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.

 

Today, I was overwhelmed.

But it isn’t what you think.

I awoke before 7:00 AM, on a weekend, ready to face the day. BEFORE 7:00 AM, ON A WEEKEND. I didn’t want to crawl back into bed.

Then I remembered that my Kindle was charged, so I decided to read a page from The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms. Day 12, by Cindy Koch: Don’t Ignore the Worm. It brought tears to my eyes. That’s something that hasn’t happened much lately.

Then, the praise songs at church. I knew them well, and sang (very quietly, because no one wants to hear that) with my eyes closed.

And finally, a sermon. “Be Done with Self-Reliance”, based on the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, Verses 1-5.

Reminders, one after another, of God’s unending love for me. The price that was paid on my behalf by Jesus, asking for nothing in return.

Overwhelmed is an understatement. I can’t even begin to fathom the depth of what I experienced this morning. All I know is that it’s too good to keep to myself.

Blessings!

There are men all around us who are broken. With some, it’s obvious. The homeless man living on the street…the man in the liquor store who smells as though he sweats out alcohol…the guy you see walking along the road to get to some destination you don’t know about.

But just like these examples we consider obvious, there are just as many we don’t see. It might be your doctor, burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. He is expected to be professional, well put together, and able to shoulder great responsibility. He gets up and reads scripture at his church. Everyone there thinks he has no problems. They don’t know he’s addicted to prescription painkillers.

Maybe it’s the blue collar worker. He started at the plant right out of high school, making decent money. Now, 25 years in, there is talk of the plant closing. His wife works part-time at a daycare. Their high-school age kids are talking college. At your church every Sunday, he is an usher, smiling at you as he hands you the offering plate. But the things that his family faces wear on him. That bottle that he used to take a sip from on occasion has become a crutch, with a few shots every evening.

Perhaps it’s the owner of the coffee shop where you stop every day before work. He just learned that yet another worker stole money from the cash register and had to fire her. She’s got a baby on the way, and he suspects she has a drug problem. He thinks back 15 years to when he got out of rehab and someone gave him a chance. He feels horrible, and on his way home, stops at the bar.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s your pastor. The man who brings you the Good News week after week. This week, he buried a long-time parishioner, counseled a young couple who are getting married in a few weeks, and is weary from his time as the volunteer chaplain at the local hospital. The man who is supposed to look to God for help in times of trouble, instead tells his wife that he’s not done with his sermon on Saturday night. She goes to bed, and he begins to look at pornography. After watching video after video, he looks up at the clock and it’s 1:00 AM. He drags himself to bed, knowing that when he delivers that sermon on Sunday morning, he’ll do so burdened with the shame of what he’s just done.

You know him. Maybe he’s one of these guys. Maybe he’s you. Your dad, your brother, your son. Putting on that smile, telling you he’s good when he’s really not.

Broken, living in shame. Fear that those around us will find out who we really are, and point their fingers and yell “fraud!”

Then, you hear about a group. A group unlike one you’ve ever heard of before. Just a bunch of regular guys from your church who you always thought had it all together. They’re starting to meet because they’re at wits end. Life has gotten stressful, and they just need a place to share their troubles.

That’s what The Beggar’s Bread is. Broken men sitting around a table, watching a video, praying, eating, and just sharing the things that they hope they can get through this week. No one letting on that they’ve magically conquered life, but instead letting you know that He loves you, and wants what is best for you.

Consider joining us next time we meet at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church at 851 Science Park Road, State College, PA. You don’t have to be Lutheran, or even a practicing Christian, but come expecting to be told about a Man who was broken for you.