“That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”
― Ann Voskamp, “One Thousand Gifts
There are few people, if any, in this world who do not “endlessly crave” to be seen and treated equally. The “mess of this world” is that we have never figured out what that really means. In our world, equal means one thing for some people and another thing for others. One thing politically, one thing socially, one thing religiously. And even one thing for men, and one thing for women.
Jesus told a story of a man (likely a Jew coming from Jerusalem) who was beaten and left for dead by the side of the road. Two ‘religious’ men walked by the man and “passed him by on the other side.” They saw him, but they did not ‘see’ him. A third man, a Samaritan, (despised by Jews) came by and though seen as racially, religiously unequal, looked at the man with compassion and said, “I see you.” He saw through the mess, and put oil and covers on his wounds, picked him up, and took him to a place where he could heal.
Who of us have not, are not, crying from the wounds and bruises of judgement, injustice, betrayal, abandonment? Lying by the side of the road, hearts aching for the beauty of acceptance, healing, and unconditional, liberating love? Enter Jesus. He doesn’t look the other way, he doesn’t pass by. He does not look for color, for race, for age. He does not ask about our past. Like Hagar by the stream, He says, “I see you.” He covers our wounds, lifts us up, carries us to the cross, and there, “by his wounds, we are healed.”
To the man fighting addiction, to the single mother left with three, to the broken soul abused and broken by an angry man, to those longing to be seen as equal, Jesus says, “I see you. I I will lift you up. I will honor you.”
We can stop fighting for justice. We can put aside protesting for equality. We can quell the gender hatred and anger. The “heart-aching beauty beyond” that we “endlessly crave” is waiting to be found alone in Jesus. He doesn’t have a banner. He’s not leading a movement or revolution. He doesn’t come to turn the world upside down. He comes to turn your heart and mine right side up.
He comes to make you new. New Man, New Woman. That’s it.
To be seen, to be valued, to be understood, is perhaps the most intrinsic need of the human soul.
Elijah was a true historical figure whose story tells us volumes about real life depression. After defeating four hundred fifty prophets of the false God, Baal, by calling on the One True God to rain down fire upon their pathetically dark souls, Elijah’s life was now threatened by Jezebel, wife of Ahab, King of Israel. Elijah had just come off one of the greatest spiritual victories ever recorded in Scripture and should have been dancing on the mountain in heavenly ecstasy. Instead he is at the peak of depression, ready to give up his life. Elijah felt as though he had been spent for naught, that he did exactly what God told him to do, and now there was a bounty on his head, and he was “no better than my ancestors”, no better than Abraham and Moses, and the prophets who had come before him. He felt that he was abandoned, and God no longer saw him. But believe it or not, God is not offended by our brutal honesty. Have you met the Psalmists?
“I am forgotten as though I were dead…I have become like broken pottery.” Psalm 31
“Wake up, Lord! Why do you sleep? Why do you hide your face? Psalm 44
“Your terrors have destroyed me…darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88
Injustice, disappointment, and disillusionment are as much a part of our human existence as are fulfillment and joy, and we never have to disguise the reality of our emotional state. God was ready for Elijah’s depressive downfall, and He responded by providing for him the basic needs of life— food, water, and rest. He didn’t just reply, “Get over, it Elijah.” He saw, listened, and heard, and gently and lovingly interacted with him, giving Him the intimate attention of heaven. The truth here is that whatever is crushing your heart, however used you are feeling, no matter how much your value seems to have been diminished―it is not over. There is more yet to come, and while right now all you can feel is the dark shadow of defeat, God is not through with you yet. His plan is immoveable, His purposes eternal and unshakable.
That’s not how we’re taught to deal with life. We are taught that life just isn’t fair. We are indeed taught to ‘get over it’, get back up, get the one responsible for your demise. Do what you have to do, take it from someone who has it. And instead, God comes in a gentle whisper and says, “I have it, all that you need. Take it from me. I have redeemed you, you are precious in my sight. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” You won’t find these words from the false gods of our culture, this promise is not from the many Baals of international religion. This is from the personal Creator, the “Father of heavenly lights, in whom there is no shadow of turning.”
Depression stems from a myriad of places. It is the mother of desperation, the son of rejection, the brother of despair. But hope is in one place, coming from the One True Man, Jesus Christ. He is not asleep. He is not too busy. He is not backed up with someone else’s dilemmas. God is not bound by space or time, he has the entire span of eternity to attend to you intimately and everything around you. He will light a fire and destroy the false idols of your life, and rain down the water of heaven to wash you from depression, and show His power and glory to you and all those around you.
Many of us find that hard to believe. It’s just not natural. Absolutely right. It’s supernatural. That’s the good news of Gospel. If that’s not acceptable either, then there’s really nothing but bad news. Always look for the good news.
