The last three years have been an exercise in me falling apart.
All the things I found my significance and identity in – pastoral ministry, friends, church, town – have been stripped away. I’m increasingly realizing that I’m a pretty sinful, broken, totally messed up person. I bleed pride and cynicism and selfishness. Instead of gravitating toward encouragement, I instinctively move toward criticism. I absolutely suck at empathy.
You know that phrase, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us”? Yeah. That pretty much describes my life.
Why am I telling you this? Is this my way of getting you to say, “There, there. You’re as not as bad as all that,”? Is this some sort of epic self-pity hoedown?
It turns out that it’s actually a beautiful thing to fall apart.
Don’t get me wrong. It really, really hurts.
But the more I fall apart, the more I realize that Jesus is all I’ve got.
I can’t cling to any sort of ministry identity.
I can’t fall back on the security of a church or town that I know well.
And I really can’t fall back on any sort of goodness or morality in me. That idea is truly laughable. If you saw the depravity that courses through my veins, you’d laugh too.
So what’s left?
Jesus. Only Jesus.
Jesus is my identity. I am in him. Bought by his death, empowered by his risen life, my identity is not found in what I do or achieve, but in who I belong to. I belong to Christ and am caught up in his story. His victory. His triumph. He doesn’t need me to succeed. He doesn’t need my hard work or my ministry or my gifts. I am a joyful slave in his triumphal procession.
Jesus is my security. I am an exile without a home, longing for my true home. While I travail this broken down, screwed up world, I don’t find my security in a place or group. My only true security is found in the Rock of Ages, the King of Kings, the one who is preparing a home for me. This isn’t some sort of Gnostic, anti-creation nonsense. This is simply recognizing that my deep longing for stability won’t be realized until Jesus makes all things new.
Jesus is my righteousness. The imputed righteousness of Christ is what allows me to fall apart. I don’t have to keep my act together. I don’t need to pretend I’m something I’m not. I can stare my sinfulness and the face without flinching. I can confidently call out with the tax collector, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” knowing that mercy is exactly what I’ll receive.
The more I fall apart, the more I realize Jesus is enough. The more I see my weakness, the more I see Christ’s strength. I think this is what Paul was getting at when he said:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities [Read: “falling apart”]. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV)
When I come to the end of myself, I find Jesus there.
Do you find yourself falling apart? Are you discovering that you’re worse than you thought and weaker than you imagined? Don’t run. Don’t hide.
It’s a beautiful thing to fall apart.
It turns out that when Jesus is all you’ve got, Jesus is all you need.