Would anyone like to share what God has shown them about themselves during this first week of fasting?
Fasting results in the awareness of our brokenness. As we remove from our lives the things we use to cover up our pain or to feed our gnawing, endless desire for pleasure, or distract us from thoughts and emotions we do not want to think and feel, we come face to face with who and how we truly our. We step out from behind our fortress, or wake up from our Netflix-induced stupor, and if we have replaced what we have given up for the fast with some extra time communing with God, we get a more realistic view of ourselves, those around us, and the situations we are facing.
What are some of the unexpected emotions or thoughts you have been feeling since the fast started?
God had me give up my nightly Netflix marathons. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are not spending countless hours at night watching Bones, or Gilmore Girls, or Midsomer Murders. The first night alone, all of my laundry was put away, and I read one of the kindle books I had bought but had not found the time to read. The first week I cleaned out the spare room for my son, and then cleaned up my office and found the massager I had been looking for. I swam, I went to sleep early. I even got all of my tax information together and am ready to do my taxes!
Now that is the POSITIVE side of my fast. The negative side is not nearly as fun. At first, I felt lost, empty. It was like a phantom limb symptom – I kept finding myself turning toward the sunroom, wanting to turn on Midsomer Murders, which is what I watch when I’m alone, or Booth and Brennan on Bones when I’m with Ronnie. I didn’t realize how much I looked forward to it or got excited at the thought of it. At work I’d think about how, if I’m a good girl and finish my chores, I can zone out for hours. And I wondered what made me look so forward to it.
The answer bothered me. I acted as if they were my friends. I loved spending time with them, and I wanted to know how they were doing and what was going on. The fact that they aren’t real people I know, just characters on a show, and aren’t really my friends, didn’t seem to bother me. I had no problem suspending reality just long enough to get a fix.
You see, these types of “friends” are easy. Real relationships are hard. They entail conflict, because everyone involved is self-interested, and disappointment, because you will never truly come first to them, no matter how much they love you. You can’t just turn other people off or decide to not watch any more when they get challenging, or your feelings get hurt. If you are really worried about what is going to happen, you can’t skip over the bad parts and jump to the end. You can’t do that in real life – you don’t get a sneak peak into the future – you have to wait for it and face the unknown.
And I was choosing fake, 2-dimensional, “turn them on and off when I please” substitutes instead of making the effort and taking a risk on real flesh and blood friends. It was the easy, lazy woman’s way of FEELING like I had fun friends and relationships, so I didn’t have to work at having REAL fun friendships. Obviously, God was convicting me in this area.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Then came the convictions about how I had been treating Ronnie. Ugh! God pointed out the resentments I had been building up again, and how I had been purposefully been making decisions without talking to Ronnie about them, because I felt he never included me in any decision-making. It was my way of getting back at him.
God convicted me of how I had not been making much of an effort in my personal relationship with Ronnie, but instead, just kept to myself. It had gone on so long that we just kind of co-existed with one another, but I knew that was not God’s will for our marriage. I was lazy, and as I mentioned, let resentments fester, so getting closer than sitting in the next chair while we watch hours of Netflix just wasn’t worth the effort.
But my actions told Ronnie that he didn’t mean much to me, he wasn’t that important to me, which of course caused him to be harboring resentments against me. And that is a nasty cycle, because I know how I’m treating him, and he knows it, too, and I know he probably resents me, and who wants to try and get closer to someone who you know is frustrated and probably angry with you?
God had me repenting Sunday night to Ronnie over those things, as he revealed them. I would read, go repent to him, read some more, go and repent for something else, etc. It was very humbling. But that wasn’t the end of it, not by a long shot.
Then God started showing me, through a conversation turned argument with Ronnie, that I had slipped into not trusting God lately. He started showing me things I was saying and doing out of fear, and out of pride. I felt the need to do SOMETHING with Koinonia before we could get to the end goal of building a community for the homeless, to show others that I was serious, and to also garner support for a ministry that was active now, not just hoping to be active in the future. I was starting to feel embarrassed by the lull in activity, and thought worriedly about what I would say at the next meeting of area non-profits to show my “successes”.
As I warred against Ronnie in what started out as a promising conversation about the amazing things God seemed to be doing for RPM Ministries, and for Ronnie and I together, everything he said to me seemed to push activity for Koinonia further and further away. So I was unable to rejoice over all the good things God was doing because I was getting sicker and sicker in my stomach at the realization that it was possible it would be 3 years before I would have anything to show for Koinonia.
