CHURCH FOR BROKEN PEOPLE
It’s church coffee time again. I am unwell with another infection, struggling to stand.
“How are you?” someone says, smiley and warm. “Are you better now?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” I say, and smile back at them as if saying the words makes it true, knowing deep down I have chosen once again to mask my pain. I don’t want to annoy people, turn them away, or seem like the whiner in the corner. So, I conceal my reality with the “mask of ‘Fine’” and add another brick to my wall of vulnerability.
Coffee time can be difficult for even the most gregarious of people. It can often be a time when the useless narrative is increased within us. We feel we ought to be displaying success in our Christian lives, yet underneath is a wide-open chasm of yearning for authenticity.
We sometimes build a narrative of having to be useful to God. Oh, how the “God-using” language can exacerbate the uneasiness deep within us! The problem is that we stay bowed under this load, even in places where we should be free to express the truth.
BROKEN PEOPLE ARE WELCOME HERE
I wonder if you can identify with this “mask of ‘Fine.'” Are you unable to share freely because you feel you don’t measure up to others, or do you think you won’t be heard? The truth is, those who appear more successful or useful are probably wearing that mask, too, aching to share their pain but holding back behind those bland and futile words: “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”
When we say those words, we close doors and evade more meaningful conversation. Inside us, there might be a whole ocean of desolation, but once again, we suppress it, paste on a smile (Christians should always be happy, after all…), and go home with our heads hung low and our eyes burning with tears.
I know that I can get so caught up in my sense of failure and comparison that I forget to notice my friend who is hiding her pain behind her own “mask of ‘Fine.’” The truth is that so many of us carry our burdens around with us. We long to share them, but we keep raising our defenses and slinking further into our own sense of worthlessness. (Claire Musters’ wonderful and honest book Taking off the Mask can help you explore this idea further).
Today – right now! – let’s begin to think outside the box of use and break free into the joy of being honored and vital as part of the body of Christ.
BELONGING TO ONE ANOTHER
For just as each of us has one body with many members … each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
Within the body, we are connected. We rely on one another in our weaknesses and lend our strengths to weaker members. Within this body, there is a life flow that reflects God’s glorious purpose in allowing weakness to become strength and strength to become a lot less important than we might think.
I often wonder how this body would function here on earth if we all lived in wholeness and perfection – if God answered all our prayers as we wished. Without weakness, we would have no need for reliance on each other. We would not, in fact, look much like a body at all; we would become complacent in our individualism, mired more deeply in self. “I’m good on my own, thanks,” the foot would say to the knee, “I’ve no need of you. Leave me alone.”
It just would not work, would it? We need every part. We need the weak as much as the strong, the unimpressive as much as the attractive, and the broken as much as the whole.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Jesus, when I am steeped in my frailty,
Remind me that my strength is found in you.
When I am far from fine,
Give me a community of care
Where I may fling my mask aside
And express the pain that seethes within.
When I feel dishonored,
May I know that you shower me in love without conditions.
May I extend this unconditional welcome to all those around me,
And paint your picture of a body of honor.
Excerpt from Liz Carter’s new book, Valuable: Why Your Worth Is Not Defined by How Useful Your Feel, published by The Good Book Company, June 2023. (Pages 61, 66, 69, and 74)
Liz Carter is an author, poet, and editor from Shropshire. She writes out of her own chronic ill health about the difficult and painful times in life, and how we can find gold in the mess. Her books include Valuable (The Good Book Company, 2023), Catching Contentment (IVP), and Treasure in Dark Places are available in bookstores. She is poet-in-residence for her town of Wellington, Shropshire, UK. You can find her at:
Valuable: Why Your Worth Is Not Defined by How Useful You Feel
Do you feel weak and useless? Do you struggle to serve, feeling you're not good enough for God or others?
We all want to be useful to God, but often we feel that we’re not. Sometimes we feel useless, but Christianity isn’t about being useful. The Bible barely talks about God using people at all. Discover that our purpose isn’t about being useful but simply being known and loved by God.
How is God calling me?
When we seek God’s calling for our lives, our journey begins with love, with who we are in Christ, and who we were created to be.