Once upon a time I thought it was unmanly to cry. I believed that since I was a young man I couldn’t cry. It’s a sign of weakness, of immaturity, and of a child. And I was no child. I was mature. I was tough. And really, Christians don’t cry, we have our lives together; we know what’s going on.
But just like with so many things in my life, how beautifully wrong I was.
Two summers ago I went to Uganda Africa and my life changed forever. I saw actual poverty. I saw evil that wasn’t disguised in a fancy mix of church pews or the latest greatest technology. There was evil and darkness in that place that I had never, up until that point, been aware of. My eyes were opened to the fact that people are broken, truly broken, not just that partially fractured junk that is fed to you in church. I’m talking about absolutely severed. There is injustice running rampant all over this earth and we, as the Human Race, are shattered people. And there in the middle of Africa, Jesus shattered my heart just as we are shattered.
I remember getting back home and just randomly crying because of how bad I felt to open a bottle of water and neglect to finish it only to do the same thing an hour later. I remember giving dirty looks to people who wouldn’t finish their food at the restaurant I worked at. I would say things like, “Who the hell do you think you are? You have no idea what people would do for that food you spoiled rich hypocrite.”
To be completely honest it wasn’t a spiritual thing for a while. I was just mad. I didn’t understand how we could have so much and everyone else could have so little and we how we could just look the other way. I didn’t understand how evil could exist with such a good, Health and Wealth God. I questioned so much.
As the months went on, slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle became to come together. I didn’t understand why I was so mad, really. I guess what’s funny, is I think that Jesus shattered my heart so hard while I was in Africa it actually took me three good months before I realized how shattered I was. When I would cry and get mad, I didn’t really realize why I was so mad or sad. I felt like a little kid more than anything and stupid. The world has always been this way? The world has always been broken. I had fully convinced myself until one night when Jesus taught me how to mourn.
I was watching Extreme Home Makeover (the irony! haha) with my parents and I was actually devastated over the goodness of these people. The whole episode I was tearing up… it didn’t make sense. Why was I crying over goodness? Why was I so heart broken over goodness? And to this day, I can’t give anyone a solid answer to that question but I think it was, was that I was heart broken over how good people could be and how mostly we just aren’t. We choose to turn the other way when someone needs help. We choose to put our hands over our ears when we hear our sister being raped or cover our months when injustice is slaughtering our lives. I think that I finally began to see how sinful we are. And not sinful in the way we learned in Sunday school but truly disgusting and sick people. Collectively as people, I saw that we are in every way as bad as the cereal killers and dictators that have killed millions in cold blood. After all everyday thousands of children are dying from starvations and AIDS and I am choosing, knowing that truth, to live comfortably in my two story West Little Rock house and not do anything to acknowledge the horror that is taking place just thousands of miles away from my home. And not to even mention the horrors and evils that are taking place right here, in front of us! The poverty in inner cities, rape, murders, the list goes on and on and on. How people who are already millionaires can cheat and lie and steal for even more money when more than 80 percent of the world lives on less than 2 dollars a day. How we can pay athletes millions of dollars to throw a ball and sit in our living rooms without any emotion watching them.
Oh God, save us. Oh God, have mercy on us.
But the real horror that was revealed to me that night, the thing that cut my legs from under me and left me weeping, not just crying softly, but sobbing on my floor for hours is how we have spit in the face of Jesus. I am so eager to praise Him in church but when I get home I am also so eager to lock my door and do as I please with whatever is at my disposal. I wept because I saw Him on the Cross, covered in blood, being held up by the nails that I put into Him… and me spitting in His face. I saw the “body of Christ” selling themselves as prostitutes. How dare we claim Christ and then go off and pretend not to know Him. Who do we think we are? My heart was pulled out of chest (already shattered) and hurled against the wall that night.
That night Jesus began to show me what it means to mourn.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:2
I believe that this verse is talking about us mourning over anything that separates us from God, anything that breaks God’s heart. And the sad, ugly face of truth tells us that we break God’s heart. That I break God’s heart. Those words sting to write, to read, and to say. I have broken God’s heart. And there is no way I can begin to fix that.
This morning I read John 14 through 17. I read it completely different than I have ever read it before. I read it as though Jesus was a real person, talking with passion and emotion to real people. Sounds crazy, but think about it. Haven’t we always just been accustomed to reading the Bible like the people are cardboard people? Isn’t that why Noah and the Ark has ever been taught in Sunday School? Really. I sure didn’t realize than everyone was dying in a terrible horrible and grotesque way when I read that story. I just always thought of Moses and his family playing paddy cake with the zebras on board. But this morning I saw Jesus, through gritted teeth and tears talking to His beloved disciples one last time before He would be put to death by humanity. I saw Him, with pure, violent, and beautiful love look into the faces of His disciples and promise them life. He was giving Himself for them, for us and I can just imagine how amazing that moment was. From the beginning of time, this had been the plan. Jesus is the plan, He is the way. FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME. And on this night, before Jesus’ death, He was explaining to them what no one else, in all of history, had heard. He had come to die and rise from the dead and give to us the Holy Spirit. He had come to know them and live with them, to dance and sing with them. He had come for us. The fireworks in that room that night must have been glorious. Here is Jesus, God in all His fullness, revealing IN FULL His plan that had been so intricately and beautiful in place since the beginning of the world. I can’t even begin to imagine.
And in reading those chapters, my heart could not bear the sick tragedy that unfolded before me. We have forgotten Jesus. He tells us so clearly what our lives are about in His beautiful prayer for us.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” John 17:22-24
We are alive to know Him, to make Him known. But it’s so awesome how we are to do that. Jesus intended us to bring Him glory by loving Him and loving others. By discipling others, doing life together, following His Name would He be made known great throughout this world. He longs for us and for people to know His love.
One of my fifth grade guys I teach at church asked me one time, “Isn’t it bad to be Catholic?” Isn’t this such a clear answer to where we have gone wrong. Jesus’ words are so clear. He longs for us to be one, to love each other. He even goes so far as to say, “This is my command: Love each other”… we don’t love each other. Churches split over differences in theology, but not things like whether Jesus is God, things like if we’ll be raptured or not. Issues that don’t matter. Kids grow up Baptist thinking that every other denomination is from Satan and kids grow up Non denominational believing it’s heresy to speak in tongues. We have convinced ourselves that our way is better. We have lost it. We have run so far from the truth that Jesus so clearly and passionately laid out for us. We have sprinted away from His heart.
I don’t know how to fix any of this. But the reason I even post this is because we have got to begin to mourn for what breaks God’s heart. Because if we mourn then we ourselves are broken and that will move us to action. I don’t know where to start but it is so clear that we are lost and missing what Jesus has for us. Isn’t it obvious, because although Jesus tells us to be one and make His glory known, I couldn’t tell you 90 percent of the names of the people that worship beside me at “church” every Sunday. Isn’t it obvious, we spend millions and millions of dollars on church buildings and new useless things when we give maybe at most, a couple hundred to missions, poverty, aid. Something is missing and I believe that is truly knowing Jesus. We are so far away from the intimate and authentic relationship that Jesus meant for us to have with Him.
But Hallelujah, He is forgiving. We have gone so far away from, but I believe that it isn’t too late. As I just said, I don’t know how to fix any of this but I do know that Jesus’ arms are wide open. He wants us so badly.
à Oh Jesus, lead us back to your arms. Show us what being your Church actually means. Jesus, be our hope and our lives. Hallelujah.