It happens to all of us: you pour out your heart and life and hours and pockets and energy into a fresh-faced person, hoping to see them out of the miry pit and into victory — when the end result is cataclysmic disappointment, worse off than before, down the spiral of prodigal wastefulness, a bitter mess of nuclear ground zero.
I keep thinking of them, You could be more than this. You were almost there.
Years and years of ministry has jaded me about how people change. In the jailhouse and the homeless shelters, it’s not so bad: people know they’re at rock bottom and there’s a fervent dependency on God you don’t see in your superstar theologian. They have little excuse. Their faith has been chiseled into its rawest form, a pure reliance on God’s power, and their life everyday is, Only God can do it now.
But people who can fall back on rationalizations, chemicals, alcohol, ex-boyfriends, more money, and mindless luxury never hit that rock bottom. Oh, they think they do. The people who claim, “I really want to change” will cry those big effortless tears and make their own sob-story so unique. But around the corner is some justified defense for their actions, a simple twist of words that makes sense in their mind, a little bottle of distraction to numb good senses, a secret silent motto of I can do this myself.
Or they will make you the bad guy, you’re the one with the problem, your truthful words are unhelpful criticism, your help is just a nuisance, and you’ll be the one person they cut out from their life.
I’ve learned over and over that no one — I really mean no one — can handle rebuke. None of us are good at this, and you can add me to that list. The second you tell someone the truth about themselves, it’s very rare when you see humility, conviction, and repentance. It’s either a total emotional meltdown full of self-guilt-tripping despair (no matter how nice you were in your rebuke), or it’s an insane explosion of throwing-things, kicking-doors, punching-walls, and all sorts of childish temper tantrums.
People are comfortable with the lies they’re living in. Ripping the roof off the lie is a dangerous move, like getting near the den of a bear. I keep saying the phrase, “You know you’re better than this.” But the more they keep doing that stupid thing and believing that dumb lie, the less this is true. We eventually become the lie we’re living.
As I’ve heard before, when you confront a friend: you’ll either get Real Grown Folks Time or Senseless Drama. It is now the minority exception to see grown-ups working together to work through real issues. People would rather deny their sin all the way to Hell by paying the price of their own souls. Satan is cracking up at us. I’m just grieved, tired, and jaded. I wish I wasn’t.
I would like to be gracious every time, the patient pastor who listens and nods and understands, the dude anyone can talk to. At times, I am, by the good grace of God. But most times I want to grab someone by the face, shake them half to death, and yell, “Stop it man, just shut up and stop.” I’ve done almost that a few times, and it worked for a little while, but shame never really changes anyone. It’s a short-term band-aid for a deep soul-wound.
It’s a serious calling to be the guy who unravels the lie and tells the hard truth. It demands your whole life.
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