All the while, God was talking to me through His Spirit. “You don’t trust me, do you? You keep thinking and acting like YOU need to make something happen. You actually are resentful about what I have just done for Ronnie (and YOU), because you think it somehow thwarts your plans, and you are envious that I didn’t do this for you right now – even though it could be for you and Koinonia in the future. Just TRUST ME and MY TIMING. Stop trying to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.” But I just kept pushing Ronnie.
Finally, I broke. I gave in to what God was saying, and had to repent to Ronnie once more, and heaving with sobs, said out loud I guess I just have to lay all my dreams and desires for Koinonia down and just support you in this huge thing that God is doing for you. I hear God telling me to put you first and support you in whatever you need.
And Ronnie turned to me and said, “If God could do this amazing thing for me and RPM, what makes you think He can’t do the same thing for Koinonia?” It was like being hit with mallet in the head. This whole thing wasn’t anti-Koinonia. It was actually PRO-Koinonia, just in the future. It wasn’t going to be in my timing, but it was actually better financially and support-wise. But everything he said to me had been skewed by my fear and my pride that had been rising up in me over the past few months.
You see, God was bringing up and revealing my brokenness in me.
- My fear that He would not come through on this vision I believed with all of my heart He had given to me,
- my pride and embarrassment about Him not moving as fast as I would like,
- my resentment in seeing Him doing something unbelievable and unthinkable in Ronnie’s ministry –
- all these things were buried in busyness, or recreational diversions, or ministry. And God wanted me to face these things before they got any worse and put an even bigger wedge between God and myself, and Ronnie and myself.
He showed me how my own brokenness was making me unable to understand what He was doing, or even what my husband was saying. Brokenness will do that to you – you hear things according to your own fears and hurts – not what is actually being said.
A friend and I were talking this week about relationships, and she said that she would know that her relationship was good if they could communicate without arguing. But God immediately showed me that communication was not the problem. The two of them were fine at communication – they would yell and scream at each other, saying everything that came to their minds about each other. No, the words and how they were saying them weren’t the problem. The problem was the hurt and brokenness within each other that skewed what they heard and caused them to REACT to the words that were said to them.
Ronnie bought me some lounge around the house clothes as a last minute stocking stuffer for Christmas. They were 3 times as big as my size, and too big for me even at my heaviest weight. I looked at them and thought, dang, I liked those, but those are too big, and I told him so. He didn’t know what size I was, and just figured the bigger the better for lounging.
But my point here is that, now that I am not bothered by my size – how big or how small I am – I didn’t take it personally that he thought I was that big. A year or two ago, and it would have been a different story. I would have been offended and hurt, thinking I looked like a blob and my husband thought I was disgustingly fat. Now, it was just an unfortunate last minute purchasing mistake.
If I’m no longer broken about my appearance, not thinking my worth and ability to be loved depends on being a certain size or appearance, words about my appearance can’t hurt me. I like myself, despite my fluctuating size, and I don’t need someone else to make me feel like I am acceptable. I am not broken in that area, so no type of communication can make me react negatively.
If I’m not worried about my reputation, or afraid that someone will think I started a non-profit, but couldn’t finish it and bring the vision to pass, then I will have no problem waiting for God to do it in His timing, and in His way, instead of mine.
If I’m not afraid of looking like a loser or poser, I can lay down what I am doing and support my husband joyfully and do everything I can to make him a success, instead of myself.
I speak to women who believe, deep down, that they just simply are unlovable, and the one thing they want, more than anything, is to be proven wrong by a man who will love them unconditionally. But the brokenness within them makes them think that they are defective and require approval and acceptance from someone else, and blares out like a foghorn crying, “I am vulnerable, I am needy, I will put up with anything for someone who will at least once in a while make me feel truly loved.”
And that cry will be heard and happily responded to by someone else who is dying to be loved, who knows how to say and do the right things just often enough to make someone feel loved, but who also knows how to withhold it and use that as manipulation to get the love they so desperately need. In other words, brokenness calls to brokenness. You will attract someone only as healthy or broken as you are. If you want a healthy relationship, you have to become healthy. Otherwise, you will always be prey to people that can manipulate your fear of being unlovable to their advantage, and abuse your trust and love by withholding it when they deem it appropriate.
But there are other reasons why God wants to show us our brokenness. Brokenness has its upside. God can work in a broken vessel. He can use a broken vessel. He can fill a broken vessel. And He delights in slowly but surely healing a broken vessel.
A friend of mine said, “I just have to be stronger.” I almost yelled, NO, that’s the most fatal mistake we as Christians can make. Our flesh will always want what our flesh wants; even if our spirit is strong, the flesh is weak. So you can never make yourself be strong. It is an attitude that will exhaust and eventually destroy you.
