My typical reaction to reading, watching, or hearing something I don’t like, especially when it angers me, is to be sarcastic, snarky, condescending. So when I read Todd Wilken’s article on Issues, Etc. titled “Personal Brokenness” (read here if you feel led to), that’s exactly how I wanted to react. I started writing something sarcastic. Then I got distracted and didn’t finish it.
Essentially, Wilken’s article labels our claims of personal brokenness as a fad. We put our brokenness out there to draw attention to ourselves rather than the Gospel.
Certainly, Wilken is right when he says that “while everyone is equally sinful, not everyone’s life is equally messed up by their sin. Many Christians, sinners that they are, don’t throw their marriages, families and careers into ruin. They manage, by God’s grace, to avoid some of the worst consequences of their sin.” (Wilken, Todd. “Personal Brokenness.” Issues, Etc. Journal, Fall 2018: 3-11).
Somehow, I have managed to stay married to the same woman (who should qualify for sainthood) for almost 30 years. I do not deserve this life I have with her, but I sure as hell am thankful for it.
It was these couple paragraphs that really bothered me, though: “if brokenness comes in degrees, and if the degree of your brokenness determines your comprehension of God’s mercy, then the more broken you are, the more mercy you comprehend. Again, this is the problem with Personal Brokenness. It creates two classes of Christians: those who really comprehend God’s mercy because their lives are a train wreck, and those who don’t fully comprehend God’s mercy because their lives aren’t. The former “get’ the Gospel, the latter don’t.” (Wilken 2018)
I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve been around many folks in my life who haven’t (at least admittedly) dealt with sin that’s cost them marriages, careers, friendships, etc., but they understand that every day is a new mercy from God. But just as many people in my life proclaim thankfulness at God’s mercy because of sinful things they have done.
My personal thought on this article is that Wilken, or someone in his circles felt it was (yet again) time to attack Tullian Tchividjian, Chad Bird (indirectly through referencing Dominick Santore’s blog post on Christ Hold Fast), and the 1517 and Christ Hold Fast organizations.
I don’t know Wilken. I wonder how he’d handle someone like me in his congregation. While my issues with same-sex attraction are no longer an issue, they were when I started attending my LCMS church. I’m still quite medicated to keep my mental state in check, I swear a lot, often drink way too much, and I get angry way too easily. Should I keep these issues to myself? Should I believe that the fact that I nearly walked out on my wife and kids to discover the other side of me something to be hidden? Should I hide the fact that less than four months ago, I was hospitalized because I narrowly averted a suicide attempt?
My answer is NO. I will not be silent. If you’ve had similar issues, and feel God leading you to share your story, more power to you. My telling of what God has brought me through is not for me. It’s telling people that Christ did this for me, and He can and will do things for you too. Not exactly the same things, but He will let you know what those things are.
So, Pastor Wilken…my brokenness is not for me to grab attention. I don’t like attention. I’m an introvert. If I had my choice, I’d never leave the house. But God did this great thing for me. He gave me a story that I don’t necessarily want to tell, but He’s opened the doors for me to tell it.