Broken or not, God can use you
(John Johnson is the senior pastor at Village Baptist Church, 330 S.W. Murray Blvd., Beaverton. For more information, call 503-643-6511.)
Like any pastor, I spend a portion of my time with people whose worlds have broken apart. Failed marriages, lost careers, lost hopes. The causes are myriad- be it addictive behavior, moral failure or a series of foolish choices- that have all culminated in derailed lives. You would not see these readily on the surface. We're pretty good at hiding, especially in the church.
Unfortunately, some of the best hiders are pastors. My spiritual godfather was a man whose life of godliness turned out to be a lie. We are not necessarily surprised. We've seen enough moral collapses of evangelical leaders, enough Ted Haggart stories to know that these things happen. But one of the more unnerving stories for me was a man who was a pastor to pastors, an author, speaker, and leader of a significant national ministry, who had a significant impact on my spiritual growth. But for a brief time, he also was involved in an affair. And because sin has a way of rising to the surface, his life was eventually exposed and his world fell apart.
After some years, he wrote a book, 'Rebuilding Your Broken World.' I read it often, for after twenty five years of ministry as a senior pastor, I have found that almost everyone I meet or study in Scripture is a broken world person, be it David in the Old Testament, Peter in the New or myself in the present. We all find moments we banged our shins, scraped our knees, squandered our opportunities, wasted our gifts, missed the life God intended for us.
And once we do, the question comes down to this- can worlds be rebuilt? As the preface in the book puts it: 'If the whole structure of your existence is shattered, like a broken vase dropped on a hardwood floor, can those shards be gathered up and made into something beautiful, useful again?' I have discovered that, for the most part, people are not convinced they can be put back together; or if they can, they are certain they could never be useful again. Part of this comes from a critical culture that does not easily forgive. Part of it also comes from our own internal voices of condemnation.
Which brings us to Christmas, for while we can get caught up in the press of merchant voices, the reality is that Christmas is about God coming to earth to rebuild our broken worlds. Giving us His Son is God's declaration that Jesus is interested in taking these broken shards and making them into something useful again. For some in their darkest hour of failure, He set to untie knots and call back to living a life that was intended to be lived.
Part of the challenge of Christmas is convincing people in the present that God continues to do the same work for those willing to embrace Jesus. We may choose to hide, but God sees through our complexities. The most convoluted psychotic, the most abstruse genius are open and laid bare to His understanding. He sees our affections before we express them. He knows us even better than we know ourselves. And yet he loves us and calls us back to Himself.
And when we come back, God does amazing things.