
today was my last day of bible study fellowship (BSF) lessons. and i am blown away at how much god has taught me through the book of john, my BSF discussion group, and the lectures. god is so very good.
bina was ready to go this morning with all of the things. and we threw all of the things in the trunk. because. why not.
the last few weeks especially i feel like god has been pulling it all together for me. last week, the lecture included this line: the peace that jesus gives is not the absence of trouble but confidence in knowing he is with us in it. HE. IS. WITH. US. IN. IT. in the notes from that lesson and lecture, i clung to this: the love of our lord jesus christ never fails or falters, despite our struggles and sins... peace with god causes his grace to flood your life. HIS. LOVE. NEVER. FAILS. OR. FALTERS. his grace floods my life. wow.
god is so kind to me. he is so kind and patient and long suffering. i remember feeling like he was so far from me when i struggled with insomnia and depression last fall. i felt like he wasn't there. like he didn't care about me. he didn't hear my pleas for him to relieve me from my sleeplessness. he didn't want me to be the mom i knew i could be, because he wouldn't take away my trouble. but i was speaking lies to myself. i had to start referring to the truth i KNEW and not believe the lies i FELT.
i saw the kindness of jesus in the book of john. the only people he was not so nice to were the religious leaders - the self-righteous hypocritical religious leaders that unsuccessfully tried to end the ministry of jesus for fear of losing their own power. they thought they had won when he died on that cross. they thought they could keep his body down if it was kept in a tomb. but they were dead wrong. jesus rose again. nothing could thwart his plan. and he showed kindness to all who brokenly sought to listen to him and follow him.
peter and john went back to their old trade of fishing after the death of jesus on the cross. back to the daily grind, doing the ordinary tasks that we all have to do. you know. like me as a stay at home mom cleaning the kitchen three times a day and changing diapers and vacuuming dog hair that keeps multiplying while my kid runs away with my clean AND dirty laundry so i have to wash all of it again. i digress. one night they fished all night and caught nothing. i love the picture of jesus appearing on the shore the next day asking john and peter if they had caught any fish. then jesus calls to them to cast their nets one more time. and they catch an extraordinary amount of fish. john realizes that it is jesus, the lord, calling from the shore at that point. peter then jumps out of the boat and swims for jesus. john stays with the boat and brings the fish to shore. jesus is cooking up breakfast for them when they reach him. i love the kindness of jesus in meeting their physical need for food by cooking breakfast and their financial need by providing an abundance of fish after a long night of fruitless labor. peter and john obeyed jesus' instruction to cast that net one more time, even though they had been doing it all night. jesus has power over the ordinary to do extraordinary things. but we have to listen and obey. listen AND obey.
i love peter. always sticking his foot in his mouth. the disciple who declared he would never deny jesus, and then went on to deny him three times leading up to jesus' crucifixion. once jesus rose again and appeared to peter and john, he gave peter the opportunity to then affirm his love for jesus three times. the kindness of the lord. john was called a "son of thunder" in the book of luke. he and his brother james once offered to call down fire from heaven to destroy people on jesus' behalf. little cuties. jesus tames these wild hearts. professing great faith and then failing big time. peter denying christ. but the beauty is in the brokenness. we see jesus' kindness in our weakness. because he loves us, he forgives us. our weakness, our brokenness, our failure. none of it can separate us from the love of christ. there is nothing i can do to make god stop loving me. and to live in the fullness of what he has, what he wants for me? i just need to surrender my life to him. acknowledge that i am so broken. i am a sinner in need of forgiveness. i am a failure in need of his kindness. and when i truly understand that. when i accept god's love. when i make him lord of my life. then i truly understand what it means to be loved unconditionally, and what it means to attempt to love the way god loves me. i can't do it perfectly as god does it. i mess up all the time. and i must repent when i mess up. but as long as i keep humbling myself, own my mistakes, own my failures, then god can take that broken and weak me and make me beautiful. conform me to his image. give me that chance, like he gave peter, to say "you know i love you, lord."
we are all made in the image of god. i think about how in the church we focus so much on the fact that we are all sinners. we are BORN sinners. there is nothing good in us. total depravity. but i think we have to temper that with the reality that we are made in the image of god. so there IS goodness in us. we just have these two warring natures - the image of god in us and our sinful nature that inclines us to sin. there is so much beauty in the broken. it is in our weaknesses that god can be most glorified. it is BECAUSE we have a sinful nature that god can redeem us and make us whole in him, to live out the fullness of what it means to be made in his image. to reflect his love and his kindness. it is our job as his image bearers to show the love and kindness that he has shown us to the world. and i cannot do that until i understand what it means to be known and loved by god - completely. unconditionally. just as i am.
at the end of the book of john, jesus indicates how peter is going to die: on a cross like jesus himself. peter, precious peter. he then says, "hey, what about john?" and jesus basically says, "peter, get off of facebook. stop comparing yourself to others. i'll do with john what i want. your job is to follow me." YOU. FOLLOW. ME. this was so challenging to me. my number one job is to follow christ. not to look to my left and my right and compare and say, "hey god, they look like they're doing pretty good over there. i would rather be in their shoes" or "hey god, i'm doing better than that person, right?" no. my job is to follow christ. fix my eyes on him. only care about what he thinks of me. only find my value as a person in him. only find my identity in him. because he cares for me. because he loves me. because his is the only love i need. the only love that can sustain. the only love that can redeem and renew.
i see his loving kindness. i see it every day. i see it in everything, if only i look. i see it in the ordinary, mundane. the ugly beautiful. i see it in the simply beautiful. i see it in the piles of dishes and laundry. i see it in tumbleweeds of dog hair. i see it in muddy paw prints and orange stains on toddler clothes. i see it in leaky diapers. i see it in my daughter's beautiful eyes. i see it in her smile. i see it in her look of distress. i see it in her constant need to move and carry all the things all at once. i hear it in her laugh. i hear it in her cries. i feel it in her sweet pats on my back, and in her violent kicks of frustration. i see it in unfinished blog posts i've been trying to write for weeks. i see it in dreams unrealized. i see it in the realized dreams i never knew i had. i see it in unmet expectations. i see it in the loss of the life i thought i was going to live. i see it in the throwing out of all my plans. i see it in the depths of depression. i see it in the throes of insomnia. i see it in the people god has brought into my life since our move to michigan. i see it in the journey he has taken me on my whole life thus far. i didn't always see it. but i do now.
because god is with me. because the peace that jesus gives is not the absence of trouble, but confidence knowing he is with us in it. because the love of our lord jesus christ never fails or falters. because peace with god causes his grace to flood my life. a sea of grace. and because of these truths, this reality - my broken can be beautiful. because god is in the broken. he is in the weakness. he is in the failure. and he can be most glorified in me when i am weak and broken. and it is then that he can use me to lead others to him so that they too can experience his loving kindness, the beauty in the broken. god makes the broken, beautiful. i can be the beautiful broken. if only i let him in. we can be the beautiful broken. if only we let him in. please. let him in.