Ok, so the past couple days I have written and edited and stared at the screen and… nada. Nothing seemed right. It didn’t click. I had a lot of baby ideas, but nothing mature enough to publish without making me look like a fool. Only after several conversations and witnessing several strange things going on in our society did I find today’s post.
There’s no clever way to say this- the world needs us just the way we are, warts and all.
I was reading in 1 Timothy yesterday morning, and then it came up again at Bible study last night. Are you trying to tell me something, God? Right after his warning to Timothy about false teachers and lawlessness, Paul goes into a beautiful paragraph that my Bible titles “Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners.”
Nestled in the center of the paragraph are these verses:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
Please don’t miss this: Paul was stinking awesome. He went to prison for his faith and converted his captors. He sat in dungeon cells and penned words of truth and love and encouragement to churches and people all over the place. He was shipwrecked and beaten and stoned with stones and still he loved his neighbor.
As for me… well… you know… I write this blog. No one has threatened me or my family for our witness yet, but there’s always tomorrow.
Yet Paul’s words explain exactly why he did all that- he knew he was messed up and the only thing that could save him was Jesus. And he wasn’t shy about it. He didn’t put on any persona that made people think, “Wow, he’s got his crap together. He needs to write a book on how to achieve success. Does he have a podcast? Sign me up for whatever Paul’s doing.”
Here’s the thing- the world absolutely does not need any more people claiming to have all the answers. The same was true in Paul’s day, and he knew it. We don’t need answers. We need Jesus.
From the beginning God did not offer all the answers because that was never the point. “Trust me,” was the point. Trust God. And since the Fall that is what we have struggled with more than anything- trusting God.
The world is searching for meaning when they really think they are searching for answers. Don’t believe me? Turn on any form of technology. Games, TV, social media. Kid shows on the Disney channel flippantly refer to some ultimate being they call “the universe.” I guess the universe doesn’t want this to happen. Even in their war on religion (who am I kidding- war on Christianity), they cannot escape the need to explain things using some “higher power.”
Our neighbors, our children, don’t need to look far to see people presenting themselves polished and put-together. And those imposters don’t do crap to help us out of our depression and self doubt. They don’t. We are face to face with what we think we should be and we fall short. I think that means we are looking in the wrong place, just like everyone else. That could be why the Bible tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Perfect is out. Messy is in. I just said it, so that means it’s true. And if you think my declaration is born of a disheveled and out of control life, you are absolutely correct.
If you have thought, even fleetingly, that you can’t even bother with the world because you need all your energy to just keep your head above water, then WOOT WOOT! You are exactly where you need to be. God doesn’t work on your life so you can go on out and fix everyone and everything. He works in your life because He LOVES YOU. He does!!!!
That is what Paul was saying! Allow me to paraphrase- “Here’s the truth- Jesus came into this world to save messed up, broken sinners who screw everything up. Trust me, I know. I’m the worst one out there. But let me tell you, when people look at my shambles of a life they are going to know the only thing holding me together and saving my soul is the absolute patience of God. Then they will see He can do literally anything and entrust their lives and souls to Him as well.”
Paul didn’t have a platform to help people succeed. He had a God who saves.
And after his brutal honesty about his shortcomings and God’s patience, he tells Timothy- This is the message you need to fight “the good warfare.” The moment we abandon the grace of God for our whitewashed perfect internet personas is the moment we shipwreck our faith and blow out our light.
In a world of fake, our weapon is reality. Fake perfection doesn’t need God’s grace- disgusting reality can’t live without it.
So please, wherever you are, in whatever circles you run, please join me in embracing our freaking messed up lives because God is embracing us in the midst of them. Join me in confessing, “Well, I screwed that up again, God. Thank You for Your patience and grace. I trust You to redeem even this.”
Your mess is not a surprise to God. He doesn’t hem and haw trying to figure out how to work around your failures. He knew what He was purchasing when He sent His Son to die for you.
God is making something beautiful and living in the garden of our lives. We are just supplying the fertilizer.