Do you ever think about why you are the way you are?
Something a little different today, I guess. What follows is merely the beginning of my confession. (The majority of which, you may not be privy to.)
As years go by, I've spent a great deal of my life trying to figure out why I am the way I am, why I feel the way I feel, why I do the things I do...why I have done the things I've done. Everything starts somewhere, right? And the more I've thought about it, the more brokenhearted I've been by the foundation of so many things Aidan. Some things should simply never be. On the one hand, it is an invitation to grief, and I suppose I've done my fair share of that, although I am keenly aware of more grief to unfold in my rather young life. It's too great a burden some days to even mess with, so I've kind of been putting it off. I'd rather be broken than breaking, and that's the difference. If I just am how I am, I'm broken; to go any deeper than that is to break. It's awkwardly uncomfortable, and who has the time?
On the other hand, it's an invitation to justification, and I think I have accepted this with much too much complacency. I think, like most of us, I've been tricked into believing that figuring out why things are the way they are is enough. I think like most of us, I've believed that once we know why, we can let some things rest. Because I understand that this is the foundation of the grace we have for one another.
There are people in my life who have wounded me, to varying degrees. We all have them. The single greatest influence in my being able to forgive and to love them has been my understanding of their brokenness. When I trace back and figure out what it is that made them do the thing they did, from what pained area in their heart they were speaking from through word or action, it's easier (though not necessarily easy) to cut them some slack. From one broken soul to another, I get it.
And I have been on the receiving end of such grace, which I think is why it's so easy to cut myself that measure of slack. People with whom I have dared to dig around in the depths of my soul have come to see my brokenness, have shown me in story the way pieces fit together, have helped me to see what it is that causes this thing or that thing, and they have been gracious to write it off, declaring such a thing as "You had to. It was the only way."
And no thanks. It is this same measure of grace for ourselves that keeps us from knowing true grace, from the One who will not merely write off our errors but will both release and redeem them. When you walk around with the baggage of your life and the justification, however solid that may be, that "that's just how it had to be. I had to," you forget the role you've played in your own story. You forget the brokenness that runs so deep you don't even see it any more. You start to live your life by justification, and if we're being honest, there's a reason to do just about anything. It's just no excuse.
When you live your life by justification, you're dragging around a lot of weight. Most of it doesn't have anything to do with you. You carry around the way things are, ready to show anyone who questions why things have to be the way they have to be. You carry around a world that's always making you do this or that thing that you don't really want to do. You have to carry it around - you have to carry every reason around - because if you don't, you make no sense. You're just a sinner. Just like everyone else.
How do you know you're living a life of justification? It's not so hard. If the more you tell your story, the more you leave yourself out of it, it might be a story of justification. If you find yourself in deep distress, lamenting the way things are but drawing the conclusion that it has to be this way, it might be a story of justification. If you live your life as everything the world has made you and can't see how it could be any different, it might be a story of justification. But here are the big two: if you tell your story without talking about the things you've done wrong and if, on the rare occasion you admit your faults, you feel no remorse, no regret, and maybe even laugh a little at your craftiness, you're living a life of justification.
And I promise it's eating you alive.
I don't want to spend my life carrying the rest of the story. I don't want to live in such a way that I have to justify myself, no matter how solid that justification may be. I'm tired of saying this is how things are, then spending my breath to convince the world this is how they have to be. And I'm tired of pretending I'm blameless. My sense of justification is keeping me from being justified. The measure of grace I want to have for myself is prohibiting His grace from falling down.
I'm not blameless. That doesn't mean I played a part in all the things that have happened in my life. That doesn't mean I caused, invited, or welcomed them. What it means is that in my daily life, in my reactions, in the evolution of my story, in the way I have responded and chosen to live, I have made some bad choices. I have made some errors. I have fallen short. I have sinned. And for far too long, I have let myself be okay with that because, hey, "I had to."
Screw it. I'm a sinner.
I have, in my life, chosen the lie over the truth. I have, in my life, chosen hate over grace. I have misdirected my anger and my rage at persons who deserved only my best. I have failed to try when I knew I could succeed, and I have failed to succeed when I have failed to try. I have sabotaged myself. I have sabotaged others. I have cursed, railed, and raved against things which I didn't even take the time to understand. I have hurt people who have only wanted to help me. I have turned away from the good things that were all but given to me. I have hated others. I have hated myself. I have hated my God with a venom that would shame a cobra. I have harbored bitterness. I have used people instead of loving them. I have taken instead of asked. I have subverted the system in favor of anarchy. I have been selfish. This is but a mere word vomit list of the failings that haunt my heart.
And to what end? I have caused others tremendous pain. I have hurt them emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. I have caused men and women to stumble. I have coerced them into loving me, or at least into playing into my drama. I have used up their reserves. I have drained myself of energies, of vitality, of life itself. I have sold myself short. I have let my voice be the loudest, not only in my head but in my heart. I have let the broken things define me, and as result, I have orphaned myself. I have given myself over to a place of isolation, without guidance, without care. I have abandoned my God. I have forsaken His grace. I have labored to remove myself from His story and turned my back on His will.
In short, I've made a mess of things and wrecked many, many people along the way. All while feeling justified about the whole thing because, hey, "I had to."
I'm not alone in this, which is why I dare to use this space today to share. There are so many among us who walk around with stories of justification, giving a bit too much grace to ourselves and shutting out the grace of God in the process. There are too many of us ready to excuse our own failings when we've yet to repent of them, saying, in essence, that it is we who forgive and not God. And we're miserable for it. Right?
My heart's been wrestling with this. I've taken my fair share of what the world has to offer; I'm not fond of it. But I've dished out my fair share, too, and I've been too ready to overlook all the evil I've done in this place. All in the name of the grace that I'm still looking for, despite all that I've given to myself. I owe a lot of apologies. To friends. To family. To people who have come into my life and back out of it, scarred by what I have done in those fleeting moments.
But I start with an apology to my God - for forsaking my need for His grace, for defending my fallen ways, for neglecting my broken heart, and for refusing to grieve. I apologize not for my brokenness but for my broken ways, and I beg for Him to break me.
And then, an apology to myself - for forcing this young woman to carry too big a weight for too many years, for fooling her into believing she could justify herself, for selling her short, for holding her back.
There's a lot of work to be done. That work starts now.