When you want to die, you at least have a goal…you’ve got anger and fear,
but at least you’re feeling something. —Marilyn Manson
In late September of 2016, in a small, quiet Queens neighborhood, a woman stood outside her home, trying to explain life after her neighbors of twenty years were now gone.
"What happened? Why? It just doesn't make any sense to me," [she] said. "A family that you've been connected to for at least 20 years — it doesn't make any sense. The mother who you used to see going by just sitting on your front porch, the father you used to see come in [from work], the son come on to the porch to say, 'Hi, how are you?' It doesn't make any sense whatsoever." What didn’t make sense was that the police were called to the residence around 6:15 p.m. when it was reported that the couple did not show up for a meeting. During their search of the home, officers found the husband with stab sounds in a bedroom and his wife with blunt force trauma in the basement. Both were deceased. They were executed by their 30-year-old son. “C___ was like a son to me…Not in a million years did I think this would ever happen.”
The hot molten lava that explodes from a towering volcano did not just originate of its own accord. Inside the mountainous beast are turbulent churning gases, building together in a violent harmony of nature. At just the right moment, they are poised to unleash an unstoppable discharge of 1,200°C magma, desecrating anything in its path. And when the human soul erupts in a rage of anger, however large, however small, somewhere beneath lies a silent fury that has crept its way to the crater of our emotions, spewing out words and actions that more often than not come from another place and time.
You will never stop getting angry. While he is probably not the most reliable source of psycho-spiritual health, there is a certain element of truth to the words of Marilyn Manson as well. Anger is a sign of life, it tells us that something is fundamentally disturbing the intended rightness of life that is embedded in each one of us. It also, however, represents the reality that our self-esteem and personal sense of value is potentially being threatened.When we react, it is about protection, about maintenance, and many times, simply about winning. Every one of us has likely been confronted with the moment of realizing in a given situation that “failure here is going to drastically change not only the way other guys see me but how I see myself. If I make the wrong move, it could be a game changer.” Please do not underestimate the significance of this. I have seen ‘winning’, and the great wall of ‘protection’ take the most sound, most seemingly centered of men spiraling into a rage of fury, bringing shame and despair they never imagined. They are like the dominant male in a wolf pack, expecting submissive wolves to roll on their back, exposing their vulnerable throat, whimpering with paws drawn into the body. When a man is living in his own power, lacking a grounded, spiritually defined ownership of his heart, his male identity takes over as his consuming battle, and anger becomes a deadly sword at his side, ready to be wielded at his beckon call. You see, our vision, where we are looking, and more specifically, where the “eyes of our heart” are looking, will not only determine the condition of our temperament, but now defines our ability to control that temperament. Things like shame, hurt, betrayal of our past no longer act as a barometer reading the temperature of our personality, but instead turn into a thermostat, regulating our actions and responses to every invasion of our identity. They actually become the tool bag for how we solve problems, because they’re the very workshop in which we were hammered and chiseled. We readily, almost predictably, inflict the same shame that we suffered, the same lack of empathy that we knew. Without blinking an eye, we uncontrollably spew hurtful words at a spouse, or with unmeasured anger brutally chastise (maybe even more) a helpless child who doesn’t even know what they’ve done, all in the same manner in which we were. The haunting reality, my brother, is that the stimuli for these actions are often times so far hidden in the recesses of our psyche that we become totally oblivious to their presence. They are the silent owners of our heart. And we don’t voice it. We don’t say it out loud. We simply tread through life in the muddy waters and the “quiet desperation” of not only ‘This is just who I am”, but “This is all I’ll ever be.”
Here is the abiding truth. It's not all you'll ever be. it's not what you were intended to be. You were intended to be a man made in the image of God. A New Man, "being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:10). You can't do this. But God can. If you're tired of being angry because you're always so angry, then there's a journey waiting for you.
