• Dana L. Butler

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I sit here at my dining room table on a chilly, rainy late April afternoon. Two kids napping. Nearly finished mug of coffee.

And a blank WordPress page.

I’m trying to work up the nerve to write a different type of post than I usually write. Less story. More practical.

See, last night Stan and I tag-team-taught at our house church. This is an infrequent experience for us these days, as we’re not leading a house church/small group anymore – just members of one that’s led by our friends.

The post I wrote recently about inviting Jesus into my weak places — those ideas have been snowballing in both Stan’s and my hearts. Gradually increasing in size and momentum until — holy cow — our entire lives are being caught up in this transformative revelation.

So last night we shared with our house church and, somewhat surprisingly for me, what the Lord’s doing inside of me came out with some degree of clarity. I tend to have more confidence in my ability to write coherently than I do in my ability to speak coherently. But — praise Jesus — I think I made some sense.

So. Without further ado and hopefully without presenting truth in the form of a formula, I want to share with you on a more practical level how viewing my weakness as part of my offering to Jesus is changing my life.

As believers in Jesus, we all have areas in which we give mental assent to a particular truth or set of truths — perhaps even passionately — but our hearts persist in reacting to various situations as if we have no knowledge of that truth.

Classic example: my nervousness and fear around leading worship. I know better. I know I worship before the Lord, that His opinion of my worship is the only one that ultimately matters. But my nerves don’t seem to wanna get a clue.

Or pick any situation in which you know better in your head, but your emotional response refuses to line up with what you know.

This disconnect between head knowledge and heart transformation can be the absolute most frustrating thing in a Christian’s life.

Am I right? If you’re reading this, I bet you can think of a place or two in your own life where you cycle like this:

Struggle with sin/fear/weakness.

Read {AND/OR} hear from friend or Christian leader {AND/OR} remind yourself of Biblical truths that address your struggle.

Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and try to force your emotional response to begin to line up with said truth. (I might even go so far as to call this phase of the cycle, “fake it till ya make it.”)

Fail again. Struggle again. Cave to weakness again.

Then come the questions. In our frustration, we beat our own hearts black and blue. “C’mon, you know better than to act like this. You know the truth — why do you not live like it? Why are you still not changed?” And maybe we even question God: “Are you really committed to helping me grow?”

Cycle in this stuff long enough and it leads to cynicism. Disillusionment. Giving up.

What’s tumbling around inside my heart these days is the idea that apart from an intimate encounter with the Person of Truth, the knowledge of scriptural truth lacks transformative power in our lives.

We can know and know and know a truth in our heads, but until we deeply experience the heart of God around that truth, it doesn’t change us. And we sit around and wonder why we are perpetually unable to mature in certain areas.

My fear of people’s opinions. My need for human approval. These pockets of brokenness rear their heads over and over and over again in my life.

And somehow I’ve subtly absorbed this understanding that I need to “truth” my heart into wholeness. In my own strength.

So I take my heart’s undesirable reactions, my brokenness, my responses that don’t line up with my understanding of Biblical truth, and I chop them off.

“I’m gonna reject this emotion because it doesn’t line up with truth.”

“I’m gonna shut down my heart’s broken response to this or that situation because it doesn’t agree with scripture.”

“I’m gonna beat my heart with Biblical truth till I’m even more broken and bruised and confused than when I started out.”

Why is this not working!?

I get it. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). I get it that the old has gone; the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

But no matter how many times a day for how many decades I say that stuff to my heart, my thoughts still don’t seem to be captive and my reactions look much more like “old” than like “new.”

And in all of my desperate trying to change, what I’m actually doing is fragmenting myself. I’m cutting off my broken places, my “wrong” emotions, my sinful reactions, and I’m shoving them out of the way so I can bring a “holy” offering to God.

“Here, God! I’m chopping off all the places inside me that don’t line up with truth, and I’m bringing my not-broken, perfectly obedient heart before you! Aren’t you pleased?”

Um, no.

He’s actually not.

He’s grieved.

Why? Because my heart is now broken up into bits and pieces. Because I’m bringing an incomplete version of myself before Him.

Because in actuality, all my attempts to shove my brokenness out of the way so I can please Him? They translate to perfectionism. To self righteousness. To a refusal to trust God with my broken places. To a refusal to throw myself on the extravagance of the Gospel. I’m trying to “get righteous” without needing the righteousness Jesus purchased for me on the cross.

If I could scream one thing from the mountain tops, it’d be this: God doesn’t want us fragmenting and shutting down and shoving and chopping off bits and pieces of our hearts in order to be pleasing to Him. He wants all of us. In one piece. Broken limbs and gaps and weaknesses and all.

Does He want us to stay weak and broken? Possibly, for a season. Because the intimacy with Him that comes in surrendering our weakest places to His tenderness is so precious.

But does He ultimately want to move us toward wholeness? Absolutely. Does He want our freedom? Definitely. Does He want us to grow in surrender to His Lordship? To mature in our walk with Him? Certainly. To grow in our personal sanctification? For sure.

But that movement toward maturity, wholeness, and holiness is not something we can force by all our hacking off and shutting down and shutting up of our broken places.

Growth toward wholeness comes out of intimacy. Intimacy comes from trust. Trusting His love enough to bring our whole heart as our offering to Him. Weakness, fear, sin-struggles, and all. Experiencing His complete receiving and embracing of the entirety of us. Right now. Right here.

Knowledge of truth alone does not set me free.

But heart-encounter with the Person of Truth in my place of deep weakness? It’s where true transformation begins.

Now.

A final thought.

Please don’t jump to the opposite extreme and say, “well, if I can’t be whole till I intimately experience His heart in these places where I’m weak, then I’d better sit in a cave and wait for some kind of mystical experience with Him before I move forward in faith and obedience.”

Because that would be imbalanced. And I’d even venture a guess that your transformation and healing would never appear.

In the Bible, in almost every instance we see in which God heals someone, obedience is required. Look upon the brazen serpent. Go dip yourself 7 times in the Jordan River. Wash in the pool of Siloam.

God’s invitation to us is to step out in faith. To partner with Him. To obey, to minister, to lay our lives down. In His strength, not our own. To go about our everyday obedience, simultaneously carrying this prayer in our hearts — Form yourself here in my gaps, Jesus. Let me know you in my broken places. Make your strength perfect here where I am weakest.

And as we go about the business of making our whole life an offering to Him, we bring our weak, broken places as a vital piece of that offering. We choose obedience, and we press our weakness into His heart. We choose a lifestyle of worship, and we open up our raw places to His touch. We move forward in practical obedience, and we lean into Him instead of trying to “pull it together” in our own strength.

And yes, we take every thought captive. And yes, we believe the truth that the old has gone and the new has come. But we embrace those truths in His strength, out of that place of being enfolded, gathered, accepted, embraced by Him in our totality. Including our broken places. Including our struggles.

Truth is only transformative in the place of intimacy with, and utter acceptance by, the Person who is Truth.

Oh God.

Here I am. Take all of me. Receive my offering, my trust, my opening up of my rawest, weakest places. These gaps in my wholeness where I repeatedly fail.

Form yourself inside me, right. here. Walk beside me. And I’ll begin to be transformed.

And right here in my weakness, you will make me whole.

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