Only in your weakness is His strength manifested. God NEVER calls you to be strong in your own meager and insufficient power. He calls us to admit our powerlessness, insufficiency and weakness so we can finally be filled with His power to live a surrendered and therefore victorious life.
2 Cor 12:9 says
“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. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Healing comes from being willing to be vulnerable, to share your brokenness with other people. We have a habit of experiencing pain in the world, people who don’t care about us, and sometimes, erroneously, start to believe that God doesn’t care about us either. That is called unbelief. Which leads to believing you have to watch out for and take care of yourself, which is also called rebellion. This means you will devote yourself to self-protection, which is kind of futile, since you are, in reality, pretty puny in comparison with everything that comes against you in the world, physically, spiritually, politically, emotionally – basically, in every way.
The problem with both is that only through allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, admitting that we are broken and not trying to just cover it up and hope it heals on its own, can we be open to receive the supernatural healing that is our only hope.
Imagine you are in the jungle and you have gauged your arm and there is a big, open flesh wound on it. You cover it with your hand for a while to protect it, maybe spit on it and try to clean it. Maybe you wrap a leaf around it, or tear off a piece of your clothes as a bandage. Then a doctor comes up with medicine. He says, let me see your wound so I can clean it and apply a salve. You just keep it covered up – no thanks, I’ve got this. And the wound becomes infected, gangrenous, and makes your whole body sick, all because you are attempting to protect yourself, even if you are completely inadequate for the task.
God says the only way He can clean the wound and start to heal it is for you to present it, in all of its festering glory, to Him. He will probably have to go into the wound now and clean out some of the flesh that is infected to stop it from shutting down your whole body. He will have to pour in antiseptic fluid that will burn and bubble for a while, and you will have to endure the cleaning. He will apply a balm to it to help it heal and hopefully lessen the pain for a while.
He doesn’t want you to cover it up and never let anyone look at it. It needs continual cleaning out (which happens when you talk about it with a safe person), and apply salve often and liberally (through prayer to God and acceptance and encouragement from others), like changing the dressing on a wound often.
And brokenness is what creates true spiritual community, where broken people can admit to each other their brokenness, and be accepted for who they are and not feel the pressure to be healed and be something they are not and somewhere they are not. It doesn’t mean that those who listen tell you to continue to do what is wrong, they may speak into your life correction. As a matter of fact, the entire point of the conversation is not to fix one another, but to encourage each other to turn back to the source of all healing, the Spirit of God. And when correction or direction is spoken by someone else who has acknowledges their own brokenness, and who speaks out of true acceptance and love of you, and who is committed to walk with you along your journey and let you grow at your own pace, the healing process begins.
Dr. Larry Crabb, in his book about Social Community, says:
Everything in spiritual community is reversed from the world’s order. It is our weakness, not our competence, that moves others; our sorrows, not our blessings, that break down the barriers of fear and shame that keep us apart; our admitted failures, not our paraded successes, that bind us together in hope.
We, as a church, need to
- recognize our brokenness individually,
- then share it with others who acknowledge their brokenness,
- redirecting ourselves and our companions on this journey to continually recalibrate ourselves back to God,
- bring our open wound back to the Great Physician for more cleansing and salve.
- We have to remind each other to not give in to our greatest danger – disbelieving that God cares about and will be faithful to take care of us, and retreating into self-protection and self-determination, which is disconnecting from God.
Basically, we need to love each other into slow healing.
Our supreme example is Jesus, broken for our healing and salvation.
Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Isaiah 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him[c]—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,[d]
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Jesus hanging on the cross. He literally was broken for us, and not in private. See Him hanging there, bruised, beaten, tortured by thorns and hung on a cross, sometimes unable to breathe as his lungs filled with fluid, and finally a spear through His side. He was broken in public, hanging naked in front of everyone, totally humiliated from a human standpoint, but actually full of humility from a godly standpoint, because He allowed it, He offered up his own life (no man takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord), He surrendered to the Father’s will and plan.
This is what God asks of us, the life He calls us to:
Isaiah 50:4 – The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.
10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.
Your two choices are brokenness and vulnerability with God, or self-protection and disconnection with God. Either you allow God to take care of you, or you try to take care of yourself. But as we all know, because we have continually tried to do this, when we light our own fires and walk by their light, we lie down in torment. We are afraid of the unknown, because we are making paths that lead we do not know where, instead of being led by the One who knows everything.