Monday, July 9, 2012

Come Crying to Me


Eleven years ago I found myself face down in the gutter of a life I did not recognize. In truth, I didn't even ask for it. I didn't go looking for the trouble. I didn't understand it, didn't want it, couldn't walk away from it. The details are both hazy and razor sharp.

I chose the worst possible circumstance to abandon some of the control I had clutched until my fingers cramped. I came nose to nose with my own reality, my own heart, and denial was no longer an option. It got a little ugly.

So here I was, the Good Christian Girl who had never chosen wrong, and I was every way but right. Rebellion was intoxicating up until it was soul-asphyxiating.  The dust barely settled - just enough to see the outline of a wasted life - and I knew I needed help. I needed someone to tell me the truth about things, but mostly, I needed someone to hug me and promise not to stop until a little redemption came down.

I wracked my brain and cried in the shower for one person - just one - who would suspend judgment and help love me back to life.The first call I ended up making was to a dear friend who was in no way tied to a church. She told me to get my crap together, she reminded me she wasn't going away. It was the first little step on a long, long road.

I look back and see the evidence of my salvation written all over those darkest days. I see mercy. I see God street-fighting on my behalf. What I don't see is community. Maybe that's when church started to die for me; when, in my greatest need, I felt completely alone.

The blame is mostly mine. I chose to hide out. I had lived believing the lie that church was for good people who behaved. If you don't behave, you're not ready to be there. Of course we always said we knew we were sinners, but the church I knew was more comfortable with sins like gossip and gluttony, so I stayed away. 

What I know now is that there were plenty of people in my life who would have been exactly what I needed. The problem was, I was just as pre-conditioned as the next girl to feel a little smug in the face of sin. I couldn't bear the thought of sitting on the other side of that table. I had never been shown how to love a sister through the worst of herself, so how could they know? I wouldn't be the guinea pig.

I couldn't think of one single person of faith who had walked through a couple miles of crap and lived to tell. Not one.

What I know now is that there are many who walked a similar road, they just walked in silence. Like me. It's not an indictment on my friends, my family, my church. It's an indictment on every single one of us who pretends to have it all together when we're right on the edge of losing it. I had done it plenty of times before. I knew the drill.

We've taken an unsaid oath that once we are a Christian, we're done sinning. The problem with that is, well, the sin. It's still there. It's rapping at our windows and it's busting out the panes. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes, we make it easy and just open the door.

We live in shame, believing we're the only ones because not one of us wants to be the first to raise our hand. We struggle to locate the light, because there's no one there to help us find the switch. No one wants to defame the good name of the Church by admitting to being a human. The church likes aligning with Jesus for a long list of reasons, but mostly because he saved us. What about the everyday saving? 

The gritty stories are only acceptable when they come at the very beginning of the story, when they make for an exciting "conversion story". When the dirt flies in the middle, people get uncomfortable. No one knows how to deal.

Know what else happens? People outside the church take a look and know for sure that they don't belong. They know they can't run with us.  They don't have faith in our churchy answers and they feel our judgment even when we swear it isn't there. They see our masks and decide their odds are better going it alone. Because even if it all falls apart, at least they'll have their dignity.

So maybe there's one person out there who needs to hear this tonight. To you - to you - I say,  you were made for more than this mess you're in. I was right where you are, and grace is already holding out His hand. You cannot fix it on your own. You were never supposed to try. You are broken and so am I, but when we claw through life together, we're a little more whole. God uses mangy old you and me to spread His love around. Isn't that something?

I don't ever expect you to be perfect. I don't really trust you if you pretend to always be right.  I'm honored to be present for your failures, because I know first-hand that you'll never be the same. It's mad science, the way our greatest ugliness becomes the very thing that propels us further to beauty.  It's redemption, and it's not found in a certain building on a certain day. It's not found in theology or ritual. It's not buried beneath a pile of works.

It's found when we see that our only hope and all our promise is in Him.

It's waiting. For both of us.

60 comments:

  1. Oh how I love this, such beautiful truth! I'm taking a minute to pray for...ALL of us right now :) Nite Shannan!

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  2. Oh how you wreck me, in so many ways. You are one smart cookie. Fo sho

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  3. That living in shame? I know that life. And I happen to agree with every-single-word of yours.

