Rock Bottom

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There can be beauty in getting lost—being lost strips us, pares us down to the bone, shows us what is and isn’t relevant. So often we get distracted by our day to day routine, being lost breaks that routine, wakes us up and reminds us of what is and isn’t important.

 

When I am lost, I know I can trust that I am not on my path, not on my own agenda, and I am invited to wonder if God is showing me something I would never find on my own. Getting lost is the interruption of habitual not seeing. Discovering that you are lost, is the art of noticing things are not quite what they ought to be. It is the beginning of searching, of seeking. It is to be so involved in the moment that everything comes alive, everything seems to speak to you, to draw you into conversation and has some special, particular meaning for you. It is to look closer at each thing, seeking recognition and being aware of the unknown. Every bent twig or clump of grass has a suggestion, the right way, the wrong way, you’ve been here before; just as every repeated argument or turn of phrase suggests a habitual way of being, and the startling words you never expected to hear come out of your mouth suggests something new is being born in you. We so habitually repeat the same patterns, if it doesn’t work the first time we generally try harder, shout louder as if we could make it work if we just put more force into it, but what if we were to try something new?

 

I am a great advocate of getting lost, of losing oneself and forgoing familiarity. I love to drive through strange and new areas, and see what might lie out there just waiting to be discovered. I love to wander through the woods, off the trail, across streams, and find quiet, untouched places to sit and watch the wind blow through the trees. Each place is so common to those who live there, those who habitually inhabit it, but always new to the stranger, the wanderer, the lost. If we can trust that we never wander alone, that we will make it home eventually, then we can bravely get lost and in getting lost we discover so much more about ourselves, and we find a quiet spaciousness in which we can rest. We discover strength to lean on, patience to wait for the next thing, and we develop a watchful eye.

 

The freedom to be lost is the freedom to make mistakes, to dare great and amazing things knowing that even if we fail God will be there for us. God has our back, like any loving parent. This is our sustaining faith that allows us to explore, to learn, to embrace doubt and big questions, knowing that we don’t have to hold everything together. We don’t have to be self-sufficient. We can embrace our path, our journey, without hesitation. Being lost, making mistakes, does not have to be a fearful thing anymore. Doubt becomes a friend. Questions become friends.

 

Better to be lost and seeking

Here in this big bright world

Than confirmed and closeted in certainty

 

Better to be wondering

And filled with awe

That marvelous beginning of wisdom

Than confined to prescribed answers

And an anxious attempt to ace the next test

 

Better to be broken and disturbed

With a heart that aches to reach out

To connect, to share, to laugh and love again,

Than whole and complete,

Sufficient unto one’s self

Needing no one,

 

Better to be lost and broken than that.

 

We get to live from a place of ruthless, outrageous trust, because God has promised us that if we ever get lost, he will hunt for us with single-minded devotion, until he finds us. It means we get to acknowledge our flaws. We get to say I am both sinner and saint, broken, messed up, and still a beloved child of God. It means we get to face our flaws and our mistakes with gentleness and compassion and that we don’t pretend they aren’t there. We don’t have to be afraid that if we were really known, known through and through, that we would not be loved. You know that phrase right, “if they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me,” that fearful doubt that causes us to pull away from love, from relationship, from any attempt to connect. We get to say that we are fully known, all our mistakes, all our flaws, and we are deeply, truly loved and we get to be utterly shattered by this discovery, broken open, everything made new.

 

We get to say with raw humility that I mess up sometimes, I get angry, I get scared and I say things I don’t mean, or even sometimes I say and do things that are just straight up hurtful, but we get to walk into this darkness, this painful place with our eyes wide open and really see what is there, because however bad it is, and sometimes it is bad. Consider King David as he faces up to his act of coercing sex from a strange woman, sending her husband off to be killed, his desperate attempts to cover up what he has just done. Sometimes it is really bad, but it is never so bad, so dark, so lost, so painful, that God will not come looking for us with relentless devotion and love.

 

Let me say that again, we can hold all our flaws and mistakes under the bright light of scrutiny and never have to be afraid that it is so bad, so dark, so painful, so lost, that God will not come looking for us right in the midst of our lostness. This is the ruthless trust, the bold faith, that we claim.

