I struggle with wanting to arrive…and when I say arrive, I mean I want to figure things out so thoroughly, I couldn’t possibly struggle in that certain area ever again.
I should have gotten a clue years ago when reading a book that painfully and beautifully illustrated the downfall of many leaders who, when asked, “What went wrong,” collectively responded, “I didn’t think I would ever do what I did.”
Why do you think they thought they would never do what they did?
For sure there could be multiple reasons, but the overall theme was the idea of having arrived to a certain level of maturity and digging deeper, judging those who had done what they said they would never do.
For a season, I meditated on “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV). It was a painful wake-up call when I considered my circumstances.
Taking a near fatal tumble seven years ago, I would have told you with great confidence, I would never do what I did. I had already been down the same path years previous and sadly, began judging those who were doing what I said I would never do again.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you”(Mathew 7:1,2 ESV).
Over the last few years I’ve sat with people who did what I did. Often times the story is the same.
One lady confessed she had judged me harshly. We cried together.
I truly hated she had to learn the hardest way. With her confession, I was keenly aware that it would not be good to judge her for judging me. It can be tempting to feel superior because we believe we wouldn’t do what someone else did, only to be humbled by doing what they did.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon reading and listening to stories of young women who voluntarily checked themselves into a long-term treatment program. If they would have been standing on the platform of a church, I wouldn’t have been able to contain my desire to stand up and loudly affirm their discoveries. I found myself taking notes from these 18-24 year olds who had not arrived but were on a journey of redemption.
These sweet souls had already fallen down severely in life and were re-engaging a world that’s not always so kind to broken young women. Though not my girls, my mama heart felt proud of their courage and humility. Their words offered no certainty they would never mess up again, only the certainty that they felt loved, worthy of pursuit and wanted to give it another try.
I love what some of the young ladies said about their experience:
“When I came here, they loved me first.”
Another girl said, “I no longer worry about getting rid of the struggle, but I know what I can do in it now. I feel empowered.”
And probably my favorite, “They didn’t see me as bad but as sick.”
My thoughts immediately went to the words of Jesus when He knew the hearts of the men who were judging Him for hanging out with people who they would never hang out with:
But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice…(Matthew 9:12,13 ESV).
The statement “Those who are well” was a gentle or maybe not so gentle slam, my friends.
Most people I meet with who are deeply struggling see themselves as BAD, not sick. Because they see themselves as bad, they assume they if they could just be good, their problems would be solved.
Many people can tell me their enneagram, their Myers Briggs and describe their personality…but their identity of being a bad girl or bad boy is so deeply rooted in the core of who they are, that even when they start “acting good,” they become exhausted trying to keep doing good. They are literally working against their own belief system. It’s why people are shocked when someone who is doing good does something bad. People can do good things while still being sick.
Jesus wasn’t addressing people who knew they were sick. He was addressing people who thought they were good. He wanted these men to open up their eyes that their perceived righteousness was a bigger problem than those who came to Him with an understanding that they were “sinners.”
In other words, our sickness isn’t about being bad but about needing a Healer.
These men thought they had arrived and couldn’t see that at their core, they were just as sick as those who would confess their need for healing.
Because they couldn’t see, they missed out.
And what is it that we all need healed from?
Could it be the fall of mankind when we didn’t trust God to be God…and ever since, we’ve had sickness of all kinds? I believe so.
If we can shift our thinking from people being bad to sick (Because God called all His creation good) and instead see the Cross as our healing and redemption, we can embrace the journey of being made whole with child-like faith and wonder…and though we will never arrive at being 100% like Jesus until we see Him, we can grow in His likeness.
I have a hunch that if we make this shift, we will more fully understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I desire mercy, “ and we will delight to offer people mercy instead of our judgment.
Only God is good in the sense of being sinless, but He also created us and called His creation good! Sin didn’t make us not good, it made us sick. We are all in need of being healed…for a myriad of reasons. Continually, every single day. That doesn’t mean we don’t grow and enjoy our transformation on the journey. It’s exciting when we see our own heart transformation and feel the wonder of God’s ability to do in us what our “good works” can never do.
When bad behaviors (Overt or covert) emerge, we run into God’s presence, acknowledge it and listen for anything we may need to do to make it right with others.
Doing bad continually means we haven’t ecountered the One who can heal us Or we are still living with a core identity of being bad. In this place, we have the assurance of Jesus’s desire to heal us from a place of mercy. Whatever the case might be, we all need Jesus…and the good news is He’s made Himself available to all of us.