“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
Jesus to the Rescue
In my previous blog, we discussed when Isaiah refers to “binding up the brokenhearted” in chapter 61. “Brokenhearted” is translated as leb shabar in Hebrew. The deeper interpretation means that something at the core of who you are has been “broken into pieces” or shattered like a piece of pottery. Often at Where Grace Abounds, I have shared my own experiences growing up that left my heart feeling blown to bits. The results were I was living out a false story. One telling me I was not worthy of love, time, care or attention. For those of us who have been living out a false narrative about ourselves, thank God it’s not the final verdict.
Jesus comes to the rescue. In Luke, chapter 4, He has just finished His battle with Satan for 40 days in the desert. He’s in his hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath and is doing the reading at the synagogue. The scroll of Isaiah is handed to Him and Jesus reads aloud the same portion of Isaiah 61 about proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and sight for the blind. Then to everyone’s astonishment He says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
So this passage in Isaiah is more than comforting God’s people during their predicted captivity in Babylon. Jesus as God’s anointed Messiah is doing an all-encompassing work of healing; restoration and salvation for all those desperately need Him. The good news of the gospel has come.
Reframe the Shame
I remember those desperate times and Jesus graciously entering into my life. His living presence became real. I was in awe with gratitude for His work on the cross and rescuing me from a life of rebellion and sin. But, coming from a shame based background of addiction and deprivation, I had to contend with some major spiritual realities. God needed to reframe what brokenness meant to me.
Needing God–Embracing the Flaws
“Blessed are poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3
After a lifetime of feeling steeped in shame, this bit of scripture was a mixed bag of news. I spent most of my time escaping the embarrassing labels that were slapped on me growing up. I wanted to present myself as a person who was far more clever and put together than how I actually felt internally. I had put up a wall of self-protection and perfectionism around myself. Now Jesus was asking me to face my spiritual bankruptcy before Him. After a life of unhealthy self-reliance, it’s taken a long and continuing road of repentance to live knowing I desperately need God. But also, what a relief it’s been to constantly throw off the false mask and work to embrace those flaws. All I have to offer Him is my whole heart—and a sad and broken one at that. It’s all He’s ever wanted. Those who desperately need Him cast themselves fully on His grace—and this is our ticket to inheriting the Kingdom.
Following Jesus into Vulnerability
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who being in very nature God…made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
The second God created Adam and Eve; He was vulnerable to the pain they would inflict. It wasn’t long after the lush and intimate moments with their Father, when they began to question if He was good. This led to their rebellion against Him. Later, as He formed a unique covenant relationship with Israel (like a Bridegroom) His people turned from Him. In the centuries that would follow they would do it again and again, and we are still living in this story. God eventually becomes a man, vulnerable to all that we too experience. His vulnerability would lead to His death on the cross on our behalf.
Vulnerability—who wants it? All it seemingly did for me was open myself up to the pain of ridicule, rejection and neglect. No wonder high walls of self-protection were put in place. But God has designed us for intimacy and connection. Walls of protection to keep out the bad, also keep out what we deeply desire. Without opening up (authentic flaws and all) I will never truly be known or accepted. I will never really experience the connection and deep intimacy for which my heart truly longs.
Jesus encourages us to follow Him into vulnerability. Loving and praying for enemies, being the servant of all, letting our weakness be our greatest strength. He continually turns our worldly wisdom on its head.
God’s Glory through Our Stories
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death…” Revelation 12:11
I remember the startling day when I felt like the Lord wanted me to share my story for the first time in a public setting. “But, this is not a story I’m necessarily proud of,” I thought. I would rather not share all these embarrassing and humiliating points of my life with a crowd. Now looking back after having shared various pieces of my story thousands of times, I can see what God has been doing.
Standing in the forgiveness of Christ, we can share openly about where God has met us in our pain—for He never leaves us there. We have authentic stories of healing that glorify God. It is how we overcome Satan’s hold on the world. God redeems our ashes for something beautiful.
Leb Shabar-Binding up the Brokenhearted
How does God piece back together those places of who we are that have been shattered into bits? A broken piece of pottery will never be fully put together with a Band-Aid. God through His patient work of sanctification will heal us piece by piece. We gradually live less out of the false story of who we are and more fully into whom God is creating us to be. We can embrace living a “wholehearted” approach to life, as Brene’s quote above. Feeling we are brave and that we are enough and belong. But this confidence isn’t some magic-thinking, self-willed mantra. It’s rooted in the reality that we are worthy of love, because God cherishes us and we are his beloved.
This article is an excerpt from a sermon called “Living into the True Story” which Scott recently shared at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, on Sunday, July 9th. To listen to the free audio of this sermon go here.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
Knowing all the human rejection God chose to experience from us throughout time, I have sometimes wondered if God is a glutton for punishment or something. But reading this blog reminded me that all He has endured for us is really just part of His plan for redemption. He is soooooo much about our redemption. Because of that, He has to endure our rejection of Him too. But He never gives up seeking for us… seeking us out diligently until our rejection of Him yields into acceptance. So glad He is ruthless in this redemption.
Janet! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and your heart. So true. When we have those moments and truly see what God endures from us and on our behalf and how He relentlessly loves and pursues us–how can we not worship and love Him?? His kindness really does lead us to repentance! I love that God’s heartbeat is reconciliation, love and forgiveness.
Wonderful article my friend! I thank you so much for your trust in God and courage to tell your story! So many have been blessed by it!
We tell our stories and God is glorified! It’s been a privilege for me to share our stories together—thanks for your kind, encouraging words (and your trust, hope and courage!) dear friend…