A Bruised Heart Full of Sprap

sprap = spam + crap

Bruised Heart

My heart is bruised. It has a specific cause rooted in the actions of others. I thought I was fine; turns out, I’m not. It hit me as I stood in a church to sing:
      Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
      Holy, holy is He
      Sing a new song to Him who sits on
      Heaven’s mercy seat
In the past when I sang this, I could always recall a new work I’d seen God do that week. I’d think about it and effortlessly praise Him with a ‘new song’—but not this time. I felt flat and disconnected. I couldn’t sing…but the song kept going. I couldn’t sing, so I prayed. “Lord, all I can tell You is I’m aware my heart is bruised and I know it has nothing to do with You. I love You, but the hurt is making me numb.” I’m not sure what I expected God to do…but before I tell you what He did, let me unpack a little about a bruised heart.

“You’ve Got Bruised Mail”

See if you can relate to this: You’re going about your life. Over time, you become aware that truckloads of junk you know you didn’t ask for are getting deposited into your life-inbox. Feeling strong, you scroll through, select and ‘delete’ that junk. You don’t open it or look at it. Out of sight, out of mind, you think you’ve cleared it away. The next day, however, the crap reappears looking exactly the same. With irritation, you take a peek, but then quickly close and trash it all.  However, it won’t go away. Crazy as this sounds, the following day more junk just like it starts to infect your mind/heart-inbox because you made the fatal error of looking at something in that sprap.

SPRAP - Spam + Crap = unwanted junk deposited into our life-inbox

facepalm

You looked at the sprap, and now you can’t shake it. The ridiculously ugly content has gotten into your head and has bruised your heart.

 

What the sprap bruised your heart?

I know the nature of my sprap. Is yours within this list?

*Degrading words
*Family dysfunction
*Abandonment
*Being overlooked
*Made to feel inferior
*Betrayal
*Broken trust
*Abuse of power
*Death
*Addiction
*Deception
*Rejection
*Prayer that seems unanswered
*Low self-worth
*Your pride alienated others

The list of human-to-human ugliness is unending.  While it’s awful, God has the power to bring something beautiful from it. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph—who could put a check mark by most of the hurts on the above list–saw God’s mighty hand at the end of many bruising years. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Our bruises, too, have the power to help others if we’ll deal with our sprap and let the Holy Spirit begin the healing.

Healing a bruised heart
Some hearts are more than bruised, they’re broken. Healing may be a long process and require professional help before the pain can connect to God’s promised good.  Psalm 147:3 is a sustaining hope for the journey, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” My heart is saddened thinking of how uphill that path is for the deeply wounded because I’ve been there, too. What I can tell you is that those I’ve known who’ve opened their sprap and done the hard work to heal are some of the most interesting and dimensionally profound people I’ve met. Their ‘new songs’ are powerfully moving.

For me, God began healing this bruise on my heart in that worship service. When I couldn’t connect to singing a new song because my bruised heart was too numb, the Holy Spirit met me there. As the music played, I suddenly had this understanding: You are singing Me a new song. This is the first time you’ve sang to Me with a bruised heart. This is a new song and now you know what it sounds like. I receive your praise in this new song. That assurance was the beginning of my bruise fading; but it’s just the beginning.

His love gives us courage to keep moving toward healing. That’s my new song. I’m praying for all who read this—whether bruised, broken or healed. May a new song rise up and may that song point people to God’s love.

 

Breastplate Covering Exposes Light! – Armor Up Part 5

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…Ephesians 6:14.

definition of breastplate, righteousness

Typically, if something is covered, it’s in darkness. However, in a holy-flip-move, God’s breastplate of righteousness is in place so that its covering produces light. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to share what happens if we don’t have this armor in place.

OUR DARK SECRET PLACE

Cathy Ncube

Take off the ARMOR OF GOD!
   Remove the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!                 
     Throw away the SHIELD OF FAITH!  
         Forget the TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD!

Let’s do what we want to do
        in our dark secret world,
           at our dark secret place,
               at our own selfish pace.

Let’s make our own choices.
Let’s listen to our own voices.     

Let’s act by the power of
    OUR might.
It doesn’t have to be right.
Let’s do it anyway.
Let’s go astray.

And when we leave that darkness and
   face family and friends,
They’ll never know about our dark place    or of our dark secret sins.

We will not worry about the
         consequences.
We are fully protected by
         Satan’s fences.

And if we die in our
    sinful state,
Hell has an open gate.
Our “hearts” are the spiritual part of us that connect to the world. What we intake becomes what influences us. Out of the overflow, our hearts flex and we output words and actions. These demonstrate what we believe and value to those around us. If our hearts are not covered by God and His ways, darkness resides in the place of light. It’s often a slow fade, but it starts with the word “no”.

CRACK IN THE BREASTPLATE

crack in armor

At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through.1  These are the most deceptive of moments because they often feel good. It’s easy to think that ‘this’ is a good thing—especially if it is relieving pain, loneliness or hurt. If the breastplate of God’s righteousness is not in place, we may even think that ‘its’ arrival is a light to pierce a dark season of our soul. The guiding question we need to ask ourselves is this: Does what I’m doing align with God’s Word? If not, it’s not from God.

It can be tricky, but remember:

…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

God, on the other hand:

God is pure light, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins. If we go around bragging, “We have no sin,” then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done. 1 John 1:5-9

BREASTPLATE IN PLACE

If we’ve left our hearts exposed and darkness has taken up residence, God stands ready to help set our breastplate of righteousness in place.