 

It is not that we must dig out every wretched thing we have ever done and dwell on them, like picking at old wounds or striving to feel the pang of shame as some sort of dues we must pay before we can be loved. It is not that. Long before we even realize we are lost, God is looking for us. Long before we acknowledge our wrongdoing, our mistakes and slips, God is working to restore us to right relationship. We begin our worship service with confession not so that God can know we are sorry. God knows we are sorry and we suffer when we act hurtfully. It is that we can experience again and again that God’s love shines in every corner of our soul, even those places where we don’t really want to be seen, where it is hard to trust that anyone can look on us and still love us. We need to be reminded of that! Because it is not the way of the world, it is not our way. We draw lines and say this far and no further. We say he or she crossed a line and I’m just done. We say I just can’t bear it anymore. But God doesn’t.

 

We cannot heal what we will not acknowledge; old wounds denied and left to fester do not sit idle but spread their infection. They grow inside us and it’s painful. Pain that is not transformed, is transmitted. So much of the pain of this election season comes from the fragility we feel around our mistakes. We deny, deny, deny that we could have ever done anything wrong, because mistakes are deadly and the electorate does not forgive! So we have all these sound bites of people insisting they’ve never made any mistakes, but let me tell you about the other person. And the pain of their mistakes spreads,

 

The crowd to whom Jesus spoke was no different. They had to be perfect. They were the Pharisees and the scribes, those who had made it, who rested in certainties and who could not bear the thought of losing their security. Like a child learning to swim, they clung to what seemed firm and solid, clinging to each other, staying out of the deep water, but we were never meant to live that way. We were meant to swim into the deep waters, into the depths, into the wide open rivers, lakes and streams. We were meant to live not for security’s sake or certainty’s sake but for love, for connection with each other and with God, and that requires vulnerability and courage. So we can let go of the edge of the pool, or whatever image of security and certainty feels right to you, and risk being swept away.

 

I suspect that God loves us most dearly when we allow ourselves to fall back into God’s loving arms, trusting we will be caught. We tend to resist this. We hate our rock bottom places, those places which force us to acknowledge we don’t have it all together and we can’t control everything, as much as we would like to. Rock bottom is when we must accept that on our own, we can’t make it better and we have exhausted our resources and made our family crazy trying to do so.

We so habitually armor ourselves with projects, busyness, concrete certainties and I suspect that God loves us most dearly when all of these artificial constructs fall away, leaving our tender, vulnerable heart exposed, frightened, but exposed.

 

The Pharisees and scribes, those who had made it, had armored themselves against any potential loss or deficit, who had large bank accounts and silos full of grain, rock solid reputations and who appeared so invulnerable, find themselves outside the party, and there is always a party! How wonderful is that? When God finds us, there is a party! But like the prodigal’s brother in the pericope that follows on the heels of this one. In the courtyard, still armored and defended, because it’s just not right that the broken one, the rock bottom one, is met with such joyous, tender love, when it should be us! We should be the ones who are lauded and celebrated! We did everything right! How can you possibly wrap your arms around that loser? But God loves a loser and God loves the lost, the broken, those who are enduring the sifting and winnowing of the rock bottom places. God loves us and seeks us and will never let us go.

 

We can take courage and face our rock bottom places, our lost places, our inadequacies, letting our useless armor fall, rattling down in a heap, knowing that God is always seeking us. We can enter our rock bottom places, tears, frustration, despair, all of it, knowing that we are not alone.

 

No matter how hard we try, and generally we do, we can’t handle it all on our own and we aren’t above being lost, but knowing that God is seeking us the whole time, perhaps we can endure looking at our shadow, acknowledging that we aren’t without flaw, that we have said and done things that are hurtful, and let the Holy Wind of God, that Spirit which blows where it will, sift our being, winnow out the chaff and trust that what remains at the end of the day, is both holy and good, is dearly, dearly loved, and is so very precious in God’s sight.

 

We cannot heal what we will not acknowledge, pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted, and looking into the depths, letting go of our certainties can be terrifying, but Jesus tells us it’s okay. We can dare to be lost and we can be compassionate with ourselves and with others in the midst of that lostness and brokenness, because God is always seeking us.

 

 

 

 

 

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