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  4. How do you do that?

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  5. spoke right to my soul. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  6. Mine was closer to thirteen years ago. How I wish I had read this then! And when I finally decided God wasn't going to come looking for me (which He did, I just didn't recognize Him), I chose a church forty-five minutes away where I knew not a single solitary soul. I didn't want people judging me, certain they would take one look and know my guilt and shame, I definitely couldn't go to "my" church where I had been since I was three; no one would really want me (I felt). How sad that when the dust storm tears through, church is the last place we think of for comfort. Thankfully, I never felt like Jesus abandoned me; I just wasn't sure God was real (ponder that one!).

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  7. The beauty that He's making in you...that He's made...that He's not done making...it's so incredible! That same beauty He's making in all of us--through the painful ache and gut wrenching moments of our lives--it's what grace is all about. And love. And it's where He shows up most profoundly in all of our stories. It's truth lived out in the most perfect drama ever written. We couldn't write a better point-to-Him story if we tried. What He allows in our lives is for purpose. And I'm overwhelmed at this.

    Your truth-telling, my friend, it's what makes me really want to saddle up next to you and chat 'till we've run out of salsa...which, of course, wouldn't be long so we'd just go get some more. I *get you*. More than I can ever 'splane.

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  8. Thank you dear friend. I haven't read your blog in months but was drawn to it today. I am weeping as I read, so aware of and in the mire, I feel God "street fighting" for me and I so want to heal and extend his grace to others. Please pray for me today, it's going to be a tough one. Love you

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  9. amen. love the grace you share with the rest of us through your words.

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  10. wow. beautiful. HE is so GOOD! thank you.

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  11. " you were made for more than this mess you're in. I was right where you are, and grace is already holding out His hand. You cannot fix it on your own. You were never supposed to try."
    This is exactly what I needed to read right now, I'm going through a trying time I needed this reassurance even though I didn't know I was looking for it. Thank you.

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  12. It is comforting to know I am not alone in my muddled mess of sorting out who I am before God, out from under the mask of religious perfection. I needed to hear this today. Heading down the "right road" at a young and zealous age has found me in a place I never once imagined I'd be. Thanks for this post, Shannan.

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  13. I am new to your blog. What a sweet post. Our Lord's grace is truly sufficient. Thaanks for sharing your heart.
    blessings to you.

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  14. Magnificent post! I had almost given up on finding honesty and reality in organized religion until the Lord led us to a wonderful church. Not everyone there is open, of course, but our Sunday school class is the best therapy group I've been in! We're raw and open and bleeding and we love and share and support. I'm so thankful that the Lord has led me there. We know horrible, awful truths about each other and still we love and encourage and cry out to God. This is very rare in mainstream, organized religion but we have it in our church. It's the safe and loving place the Lord wanted us to find with each other. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share. The Lord is using your words for the healing of many. They are full of His grace.

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  15. Here-here and a huge "Amen, Sister"! I have learned that until we truly realize we are all sinners (Christ-followers or not), we cannot begin to fathom the huge-ness of His grace. It is when we find ourselves on our faces, having fallen in the middle of messes that we have created, that we learn this best... It is at this point we are ready to begin learning how to extend this grace to others, as we have tasted the sweetness of it ourselves.

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  16. I stumbled upon Romans 7 this week and it hit me in a new light. Especially starting in verse 15.

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  17. Polly and Katie...I'm praying for you today.

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    1. This, right here, just made me cry. This little community is so beautiful.

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    2. Thank you,I'm clinging to "He wouldn't put you through it if He couldn't get your through it." right now. I'll take prayers from anyone, anywhere, anytime.

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  18. and you know, God not only loves us in the middle of our piles of raw and smelly mess, He likes us. now, if we could practice liking one another. we could begin to show the world again...that He is good. and we could stop hiding from one another. time for the church to get outside of the church.

    loved your post so much, like a fresh cup of water.

    thank you for being brave and saying it out loud. <3

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  19. Love this because I have walked this road and to know I'm not the only one out there is comfort from Him. This was meant to be shared. Thanks!