Check out this sermon illustration I recently heard:

Imagine you bought a house. You have all new furniture loaded on a moving truck and you’re ready to move in. On a dark evening, you drive over to the new house to start setting some furniture in place. The key works and, in a minute, you’re in. Walking to the first room, you flip on a switch and, unbelievably, you see the former person’s furniture is still there! Your shoulders droop because you had hoped to get started right away setting up your new life. Now, you see there is unexpected work to do. Before the new furniture can get moved in, the old is going to have to go. Overwhelmed, you know you’re going to need help…and a Helper arrives. This is the Holy Spirit coming to do the heavy lifting. He walks you through the darkened rooms of your heart and shows you what needs to go so the new can come in. He doesn’t leave you to do it alone, He is there to do the work in you. As soon as you’ve partnered to clear out one room, the Lord tenderly puts His arm around your shoulder and says, “Now: Let’s walk to the next one.” Chris Malone @ChrisMMalone

May God’s breastplate of righteousness cover us so well that His light cleans our rooms and shines from our hearts.

 

1GotQuestions.org. “What is the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)?” GotQuestions.org. N.p., 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017. <https://www.gotquestions.org/breastplate-of-righteousness.html>.

 

The Grace and Truth Tightrope

truth in love tightrope of grace

 

tightrope between grace and truth

When does a tightrope walker think, “…Point A to Point B on a skinny rope strung between high towers? Sign.me.up.”? Probably after observing someone do it well—someone who made it appear an attractive, thrilling adventure.

Our lives are a balancing act. We walk the Tightrope of Tasks and the Rope of Relationships. If we take a misstep along either, we lose equilibrium. We flail and try to regain control. In the meantime, we attempt to stay upright as we hyper-focus on not crashing.

Some tightropes are short and only affect the moment. Others, though…others are lengthy and have long term effects. One lengthy tightrope caught my attention this week—the tightrope between grace and truth.

Tightropes too tense

It seems that in the Christian community (and I realize I paint with broad strokes here), when a person commits a sin, he/she is met with a lot of truth. It’s as though the community absorbs the sin and puts their collective head down. They force the one who committed the sin to drop his head in a sort of community-imposed, “Look at what you’ve done.” The focus is on the one who made the mistake. The way that person is received causes him to center on himself. Truth, truth, truth pounding—even when it’s God’s truth—throws a hurting person off balance. The tightrope he’s walking? It should be a twine woven of love. However, if the community heaps condemnation—whether openly admitted or secretly harbored—the twine starts snapping under the walker’s weakened feet. It doesn’t feel like love. Yet…

truth in love, tightrope
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:15

…it should.

Tightropes gone slack        

On the flip side, I recently soaked in an atmosphere that caused me to consider the imbalance of grace without truth.

Scene: A hipster coffee shop in East Nashville
Characters:

  • Me: computer and caffeine at the ready
  • Baristas: long-haired, tattooed, relaxed, open, in their zone
  • Customers: Hipster moms and dads, college students, bearded/tattooed/funky hair/lots of metal in body parts/all holding cell phones/most seemingly relaxed and in their zone

As I watched the baristas interact with their new and regular customers, my pastor/writer’s mind started speculating. Let’s assume—not with any judgment, but simply for the sake of assuming—that most of the folks in the coffee shop were not Christians. Here’s what got me. Take that hurting tightrope walker from the above scenario. If that guy were to come and share that same sin with this group, he’d find acceptance. Because there is no scriptural truth on which non-believers base their lives, the kinds of things that wig out Christians don’t hit their radar as an issue. If the hurting person shared how condemned he felt by the Christian community, he wouldn’t find that here. Instead, he’d find acceptance and “grace”. The tightrope under his feet would strengthen by the non-judgmental love this community extended. Their grace may be the very thing that causes him to walk away from Christians all together.

However, this twine becomes ensnaring. Because God’s truth is not part of the life-conversation, the feeling is…well Dori comes to mind with the message…

just keep sinning

…“Just keep sinning, sinning, sinning, sinning”. He’ll be stuck in that spot on the tightrope. It’s loving, but it’s a deceptive encouragement.

Tightropes that go the distance

After someone has messed up and we have the privilege to walk with him on the tightrope between grace and truth, let’s take our cues from this:

  1. Have a vision of “Point B”: Point B is where this hurting person will emerge after coming through their mess. Is the goal of Point B to rub his nose in his sin or is it to see him stronger in his relationship with the Lord? Knowing the end goal shapes how we interact with him today…because today is prayerfully one step closer to Point B. It also prevents us from reacting in ways that cause him to turn around and give up even trying to do the walk. Our actions should help restore the hurting person without us putting ourselves in the judgment seat. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
  2. Check your twine: Are you laying down “love” as the encouraging pathway out of the mess? If love leads, the hurting person can receive truth that will be life-giving as they journey. The encouragement to suffering friends is to “Just keep swimming” away from the mess and to know that your love is there for them. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) …but the greatest of these is love.
  3. Lean on the grace you’ve received: It’s disappointing when people let us down. Hmm…with 7+ billion people on the planet, I wonder how frequently God says that. We let Him down often, but we never want His grace to fail or flee from us. The more we feel His grace, the more we want to live a life that pleases Him. That’s the beauty of God-ordained grace and truth. Let God be God in other people’s messes. (2 Corinthians 12:9) But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

 

Tightrope between grace and truth

I have struggled with this tension between grace and truth, so I write to you and to me.  Here’s what I know: I want to be a person who powerfully navigates the tightropes of my life so others see that walking with Jesus is an attractive and thrilling adventure. I want to be a person who encourages others on their tightropes to look up, see the truth in God-Point B and know they are walking toward it with my love under their feet.

What tightrope are you navigating? I pray you are feeling God’s grace from His people. I pray His people are speaking truth, but only after loving you well. If you aren’t experiencing that, don’t give up on God, but find Christians who get it. There’s nothing like hearing grace-filled truth because it will lead you to deeper experiences of God’s love.