Several weeks ago, my wife Stacey and I got into a fight. It was over nearly nothing. But that we would get so sideways revealed much deeper sadness and disappointment had been lingering around for awhile. It was one of those ugly fights, flooding far beyond the banks of the stated issue. Blame is eventually cast for who ultimately should be held responsible for the Vietnam War or Africanized bees. Some arguments can be moved past by understanding, humility and good listening. This was not one of them. And in a twist of cruelly ironic humor, the next evening Stacey and I would be driving north to help lead a marriage retreat for our church…
Historically, there always seems to be a speaking commitment soon following our fights. I hate that. There are really only a few options when this happens. 1)-I can try to patch things up so that we can function at the event. 2)-I can suddenly get violently ill and not be able to attend the event. 3)-I can show up to the event and tell everyone we’re not doing well and would they mind breaking into groups of three for the weekend while we each go wander alone in the woods.
We went and in general terms I told the couples that we had a rough time the day before and were even now still fragile. It actually probably allowed the weekend to be even more meaningful. All the presenters did a great job and all the couples were vitally engaged and facing their marriage with great intentionality and humble dependence upon God’s grace and sovereign protection.
Slowly, upon our return, Stacey and I have been sorting out the sadness we can carry in our marriage. We love each other a lot and have a beautiful marriage. But we will hurt each other again…It got me to thinking…
Those of us trying to influence anyone else, trying to teach these truths of grace and trusting our identity in Christ-we want our lives to model what we’re sharing. So we can feel like phonies when we discover that our lives are sometimes as messy, broken and unfinished as those we’re asked to influence. I used to not know what to do with that reality. It always made me want to run off somewhere and make a living looking for beach glass. I did not want to even bluff like I could possibly own responsibility for teaching these life changing truths that hadn’t always changed me fast enough.
Now I’m older. And I’m realizing that such frailty, failure and futility is part of the very message we love so much. It is proclaiming that the magic doesn’t reside in John. It resides in Christ in John. And sometimes that is not an exact science. There are moments, many of them, when I can fully feel I am fused with Him, letting Him live through me, trusting Him to do mighty things in me. Then there are other times when I sincerely wonder if I even know God.
I will always display some measure of foolishness, pain and immaturity, because, well because, there is still foolishness, pain and immaturity in me! It will never nullify the veracity of “Christ in John Lynch”. I am fully righteous. I am fully fused with God Himself. I am fully a new creature. I am fully God’s adored, I have everything in me I need, I am a man unable to be condemned no matter what I get myself into…But I am still a kid. And I am not always yet willing to humbly trust God. There is still something in me that fights this health. And this new life is undoing stuff all the way back from the goofballs in my family line. Some of what I am living out will be better seen in my kids than me.
And if you catch me at any particular moment I may not look much healthier than someone without Christ. I can get just as loud or irrational as about anyone I know. But the magic continues on. God does His beauty. And Stacey, although she might not have admitted it that Thursday evening, is better and more authentically loved by me than 25 years ago. And so is everyone else I know, including my God.
It is imperative that we who carry this message, who dare take grace and identity into a religious culture of performance and self-willed sanctification, that we give ourselves the grace we promise to others. God is not ashamed, embarrassed or surprised by our junk. He just smiles, puts His arm around us and says something like, “Stick around kid. I’m growing you up from the inside out. I know what I’m doing and I’m proud to be doing it in you.”
John (for Bruce and Bill, the gang at Truefaced, and all who carry this message of hope)