There is a turning point in the life of an angry man that can make or break him. The only way to put the past to death is to forgive those who destroyed it. To look into the face of those who have inflicted the deep and endless pain that has shaped and formed us and say, “I’m not going to let you define me any longer. I don’t have to. I’m gonna’ break the chain, and I’m letting you go. I forgive you.” Make no mistake. This is a place that is not easily found in the manual of ‘manly men’. There are those who are crying out right now, saying, “I get this, but you don’t understand. I’m still angry. I just can’t let go of my past, what‘s happened, what I’ve done, what’s been done to me.” Or, as one friend of mine put it, “Look, I’m over all that stuff in the past, I’m fine. But now, at this moment, I am so d-mn angry about getting screwed over at my job. What am I supposed to do about that? It’s like, here we go again!” But let me try to assuage what are perhaps some misguided fears. You don’t have to do a happy dance. You don’t have to cry. You don’t really have to do anything. But one day, when you realize the new born freedom this brings, you just might want to do both. It was a real man, the only real man, the man who showed us everything about what it means to be a “new man”, who can and has enabled you to do this. You wanna’ know anger? Jesus himself (God with skin on) one day took all your anger, all my anger, all the anger aimed at you, all the jacked-up anger of all the world and let it pour all over and into his body. Those who brought him to the place called Calvary unleashed a torrent of vitriolic rage with whips and chains and nails, and even a spear gouged into his side while he hung helplessly on a wooden cross. This didn’t just happen to him. The truth is, nobody there had any idea that they were fulfilling a mission that was written in the eternal winds of life long before their (and yours and mine) very first breath. It may have been the physical death blow for Jesus, but this was the eternal birthplace of true forgiveness. In fact, you might recall, he actually uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) So what does healthy, or “righteous” anger look like? If Jesus’ actions in the temple were righteous, then I must be able to display those same emotions in my new life in him. The great paradox of God that is that, as the Psalmist puts it, He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). So God himself expresses anger, but it is compassionate anger. What does a compassionate man look like? Compassion comes from a word that means pity, not the “Mr. T” kind of “I pity the fool”, but a viscerally overwhelming emotion of love, like that of a mother. So somehow we have to arrive at a place where we can be genuinely displeased with something or someone, yet seek to resolve that displeasure, somehow benefiting and building up the one to whom it is directed. Because that is what true, godly love does.
If you are an angry man, and especially a recovered angry man, make this your newest and most pervasive discipline. Think long and hard at what you’re angry about and not only how important is it, but what is the best way to resolve it? Your primary aim in extending righteous anger is to bring someone into the healthy, healing light and glory of God which they so richly deserve—and like you once did, they so desperately long for.
“If your rage compels you to smash your fist on a table, consider the blow as a reminder of what the Father already carried out against His Son. What kind of God is He, to turn his fist-smashing wrath against Himself rather than against you [and me]? Our anger is always pitifully small when it is focused against a person or object. It is meant to be turned against…our own failure of love.” —Dan Allender
Day after day, my life is surrounded by stories, people who are in the middle of trying desperately to grip and understand not only the chapter their life is in, but how they got to this page, and what the rest of the book is going to look like. And when you have no idea who the author is, or you think you know but you don't like what He's writing, and have no idea where He's going with it, it is a very dark place to be. A place where anger, depression, hopelessness, and debilitating confusion wait silently at the threshold.
I know some people think, "Why do you bring the same message over and over again, what's the deal with 'new'"? Ask a New Man guy what it means to be new, to be free from the chains of oppression, free from the grip of anger, alcohol, from the dark cloud of the law, or most importantly, free from the pervasive fear of the future. Ask them about what happens when you hear the Author of your life calling you and saying,
"All the days ordained for you were written before one of them came to be..."
"Take my yoke upon you, learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light..."
The call of Jesus is from another world. It is singular, solitary, it is matchless, and unrivaled. It is oblivious to race, reputation, or social standing, and will not compete with the desires of this world. And its most distinguishable mark is that when it is heeded, it sets you free.
Dude, you actually can't wait to read the next page, let alone the next chapter.
April 12, 2018
God nowhere holds a man responsible for having the heredity of sin, and does not condemn anyone because of it. Condemnation comes when I realize that Jesus came to deliver me from this heredity of sin, and yet I refuse to let Him do so.
So try to fix your life. Try to take all the problems of your past, all the things you've done that affect your life now that constantly come back to haunt you, and make them go away. You not only can't, but the good news is you don't have to. You only have the same condition that everyone who walks and has ever walked the planet is born with- the inherent disposition of sin. You didn't ask for it, but once you realize that you have it, the journey to emancipation can now begin.
The reason so many people are offended by the life of Jesus is because his words always seem to cut through the quick of our lives like a piercing arrow. We think he's just ticked off- judgmental and just accusing us of being bad people. It is painful to have our past unveiled, open for everyone to see our misdeeds and shameful ways. Truth is, every one of us, if discovered in our worst moment or worst thoughts would be in jail. "It was a long time ago, can we just get over it?" Or even worse yet, "No, no, It's not true, I never did that."
Gospel = Good news.
Jesus did not come to condemn our past. He came to liberate our future. He didn't come to magnify your sins. He came to put them away,
..."to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair..."
Being ashamed of your past is one thing. Letting it define you is another. When the thief on the cross realized he was hanging next to, not King of the Jews, but the King of Kings, he asked him one question. "Can I come with you to your Kingdom?" Jesus' answer? "Friend, your life of disgrace has now been washed in grace. You are a New Man. Follow me."
He can do that. He alone has the eternal, piercing words of freedom.