Friday, May 11, 2012

Obama Takes Brokenness to the Bank




“This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, (Michelle) you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others.” -- President Barack Obama , announcing his personal support, as a Christian, for the legalization of gay marriage.

"God is the author of marriage, and we will not let an activist politician like Barack Obama who is beholden to gay marriage activists for campaign financing to turn marriage into something political that can be redefined according to presidential whim." -- Brian Brown, President, National Organization for Marriage, disagreeing with the president.

“I cannot stress this enough to you, but I'll still say it: I'll never be Christian. I think your Bible is nothing more than a piece of literature. I don't believe in your God, and never will.  But I will criticize you when you use your God to "fix" homosexuality, as if it were something to be fixed.” --- An anonymous young friend, tired of it all.

Oh, brother.

Or . . . oh, God?  Yes, He's listening. 

It is confusing enough for people who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction in the cultural soup in which we all marinate.  Now we have to weigh the opinion of a misguided president trading gay hopes for hoped-for votes . . . against a God who actually cares what happens to us beyond election day. Hmmm . . . the wisdom of the creator or the babblings of the great distracter? As always . . . we get to choose.

Don’t get distracted by the cultural-dabbler-in-chief. It may play well in Hollywood, but not so much in the hearts of those who love God. One man’s opinion is, after all . . . one man’s opinion. One man’s soul is one man’s soul. The bottom line is that President Obama’s opinion on this issue is worthless to the man or woman whose soul longs for God. Dismiss Obama’s words as the self-serving pitch they are and continue moving forward, putting it in the same category with all the other distracting justifications you’ve discarded in your search for wholeness. Don’t even pause.

Greater men than President Obama have trivialized the Word of God, or even usurped it, for personal gain. It happens in the pulpit by timid, tepid preachers and it can certainly happen in the White House by vote-hungry presidents. That’s why it is so important to know the truth for yourself so you are not misled by those who place little value on it.

Yes, I know it would be nice to be healed by presidential proclamation, but that doesn’t happen. God heals. Barack is not God. Of course, Obama is appealing to those who do not see a need for healing, nor, if Obama has his way, will they ever. That’s not his concern; re-election is. Truth is on the auction block for the highest donor. While Obama contends the expression of his support for same-sex marriage is a reflection of his faith, it is more likely an act of turning supposed compassion into campaign cash. It's no surprise he followed his pronouncement by jetting to a party in Hollywood at George Clooney's home, where he raised $15 million over dinner. The president's message plays wildly in the land of illusion.

Meanwhile, in the land of reality, we realize that people who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction, or pornography, or heterosexual lust and adultery are sexually broken.

People are broken.

All.

In some way.

Recognizing brokenness is anticipation for wholeness. We can dismiss it, dwell on it, or deal with it.

I have broken only two bones in my lifetime.  A wrist and a rib. The result of each was an increase in pain, a decrease in mobility and a denied sense of helplessness during a time of adjustment and healing. I still have the wrist and the rib and they both work just fine now.


I didn't decide to break my wrist. I didn't plan to break a rib. Absent of decisions or plans, they still broke.  And the rest of me?  It compensated, covered the effects of each break, rose to the occasion, took up the slack, pretended all was well.  


I wasn't doing anything wrong, either time. The wrist, in fact, sacrificed itself in an effort to keep me from tumbling further on the hills and landscape rocks in our backyard as I was weed-eating in preparation for my daughter's birthday party. It backed up the efforts of the palm, which threw itself down in a sacrificial act of protection. Snap, crackle, pop . . . . swell up, stop bending and retreat on a wrist R&R.


In my stubbornness, it took me several hours to grasp that the hand extending from the wrist had no grasp.  "I guess it's broken."


The rib?  Talk about a bone with a mind of its own.  It snapped in a concerted resistance effort against self-improvement.  I was suspended between two weight benches, ankles on one, hands on the other, lifting myself up and down almost effortlessly (yeah . . . ) when all of a sudden it felt as if my workout partner had amused himself by slamming my rib cage with a sledgehammer. 


"Who did that?" I exclaimed, lowering myself to the floor between the benches.


The rib was silent . . . and everyone else just paused and resumed working out. Standing up was torture; breathing was like ingesting needles. My usual self-medication -- denial -- ran in with a rush of adrenaline and I said, as I would do if run over by a road-grader:  "I'm fine."


In about six weeks, I could say "I'm fine," with a straight face, not a grimace of pain.


I guess it really was broken.


Brokenness is usually pretty obvious. A wrist that won't bend; a rib that feels like a blade in your lungs. A bulb that shines no light. A tree limb laying in the yard. A glass in pieces on a hard tile floor. The solutions are usually obvious too: screw in a new bulb; fetch the ax; sweep the floor. The light continues; you have some firewood; your bare feet are safe.  We respond and tidy up and move on.


But what about sexual brokenness?


