My soul is broken. I’m not sure how else to describe it. It’s taken me time to recognize this and I’m still discovering how I got here. Today, I am on my way to healing. But I have a long way to go. It is in this time I meditate on the goodness and kindness of God knowing that his burden is easy and his yoke is light.
For years in seminary, I pressed for high academics, thorough research, and high grades. This drove me to exhaustion. In the middle of all that, my research revealed to me the history of abuse that my Fundamentalist culture had inflicted on people. The list is long. Sexual, racial, emotional, and physical abuse are just some of them retained in the system. I hasten to clarify that not everyone in fundamentalism abuses people. But the culture is one that tolerates it. And I became disillusioned with the culture I grew up in.
I struggle with anger against my roots some days. Quite frankly, the bill of goods that I was taught and caught was a partial truth designed to prop up fundamentalist culture. Under this facade was lurking evil. But not only was it covered over, but in some cases the evil was justified. The cover up and justification of sin in the system angers me. Some of my anger is justified. Some is not. But it still flows through me from time to time.
A more insidious anger is my struggling anger towards God. Most days I’m in good dialogue with God. But I have some days where I really struggle. My calling and giftedness is where I struggle most.
God has granted to me the gift of academics. I can explore theological and exegetical concepts on a deeper level than most. I can have my cellphone read to me a dissertation or monograph from an internationally renowned scholar. I can follow the argument, explore the train of thought, interact mentally with the author, and then file it away for more detailed research in the future—all while working construction.
Yet, here I am. Stuck in a construction job with no real hope of exodus. I probably have more degrees than anyone on most job sites. And yet I’m stuck explaining how to connect the green wires together in a junction box to my apprentice.
I wake up every day with the choice to be angry at God. Most days, I pray, and find my comfort in him. Other days, I just remain angry. Deep inside, I know I should trust him and not be angry. But the struggle is real some days.
I also get extremely depressed. My mind constantly is reminding for me all my failures: from when I gave the wrong answer to a question back in 4H Club, to my recent cage stage fights I’ve had over soteriology.
Depression is like a darkness that grows from within me. A fog that blinds me. I start thinking I’m the worst of the worst, the brunt of all jokes, and the greatest fool of all men. I think that everyone hates me and is ready to cast me out. And that my life is meaningless.
Anger and depression produced in me bitterness—that settled state of discontent and despair. And it is in this state that God came and in a way fulfilled these words: “Comfort; comfort my people.”
Comfort from the Loving God
One immediate comfort is that God skips the people “who have it all together” and comes to those whose soul is broken.
Thus says Yahweh: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is the footstool for my feet. Where is this house that you would build for me? And where is this resting place for me?And my hand has made all these things, and all these came to be,” declares Yahweh, “but I look to this one: to the humble and the contrite of spirit and the one frightened at my word.”Isaiah 66:1-2 (LEB, throughout)
The word contrite comes from the idea of maimed. God comes to those whose spirit is maimed—whose spirit is broken. The creator of the universe whose power is so vast it cannot be measured comes to those who are broken.
He will not break a broken reed, and he not will extinguish a dim wick. He will bring justice forth in faithfulness.Isaiah 42:5
I was born into sin and brokenness, I have received sin and brokenness against me, I have sinned and broken myself. And in the hours I need him—In my most bitter, depressed, angry hours—somehow he’s ready to hear. He doesn’t come with judgement. He doesn’t come to tell me to buck up. No. He comes to bring forth justice on my behalf because he is faithful.
Another comfort that God directs at me is to reaffirm my calling. This is a mystical experience which is hard to describe. But he reminds me of the moment he called me into the ministry. He tells me of my ordination. And he says to me that he has a plan.
I object. I point out my failings and failure; my immaturity and instability; and my gracelessness and divisiveness. I remind him that I am utterly unworthy of his calling. He listens. He doesn’t deride or chasten. And then when my complaints are done he speaks. Somehow after every time I tell him that I quit, he moves a preacher to discuss John 21 where he restored Peter to ministry. God takes those words and says to me: “Feed my sheep.” “But Lord, look at me. I am broken.” “Feed my sheep.” “But Lord, look at me. My anger has deformed my relationships.” “Have you not sought forgiveness? You are forgiven. Feed my sheep.”
I don’t know if God will ever give me a congregation to feed. But I can feed my family, my friends, and my followers. So, what little I can do, I will try.
Another comfort he gives me is in my relationships. He gave me an incredible wife who has stuck with me through it all. Not all have had this privilege. He’s given me two energetic boys who are my pride and joy. And he’s given me friends who’ve saved my life by drinking coffee, eating lunch, reading a book, and simply being together.
He gave me medical supplements that have balanced my mind and emotions. He’s given me rest. He’s helped me find contentment at work, even though it is not in my educational experience.
Where I am Today
I still feel broken. But I am on my way to healing. I can say at this moment that I am content with my lot in life. It’s not what I wanted. But God has granted me a measure of peace.
I am trying to engage in serious introspection. I am listening to books on abuse, emotional disorders, and spiritual formation in order to know how I got to where I am. I need to know how to find my forgiveness in Christ, embrace it, release the shame I feel all the time, and love people once again.
And in the end, I am living out my sworn loyalty to Christ. It looks different day to day. But I am trying too. By God’s grace I shall.