In the book Dangerous Wonder Mike Yacconelli writes, “I’m ready for a Christianity that ruins my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable.” At times, we all need to be ruined; we need to let God disrupt our lives—taking us to a place of absolute need. Following Jesus was never meant to be the safe alternative to an unpredictable life; following Jesus is inherently life-altering, deconstructive and always evolving.
There is a side of Christianity that drives us to think that everything should always be “OK.” We feel like we have to keep up appearances, letting others know that God is working in our lives and things are good—even when things seem to be very, very bad. But authentic spiritual formation involves God actively tearing down the walls and ripping out the guts of our weak-minded, self-willed faith to make room for something incredibly powerful, something innately beautiful and something completely other. This deconstructive process occurs through our weaknesses; in our vulnerability and nakedness God is given a broken pathway to reconstruct an authentic spiritual work in our lives.
I have a close friend that recently went through a complete tragedy of the soul. He nearly lost it all because of his sin. His life was stripped-down, and he was left naked and broken. On the outside this seemed cruel, but behind the scenes, it was the best thing that could have happened to him. God’s grace was there, more present in his life than ever before, but in a painful sense. The demolition of his life at the moment is a special grace protecting him from the possibilities of a darker future.
I think it’s easy to misinterpret God’s work in our lives as something mean and insensitive rather than an act of grace and a voice of hope. Like Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden; this seems cruel at first—they were exiled from an incredible place of beauty because of their sin—but God was protecting them. If Adam and Eve were to eat from the tree of life, it seems they would remain in the sinful state they were in…forever. God wasn’t willing to let this happen so he set an angel on the east side of the garden with a flaming sword to guard the path. The angel at the garden was a sign of brokenness, but also a sign of His graceful protection.
Our churches and our relationships are radically changed when we are given license to be broken; in a way, when we uncover our weakness we are celebrating a liberating promise that God will show up in our lives—that we need Him. We need to give each other some slack, making room for our shortcomings and creating environments that nurture raw faith. Instead of pouncing on each other for our lack of ability or discipline, we should embrace the origins of our needy faith, giving others leeway to experience God’s presence. Because becoming a compelling community of Christ-followers means that we should have an unabashed desire for real-life, for truth, and for honest relationships under the umbrella of grace. The umbrella is important. What a difference it makes when we deal head-on with issues like pornography addiction, gossip, materialism, pride and abuse, providing a place for people to confess their sin without being judged—celebrating recovery over labeling sinners.
In many ways, I think God is anxiously waiting for our weaknesses to emerge so His power can penetrate our safe attempts at Christianity. Revealing your weakness is not safe, but following Jesus was never meant to be safe, in fact, following Jesus will probably ruin your life, in a good way. What will it ruin? It will ruin your ability to keep pretending; it will tear down your ability to live in this world without caring for it, and it will utterly ruin your chances of living-out your days as a fugitive hiding from grace.
There’s great pain in getting kicked out of the garden and having our sin exposed, but there is also a side of grace that says, “This is for your good.” For Adam and Eve, the angel guarding the garden was fierce, but it was also a protector from what could be. The same thing happens over and over again every day; God “exposes" us for the greater good—to protect us from a darker future and preserve us for redemption. We should see the exposure of our rough-hewn lives, not merely as a sign of pain and loss but a sign of grace and protection, like the angel at the gate.