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Jesus Isn’t Toothpaste

I grew up afraid to fail. Therefore, I grew up afraid of trying anything new.

Afraid of what others would think of me. Afraid of the whispers behind closed doors.

Afraid. Afraid. Always Afraid.

Fast forward to adulthood. I got pretty good at covering up all that fear and doing everything right.

I hid behind an impenetrable shield of righteousness of my own fashioning.

Or so I thought.

I became a Christian at 19. In 20 years of church attendance, I have missed maybe 10 Sundays. 4 of those were because I had just given birth.

Check.

I’ve served. I’ve led worship. I’ve preached. Helped in children’s church. I gave. Heck, I even helped plant a church.

Check. Check. Check. Check.

I got married young. I have been married for almost 17 years. No adultery. No divorce.

Surely that’s more than just a check. Gold star for you!

I have four kids. I’m still skinny. My looks are still (somewhat) intact. Oh, and I homeschool.

Whoa. Who are you? Wonder Woman? You’re, like, superhuman. The Proverbs 31 Woman. A god. Tell us your secret!

One day I woke up, and I just started crying. And crying. And crying. I couldn’t stop. And so I went to therapy.

Turns out I have a massive anxiety disorder who, as is often the case with anxiety, has a friend named depression who sometimes likes to tag along.

Crap. There goes this whole appearance thing.

For years, I thought putting on the mind Christ meant pretending. Pretending to have it all together. Pretending to be strong when inside I felt so scared and so weak. Fake it til you make it.

But then I almost didn’t make it.

Turns out, with an anxiety disorder, that is the worst thing you can do. The best thing to do is to stop, acknowledge your weakness, stop taking care of everyone else, and start taking better care of yourself, allowing God to take care of you.

But isn’t that selfish? Aren’t we supposed to be all things to all people? Deny ourselves? Pick up our crosses daily? Keep pouring out? Keep doing? Keep keep keep. Keep on keepin’ on? We’re more than conquerors, after all! We can do all things through Christ Jesus!

Yes, and sometimes that means admitting defeat.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to be broken.

Turns out Jesus really loves broken people. Uses them even. A lot.

I can’t be a god. I am terrible at it. So instead, I will be human. Anxiety disorder, depression and all.

Problem is, most of us who admit this and actually say this out loud don’t feel welcome in the place where we most need to be.

I’m talking to you, Church.

You give us bullet points on how not to fear. Why fear is bad. Fear sucks. Fear is the opposite of faith. Pray fear away. Punch fear in the face!

Sorry, but I can’t Norman Vincent Peale my way out of this one.

That’s like telling a diabetic to stop having a negative reaction to sugar. Or an overweight person that he just needs to positive think his way to a higher metabolism or body type.

I mean, I’m skinny. What’s your problem?

Sometimes Jesus heals us instantly. Many times, He does not. Many times He wants to retrain us. It involves hard work and also rest. And that can take years. Even a lifetime. And even then we may still walk with a limp.

Problem is, we know that once we step foot through your doors, we are on borrowed time. We need to back up our life change with proof. Evidence that this whole Jesus thing works. So we serve. Join a small group. Give. Become a productive member of the family or get off the bus.

Because you need our seat.

Tell me would you tell that to a special needs family member? To a child with a disability?

Then why say it at all?

The list of commandments grows long. The tablet is etched in stone. Or a screen. We so earnestly want to prove that we are the good Christians. That we aren’t like those uncommitted Christians. Those lukewarm ones. Those, dare I even say it, consumer Christians.

Let me let you in on a little secret…

Christians = humans

humans = consumers

Therefore Christians = consumers

So we do. Until we can’t. And. We. Just. Stop. Because we fail. Or we experience a loss. Or we lose a child. Or we go through a divorce.

And we suck at keeping rules.

Because. Human.

You want people to come in and see how awesome God is, get saved, be magically changed, and be shiny, pretty, and new, and then they can help you build your empire. Maybe we’ll even get our own testimony video so you can show it to others. As a commercial. A product placement for Jesus.

See? Jesus makes us shiny and new!

Like toothpaste.

But what if it doesn’t always work like that? What if, like me, you’ve been attending church for 20 years, and you are just now seeing wounds that have been buried, that have never been properly healed? And disorders that make it terribly difficult to be “normal”?

And you find yourself broke down on the side of the road.

I’m giving up perfect. Because I’m not.

I’m going to say something controversial. Church is not enough. The Bible is not enough. We are led to believe that it is. But it isn’t. It can’t be. That’s too much pressure to put on Church and the pastors that run it. Church is the starting point. The launch pad. The place where many of us decide to follow God, a beautiful trajectory that will change your whole life.

Turns out, science is really awesome too. So is medicine. And God is in that too.

I love you, Church. But you are still very much a desperately broken Person telling other terribly broken people how to do life.

And sometimes you’re wrong.

A broken Person whom Jesus loves, tenderly cares for, and wants to heal.

Church, don’t just provide us with another list of commandments. That never quite works does it? Plus we already have enough of those. Be a place of healing. Not incessant doing. The doing will come, from healthy and whole, properly functioning humans. Allow the broken and the weary to experience Jesus as rest. As healing. Give them time. Love them. Accept them. Not for what they can give you or what they can do for you.

Love me. Accept me. Anxiety disorder, depression, and all. And sometimes, getting out of bed for me is the best that I can do that day.

I truly am sorry if this inconveniences your regularly scheduled program. I am here to inform you that I already have enough toothpaste. I am good at cleaning up an area or two. I need Jesus as a heart surgeon. And a brain surgeon, too. Not a toothpaste.

Recovery and rehabilitation do not happen overnight.

Do you know how difficult it is in today’s society to live with and retrain an overactive amygdala?

This is not about having too little faith. It’s about understanding how and why you respond certain ways. And taking the necessary steps to properly heal.

Turns out, that was Jesus’ whole reason for saving us. And He turns the whole thing upside down.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

And so, I am no longer pretending. I am confessing that I am weak. I am poor. I am broken. I recognize my daily, no my every-minute-of-the-day, need for God. I mourn. I hunger and thirst for wrongs to be made right. I will seek God with a pure heart, instead of covering up my shame. And I will show mercy to those who are hurting, even when, especially when, you don’t think I should. I am learning to care less about what others think or what they might say. And more about what God says. Because He is with me. He is my shepherd. My shield. He is the one that walks through the fire with me. Through the flood. When no one else will. When the waters are too deep for anyone else, He is there. His love will not be removed.

And that is how perfect love casts out all fear. Not perfect behavior. Not perfectly obeying all the rules. Not perfect appearances.

Perfect love for an imperfect soul, regardless of whether or not I can keep all the rules. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

That doesn’t mean He magically infuses me with strength. It means I learn to walk through the darkness of my fear with Him tenderly holding my hand. And my Father in heaven holding me when I am too weak to stand.

And that is exactly what this anxiety-ridden child needs to hear.

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