One of the things I think we misunderstand about God is just how much He desires our brokenness.
I'm not saying that God is pleased that we are broken; of course, He is not. But I think, for most of us, when we think about the things that have wounded us in this life, we're far too tempted to run to our brokenness in God instead of the other way around. We come to Him just long enough to grab Him by the hand and lead Him, healing, into our brokenness so that we can be restored. So that we can be His. So that He can wipe away all that once was and make us new.
I've always struggled, I think, with the idea that I can do anything for God, at least do anything God's way for God, as long as I continue to carry my brokenness around with me. As long as I have baggage, I'll always be tied to that and somehow inhibited in my ministry, held back in my service for God. I have spent so many years trying to find that healing God that I read about in the Gospels, the God that responds to the pain-stricken cries of His people, has mercy on them, and heals them.
There's a bit of a false message in that. (Just a bit?) All of the men and women we see Him healing in the Gospels and the next words are never, "And then the demon-possessed man was finally free to do what God had intended for him to do." Or "And then the blind man finally became the spiritual leader God had created in him." Actually, we hardly see what any of these men or women do after encountering the healing God. We don't know how most of their lives played out. What's weird is that we read about Mary Magdalene and know her life healed, but we don't know her life has been healed through most of our reading. It's only in a way-after-the-fact moment that it's revealed that God ever performed a healing work in her life.
Which means that God does not set us free for His own benefit; it really is simple mercy.
It's mercy that in a fallen world, we are not relegated to our brokenness. We are not bound by sin - ours or anyone else's. The effects of living in a fallen world can be washed away in the healing stroke of God. That's a remarkable thing. It's remarkable for the blind man, whose eyes are opened. It's remarkable for the deaf man, whose ears can hear. It's remarkable for the broken man, for the burdened woman, who cannot carry their baggage one more step. It's remarkable but it's not...redemption. Redemption is something else entirely.
See, all this mercy, it's for the man. It's for the man who doesn't want to live with his brokenness any more. It's for the man who can't go one more day with his heavy load. It's for the man who boldly cries out to the Lord who is passing him by and dares to beg for mercy. It is the graciousness of God to heal a man, in mercy, and invite him to be a fuller measure of himself. Yes, mercy is for the man.
It is not, however, for God, and this is what started to become clear to me over the course of the week of spiritual retreat, from a seed that had been planted a few weeks before in preparation, unbeknownst really to me how it would sprout. I've always wanted healing. I've always longed for this mercy. I've long thought it was the natural next step between me and God, that He was going to step into my story and set me free from it so that I could be a fuller version of myself, be more of what God intended me to be. I've always felt like I was missing something without this mercy.
And I was.
On a Wednesday night in a private room at a Franciscan retreat center, I finally discovered just how much. That story tomorrow.