I don’t think I’ve ever really met anyone who is living out of a full cup.
What I mean is: Everyone lives a lot further ahead than they really are, giving advice they don’t follow and loving others without any love for themselves and running on empty all the time. We’re all on fumes.
I’m finding out this is okay for today, and no lifetime is meant to be lived in a day.
There’s this Secret Guilt going around that we’re all halfway hypocritical frauds who will maybe one day catch up to an awesome version of ourselves. It’s a desperate hope that we’ll eventually do what we’re preaching with our mouths and our blogs. And then we blow up or flip a table or punch a wall and that monster comes out, and we think “Where did that even come from?” — and the Guilt chokes the pit of our stomach again.
The finality of settling into your own skin never arrives.
We co-exist with the monster.
I remember a famous pastor who deleted his entire backlog of podcasts from his first years of preaching. Because he “no longer agreed” with those old messages. I thought it was pretty humble. But I also thought, What about those people who heard those old messages? What if they followed through on that stuff? Are they just screwed? And ten years from now will you delete your stuff from today?
Every artist I’ve met says their first drawing, song, poem, novel, or dance routine was unworthy. They’re hard on their first creations. You know, that whole “you are your own worst critic” paranoia. But: Don’t we all have to purge these things before moving onto greatness? And what about those people who enjoyed the first creations? Are they just idiots?
Everyone keeps saying, “I used to be so stupid.” Or, “I was so empty when I taught that thing.” Or, “I didn’t even deserve to preach that sermon on marriage, my own marriage was failing.” Or, “I wasn’t even following my own advice.”
It’s a reoccurring pattern. No one ever thinks they’re good enough to do what they’re doing. Or they think now they’re okay, but everything before today was terrible. “I finally found my voice,” they say, which is at once a victory and an admission of defeat.
It’s scary to think we’re always walking in the dark, the light dissipating just out of reach.
Of course, I do think there are hypocrites that need to step down. There are fakes out there, and they need to stop. They know who they are and they’re actively reaching in your wallet and your treasure and your heart, and they are robbing you.
But nearly everyone else is a busted up vessel making the best of what they have. They’re not trying to mislead anyone. They’re not purposefully deceptive. They’re loving others despite how they feel, and that’s already commendable. They’re preaching great things even if they’re struggling with them, and that requires a certain dignity.
The problem is when we’re not honest about our emptiness, we will crash. If you continually say things you don’t mean and you don’t say things you do mean, then you’ll die a little bit each day. You’ll think you’re alone in this, that you can keep going on this way, and you’ll punish yourself in small incremental ways by self-shaming and holding back and staying down, and you’ll call it humility when it’s not.
And the monster will thrive off your hiding. It will pop up when you are poked and provoked, it will take over your hands and your mouth for even seconds at a time, but it will use those few seconds to destroy everything you love. This is what monsters do: and we let them do it.
I think we just need to own up to the emptiness. To say we’re not okay, and then to get up and find other people who are not okay, and that’s how we’ll be okay. The monster always dies in the light.
That means you and I can’t flinch when someone tells us about it. If we don’t have hope of an undeserved grace, then we can never be honest, and then we’ll never get grace. But if we can be recklessly honest about our hungry wandering souls, then maybe we can find restoration, and we might just make it.
This sort of dirty grace confronts the ugliness inside, grabs it by the fistfuls, and kills it with the relentless violence of love. It’s not the textbook grace you put on like a cheap dress. It hurts like crazy: but afterward there is stillness and peace, like the morning. It’s like beginning again.
If you’ve never felt that, it’s probably because we’ve been masquerading by being nice all the time, when really this grace thing is a gritty business that rips the curtain of your religious activity to shreds.
You’ll recognize that God loved your broken mess from the start, and He won’t stop there. Only God could ever simultaneously love us as we are now and love us into a different kind of person. Both are impossibly true. But it begins when you receive that kind of grace today, right now, where you are. And it takes a lifetime to get it.
I hope to meet you there. I hope to meet you where Jesus is, plunging his scarred hands through the fortress of my lungs, squeezing my heart back to life.