Well . . . we tend to respond . . . tidy up . . . and move on.  The response can be a muted "oh" or a shocked "Oh . . . my God!."  Tidying up ranges from a-pat-on-the-back-and-a-passing-prayer to a dictatorial list of dos-and-don'ts delivered by a spiritual watchdog dutifully recording progress on a report card, marking pass or fail.  Moving on can be as beautiful as a bless you and an arm around the shoulder as we go together . . . or a disdaining look of disturbed incredulity that becomes a never-knew-you-never-will insistence in denial, a multi-directional scattering to put as much distance between thee and me as possible.


We be movin' on . . . us . . . the unbroken. 


Adios . . . amigos?


There are those who hang close and respond with what they hope will be comforting words: "you'll be fine."  Is that somehow expected to be more comforting than our own well-worn, oft-mis-proved "I'll be fine?"  Trite answers are convenient, but not compassionate.  How about a more honest one: "Yes, you are broken. Like me. But you don't have to be. Me either."


Fortunately for us, we're not a cold, indifferent piece of glass that slips off the edge of a counter and smashes into a million pieces, lacking even the wherewithal to ask for "a little help here, please?"  We're not a tree limb looking dumbly up at the tree with an "I've fallen and I can't get up" plea. And we're not a spent bulb.  We're a dimmer light, perhaps, than we want to be . . . but we are not without the opportunity to shine again.


I'm broken.  Wondrously made we are, with many parts, in need of constant maintenance. Are you a liar? Do you gossip? Do you have a heart of stone when you see the needs of others? Do you lust? Speak profanity? Feast your senses on pornography? Neglect the homeless? Commit adultery? Withhold forgiveness? Are you greedy? Have you turned your back on your mother and father . . . as in not honoring them?  Do you fill your mind with impure thoughts and reject Scripture? Neglect to worship? Feed your pride? Boast a bit?


Yep . . . you're broken.  Let me count the ways. Of course, counting your sins and ignoring mine would certainly be a sign of . . . brokenness.


So why do some of the sexually-broken take such offense at the term?  Well, because some do not see themselves as broken, this distinction being primarily one of faith. If we have faith and we believe God, we know what His Word says about sexuality, and if we go beyond that, we are broken. If we reject faith and believe what the world says about sexuality, we're not. Well, actually, we really are, but since we have no faith, we think we're not, which can seem oddly comforting and permanently condemning. For people in that position, perhaps it is better that they not consider themselves broken, for the world will not repair them. Why?


It's broken.


The world's embrace will not chase away the chill of emptiness for the soul who seeks through faith to be what God intended:  whole.


God gave us "The Word," but we have come up with so many more. We live in interpretive-Babel, never sure in the first place that people mean what they say or even know what they are saying means. So, brokenness -- an acknowledgement that we need God's healing -- becomes instead synonymous with no-goodness, and when we hear it spoken of us by others, we see the broom sweeping up the shattered glass for the trash. How dare you? I'm not that broken.


I am broken.  Thank God.  The result of which has been an increase in pain, a decrease in mobility and a denied sense of helplessness during a time of adjustment and healing.  Not so different than the twisted wrist and the fractured rib. No one could really see those either. On the day I broke the wrist, I made it all the way through my daughter's party without saying a word.  On the day I cracked the rib, I finished the workout.  We compensate for our brokenness until we cannot bear the pain or we cannot walk the walk of wholeness.


But God restores, repairs, redeems and returns me to the shelf. He uses me.  Out of my brokenness, He builds something new. 


But . . . SEXUAL brokenness?  That sounds more like something just doesn't work, for which there are countless remedies and prescriptions. Or have you not watched television or opened your spam e-mail?


What is sexual brokenness? It is any expression of sexuality that is not what God intended. After all, remember, He looked at everything He had made and said "it was good." The path from the garden was clearly a steady decline, swiftly descending from uncomfortable nakedness to homosexuality, pornography, heterosexual sexual addiction, lust, adultery, idolatry . . . and more. That's brokenness.  That's sin. And it is not good.


Maybe we don't like the brokenness terminology because we're so accustomed to discarding broken things. In the spring time, if you drive through the neighborhoods, you see cabinets and bookshelves and chairs and lamps and TVs, perched along the curb with signs:  "take me," or "free."  Why? Usually because they're broken.  Someone picks them up and fixes them and they live on in their inanimate way.


But that's the world.  The world eventually discards everything.


In God's view, brokenness is hopefulness. A broken heart, for instance, is the centerpiece for healing. Hearts are made brand new. A broken spirit soars to greater strength when healed. It is in our brokenness that we turn to Him and He responds. 


My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. -- Psalm 51:17


So, make a sacrifice. Certainly give God your best . . . and certainly give God your brokenness. He knows what it is; He knows what it means; He knows what it's costing you; He knows what to do. He knows you.


Whether we are the president of the
United States or just a little presence in a little place there placed by God, that God, in His kindness, reveals to us our brokenness, which brings to us our tears of repentance, which drop to soften the hardened soil of our life in which he plants his new seeds and healing grows.


Brokenness and blessedness. They both begin with "B." As does Barack, a fact which is, of course, merely a distraction. 



We can take brokenness to the bank, or we can take it to the altar.


God Bless,


Thom



(Looking for more information on how to share the truth with compassion for those struggling with sexual brokenness? Purchase a copy of "Who Told You You Were Naked?" The Counterfeit Compassion of Culture on Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.)


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