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  20. Well said, Sister! I read your blog daily. Never commented, but this really touched me. Thankyou!

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  21. AMEN!! I left the church I had been part of for 30 years because when our "new normal" became the family of an active heroin addict and his repeated attempts at recovery, and our church family turned away from us as though we were contagious. One of the most painful experiences relationally that I have ever been through. Still working on forgiveness for a few key people I'm embarrassed to say!

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  22. I must see you and I will bring a box of tissue, because I want to cry to you about a new "project" I need some direction on. Its been stirring and I need help and when we go out on our "date", believe you me, I will unleash this beast that I have been thinking about!
    xoxo
    heather

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  23. This. This transparency and truth is magnetizing. I was searching today for blogs with beautiful headers to help with inspiration for the redesign of my blog, Mercy Found Me...and while I've never read your blog before I'm so glad to find it and this post you've written. Because 13 years ago I was broken and alone and in the middle of a shambled mess I had created. I was judged and rejected by my friends and full of guilt and shame and all alone. And we ARE more than the mess we are in. All IS grace and He IS enough and mercy found me in those broken moments, and I strive to write it to give others hope too. Thank you for your words and I'm so very glad to have found your blog! Blessings to you!!

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  24. I was about to start crying myself until our heat broke this Monday! Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,pa

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  25. I just love you to pieces Shannan!

    Keepin' it on the reals, Love that!!

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  26. Friend. Thank you. My crap is SO not together right now. In fact, life is downright messy. Thanks for the encouragement that church is for the broken, that Jesus came to save the sick, not the healthy, that community is part of his redemption plan. I know this in theory but on days like today, I appreciate the reminding.

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  27. Tell it like it is, girl.

    I have SO been there AND recall not feeling like I wanted to show all of my ugliness to the world.

    So much to say..but you've already done it so perfectly.

    Thanks for this and for your big, open heart!

    xo

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  28. Girl, you've been reading my mail....

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  29. I'm in the middle of waking up from my mess of a life. Fighting to keep my marriage together after cheating on my husband. Twice. Your words rang in my soul like the sound of the liberty bell. Thank you for being wiling to be an open Christian.

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  30. yep, all my hope pinned hard on Him.

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  31. I think this is an epidemic that plagues not only the church, but our culture in general. The FB statuses that say how great we're doing when we're not. Hiding in anonymity in large communities. Pretending to one of hundreds of cashiers at Wal-Mart that we're doing great, because we'll probably never see her again. It's probably always been this way, but it just seems easier to hide our true selves now than it was in, oh say, Mayberry.

    Will you still love me if I tell you part of me wants to just put on my mask and bring my casserole dish to the Sunday potluck and smile and nod at people who I pretend really know me? This truth telling feels a little bit like stirring up a hornet's nest. What if our bad really is so bad that the bottom falls right out? What if the truth, including (especially) my own, is more than I can handle? I admit that I really wanted to believe that my oath as an un-sinner would hold up...but the problem IS the sin. I can't handle the "dirt flying in the middle". I have trouble finding a place in my brain for it, always have. I say I'm ready for this freedom, but maybe I'm lying.

    "Redemption...isn't buried beneath a pile of works."

    Slay me, why don'tcha. Why does some part of my saved-since-the-cradle-good-girl brain wish it was? Like maybe I could just check a few things off my list and be okay. Why does the thought of earning it seem so much more concrete? And what in this world makes me think I have anything to bring to His feet that isn't filthy rags?

    I know this is a rambly comment. But my heart has been heavy lately. Denying all the bad feels easier. You're suggesting we just let it all hang out? That the bottom won't fall out? And if it does, He's enough? And if we're truly His body, we'll be enough for each other, too?

    This sounds a bit revolutionary, FPFG. Like the church Jesus is building...

