Monthly Archives: December 2017

My Helpless Estate: The Place of the Pieces

24879384_10213495612797433_1134531612_oThere is a place where it is Too Much. It is not Too Much at work–you can do that. You can go there, do the things, say the words, and no one is really the wiser. You can go out with friends, see movies and eat nachos; you can go to a family reunion and cluck over your distant cousin’s toddler twins; you can answer the questions of the old ladies in grocery stores; you can help people, minister, pray. You can do so many things, fill so many roles–all while carrying your Too Much around with you.

(I am not a theologian, and I may get some things wrong here. I know that we are supposed to cast all our burdens on Christ because he cares for us. I also know that Paul struggled with a thorn in the flesh that he begged God to take from Him. I know that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, which (to me) means He sees that I still have weakness, even though I am alive in Christ, covered in His blood, and I will be with Him one day. I also know that this is all, right now, Too Much.)

To those Christians who are fully confident, and who may be looking down on me right now as I explore brokenness once more, and who would prescribe me a “three-step to full revelation” ritual, I would say this: I, too, am fully confident.

Isn’t that the ultimate irony? That I can be a weeping, broken-hearted mess, and you can sit beside me, a “name it and claim it” smile-til-your-mouth-breaks Christian, and we can BOTH be fully confident?  And yet we are confident in different ways–

I think in the church we get one idea of what Christian confidence looks like–and we get it from the peppy Christians who dress well, smile a lot, raise their hands, and enthusiastically worship. Because they look together and real, we think they ARE together and real–and far better than us.

But there is also a kind of confidence that is in the place of shattering, in the place of the pieces. It is not an attractive confidence–there is no polish nor gleam. There is nothing appealing about brokenness or deep sorrow–no one wants the doll missing a leg or the bargain Kroger bouquet. Truly, no one wants to visit the broken–the widows, the orphans, the prisoners–in their places of sorrow. But Christ tells us to.

Behind locked doors, in the dark, amid the tears–that’s where we are to go. We are to go into places of distress and shine light. But too often, we are afraid to walk into a sad teenager’s room; to chat with our bitter, long-widowed neighbor; to try to speak to the newly-grieving mother.

For one thing the truly broken learn quickly, soon after they are shattered, is this simple, dark truth: nothing can be done.

The loss is complete.

When there is barrenness and emptiness and destruction such that no preacher’s word can touch your heart, and your own words for prayers refuse to come–when there is no reprieve, no immediate escape, nothing to do but sit in sorrow–there, in that pit–in that pit is where the confidence comes.

24879012_10213495571196393_1462430243_oBecause God is there. And, eventually, you can feel His presence beside you in the mire and muck and mess–in the very place where you can do nothing. He has not abandoned you.

In fact, without Him, you will not escape: there is no way out–no door, no path, no Sandy-Patti-inspired-window.

You wail.

You rage.

You are embarrassed when your tears splash the floor because what adult cries so hard that her tears actually splash??? Are Christians allowed even allowed to be that sad??? But God just sits there, putting your tears into His bottle.

Eventually, when you can breathe again, He asks you to try to stand. He catches you when you collapse. And He does this day after day after day, until one day you realize you are stronger, finally. You can stand.

But He doesn’t make you walk; He doesn’t demand results. He rests with you. Day after day. Try. Fail. Try. Fail. It is wearisome, this total dependence on Him.

But you get better at it–the resting and waiting and the Grace for the Day that you always thought was so much mumbo-jumbo. You see sorrow and waste and pain and the things you are missing out on–things that you will always miss out on. And you yell @#*%! because it is wrong and unfair–but God stays right there beside you in your pit, even though you just cussed. He doesn’t leave. You yell at trees and He doesn’t leave. You holler at your kids and your friends and your spouse and they are far away, but He is right there, and His face hasn’t changed. You are weak, and He is making you strong. Making you confident.


I would have never thought this: there is confidence in the dead child. Confidence in financial ruin. Confidence in cancer.

There is confidence in horror and waste and destruction because God is there. His omnipresence becomes real. Felt. Seen. Experienced.

And in realizing that things can always get worse, you paradoxically realize, things cannot get worse. Because, like the widow and the orphan, you have seen the deepest sorrows, experienced the soul-crushing losses, and you know you were not alone.

And, like them, you are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, not destroyed.

Granted, it may all be Too Much right now–it was, too, then–but He lifted you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set your feet on a rock and gave you a firm place to stand.

So, just stand.

But know, when you are ready, He will again walk with you.