I will always be one who looks back. Out of my past, with all its levels of conjured contentedness concealed between cushions of deceit, I draw my emotion. In the losses, I find my determination. In the pain, I uncover energy to search for the truth of healing. In the regret, I discover grace. Out of the stupidity of ill-conceived actions and words, I hunger for wisdom. In the layers of the past, I see the unfolding of the future.
On some days, it is as if I am still stuck back there; on others it is as if I never was. Such is an Odyssey of Grace, a clumsy reconciling of sin and shame with healing and forgiveness, a digging out from beneath the weight of hate and sorrow into the light of love and acceptance.
We count our years as we go through life, but completing a year makes no difference, no matter what we say or wish. One year is replaced by another. Turning a page on a calendar has about as much impact as the breeze created by the action. If we are here today and gone tomorrow; if we cannot add a single breath, then what does one day mean? Nothing . . . and everything.
It depends who holds the day. In my hands, grasped tightly and held against my chest beneath my darting and suspicious eyes, a day is a like a wadded and blank sheet of paper. In God's hands, open and exposed to His penmanship, a day is a treasure unmatched. Its promise flows upon the page. It is good and it stands as His great invention of time. It counts. Just as He counted them in the beginning:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning -- the first day.
-- Genesis 1:3
And He just kept counting them.
Day Two: He separated the waters and made the sky.
Day Three: He made land and seas and plants and trees.
Day Four: He made the stars and the sun and the moon.
Day Five: He filled the oceans and the skies with just the right creatures.
Day Six: He created a man and a woman, and He said: "It was very good."
Nighty-night. You guys sleep tight beneath that brand new moon I just made and I'll wake you in the morning with the glory of a brand new sun.
And here we are, a debatable number of new days later, on an odyssey to make the best and get the most out of however many He has ordained us. Each breath is by the grace of God.
In retrospect, glancing over our shoulders, if we have embraced grace, a year is not quite the frightful thing it appeared when it was building furiously on the horizon and bearing down upon us with its thunderous claps of "what ifs" and its threat to deliver upon us everything we so richly deserve. In retrospect, we can see, in what we thought would just be wreckage, the underpinnings of our prayers and the glorious glue of . . . grace. Somehow, despite us, the year the Lord made is there, nicked and scratched and torn and bent by our handling, but surviving still for the times we stopped, perhaps sobbing, and handed it back, like a child who too roughly played with a favorite toy.
"I'm sorry," we say. "Can it be fixed?"
And, in His way and in His time, He mends and restores and replenishes, leaving here and there a tear, a scar, to remind us of the roughness with which we treat His gift of each new day.
Don't leave home without it.
I seem to begin each new year with these words: "I'm fine."
Fine? Despite the harsh realities of reaping. I entered each recent year still separated from my children, some past church issues still unsettled, my not-quite-completely-resolved mind stubbornly challenging my clearly-resolved soul for clarity and purpose. But I'm okay, I declare. Or, to use that all-purpose Christian four-letter word: I'm fine.
I quickly follow that up with these words: "But I'm broken."
As the reality of my sexual brokenness and how it use to come to the forefront in my life becomes more and more clear outside the fog of internal servitude, I've come to see that anyone who struggles with any form of sexual brokenness -- and if you think that term is too lenient and soft, just try thinking of yourself as "broken" -- feels as much pain about their malady as I did mine.
Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to women are looking for something missing within themselves. They're broken.
Men and women who are addicted to pornography and lose touch with all reality, hide their shame and their addiction behind smiles and shrugs. They're broken.
Men and women who are seeking sex with other men and women outside of marriage, whether as curious and uncontrolled singles and teenagers, or as adulterous and wandering marrieds? They’re broken.
Men and women who give in to rampant self-satisfaction -- masturbation -- are losing touch with real relationships and can't explain why they find themselves more pleasurable than others. They're broken.
Men and women who abuse and control each other to show their power because they know they're weak. They're broken.
Men and women who hate and fear each other because they don't know how to love and need each other? They're broken.
From brokenness . . . to hopefulness.
And if you are, at this moment patting yourself on the back for not being sexually-broken, hold off on the applause. Your brokenness may lie elsewhere, but you are as much in need of God's grace as anyone else. We rarely choose our brokenness. Some may appear worse than others, but we are all made of material ripe for crumbling.
For the person who struggles with sexual brokenness, life is not always nice and it is certainly not packaged for ease of opening. Nor do all the pieces seem to easily go together, if they're even all there. So we decorate the packages and overlook the missing and broken pieces and do our best to assemble the best life we can with whatever went into our basket at checkout. Sometimes it shows; sometimes it doesn't. It depends on our marketing skills and how well we sell ourselves to others . . . and to ourselves. We know "the truth is out there," but we prefer to be in here. We curl up with a little of the truth like a too-small blanket and want for greater comfort and security.
Is it "quiet hope" or "bitter resignation?" Is it waiting or wilting? When rains come, do they wash us clean and set our feet to freedom or will they be the final flood that grows ever deeper to sweep us away?
Or does the Grace of God form a dam and hold us? When do we need this grace?
When we are "fine?"
When we are broken?
When we are bitter?
When we are resigned?
When we are lonely?
When we are guilty?
When we are longing?
When we are hopeful?
There is Grace!
Grace is not one of those great rewards extended to others who seem grace-worthy, but withheld from you or me because of the depths to which we have stubbornly clawed . . . putting ourselves in places that seem unreachable to the limited and normal grace of men. God's grace is not manufactured and manipulated and measured out. Like God . . . is . . . grace . . . is.
Grace comes upon us when we are least deserving and perhaps too fearful and ashamed to even ask. "I'm sorry. Can it be fixed?"
Grace unfolds like the tapestry of the countryside when you drive around a corner or top a hill and see in the glow of a sunset the glory of God's great creation unfolding before you and you find you are in it.
Grace unfolds like a soft yellow blanket over a peaceful sleeping child as you pull the fabric back and see the calm and hear the quiet coo. . . and an unfolding tiny fist reminds you that you really can let it all go.
Let go of what? All those things tucked deep inside the folds of your life: the tortured temptations that have rampaged and ruled, the relationships that have unraveled and ravaged, the set-aside dreams, the held-back hopes, the vanquished visions. The darkness of every day is chased away in the light of grace.
When does the next leg of this Odyssey of Grace unfold?
When we recognize we are sinful and tend to take the wrong path.
When we realize that our sinfulness is a rebellion against the very God that has cleared our path.
When we admit we know all this and resign ourselves to helplessness, that we have been lost and stumbling, ignoring our guide.
When we trust in God's willingness to forgive and again shine the light for our feet to follow.
When we actually accept that forgiveness and take His hand to lead us out of the darkness.
When we stand in the clearing and look around us at the underbrush and tangled clutter from which we have been rescued.
When we stop and look up, surrounded by threatening but held-back darkness and observe the brightness of the night sky and the sweet comfort of the approaching dawn.
When we know we are not alone.
When we realize that on the day -- the sixth day -- when God made the man and the woman, He knew He would also make you. And He said: "It was very good."
Let your when be now.
Happy New Year and God Bless,
(Want to face your brokenness issues head on in the new year? Find truth, encouragement and help in Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, available at Amazon.com)