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    1. ps, these questions are rhetorical. No pressure. haha!

      or

      LOL with LOL. ;)

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  32. Thank you for reminding me that we are here to love people. I think that between the "saved since the cradle" mindset and trying to be the "good Girl who always makes the right choice" a pioty has set in and when I turned around and realized I was standing in a river of my own ignored crap that I forgot how to love people for who they were and not just focus on the problems of the world and wish I wasn't here to see them. Feeling sorry for yourself is just as self aborbed as a prideful person who thinks he/she is "all that". Please help us Lord to (one step at a time) walk in YOUR love and mercy to show others YOUR light and life like a "City on a hill" (Matt. 5:14) ~ My thankful prayer request has been answered for good friends in the body of Christ to inspire, encourage and challenge me to press on toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ and get in my "boat" with me when I need some good "fellowship" (which is where that word came from BTW) Prayer is the key! We are stongest when we are on our Knees. Lets be the church Jesus wants HERE! Thx

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  33. So well said! I love this post!
    I've been down a few broken roads in my time and it hasn't always been easy to find a way to navigate things back on course without facing harsh judgement from the church. Not to say that I haven't also found a whole slew of loving, supportive Christians along the way. Life is messy. Sometimes we're the understanding ones, and sometimes WE need all of the understanding and love that we can find. And sometimes we just miss it and we don't see the times that we NEED desperately to just be that loving, supportive shoulder to hold up the person who's struggling to get back on track.
    Human nature is so fragile. Life is often confusing. Let's just hope that the longer we're on the road with Jesus, that we get it right more often than we get it wrong, and that we see clearly when we need to just offer love and kindness and not judge.
    Your words are so poignant and so very, very true. Thanks so much for this wonderful reminder of what the church is meant to be. We all need to have our focus sharpened from time to time.

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  34. You make me want to change and be different, and by "you" I mean that Godlight shining thru you!! Keep it up!

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  35. You don't know me, but boy do I feel like I know you! I tell my friends and co-workers about your blog as though I was telling them something a friend had just shared with me. God is working in you / through you and I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you listening to him and obeying! :) Your writing is beautiful and speaks to me with such ease! Thank you!

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  36. I love that he loves us when we're in our darkest hour...I love that he street fights on our behalf. I love that he has taught me and is still teaching me about community and authenticity and living in the truth that his power is made perfect in my weakness.

    my favorite thing you said other than the part about street fighting?

    "It's mad science, the way our greatest ugliness becomes the very thing that propels us further to beauty. It's redemption, and it's not found in a certain building on a certain day. It's not found in theology or ritual. It's not buried beneath a pile of works." YES AND AMEN SISTAH FROM ANOTHER MISTAH!!

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  37. Oh, to chuck the pretending and the masks and the fake and the judgement right out the window. Why do we choose to heap all that nasty on the Light? Who are we to even do that? I pray every day to not be a stumbling block to those who don't know Him. I'm a constant work in progress.

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  38. I love you. That's all.

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  39. Finally someone said it. Your raw honesty and gut wrenching store tells it all. We are all sinners who even if we call ourselves christian will mess up and feel too ugly to go to church or talk about it. Thanks for being a voice.

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  40. Shannon,you write from the heart and it's so beautiful..xx
    Please pop over to my blog,I'm having a giveaway..
    Something for your new home perhaps?..xxx

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  41. i love you
    i love you
    i love you

    you articulate everything that my heart feels
    thank you

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  42. Words that ring so true... may we all remove our masks and accept/love each other as we are--as God does for us!

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  43. This is so good! I don't even know what else to say. You've spoken much needed truth.

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  44. Thank you. thank you. so good to read this and feel like you know me. -Wendy

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  45. You have so many comments to this post I'm not sure how you can even get through them all, but this was so lovely. It's gritty and honest and reminds folks they aren't alone. I do wish we lived closer so I could invite you over for tea, but the blog world has a funny way of building community where you least expect it.

    Amanda B. Hill
    www.hillpen.com

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  46. thanks. you seem to utter truth and grace and humor all at once, and that is the very reason that i am so drawn to your blog here. and the cute pictures of kids and flowers. :)

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  47. Consider this printed and put on my wall. Every day saving, I need it like whoa. WHY DO WE DO THIS?! ah. Keeping so many people out... Jesus is so about the people who NEED Him as desperately as we all do. Since I just started knowing you, I have weeks/months of catch up to do -- get ready for comments dating back to what Jesus was teaching you circa 1996.

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