Joyce and I had a chance to spend a couple of days with a dear friend we have known for more than 45 years – since we were kids in school. I hadn’t seen her more than a dozen times since she got married over 30 years ago. It was good to catch up on so much. I had heard through family that she had been having a tough time in her personal life – because of failed promises, broken vows, and poor choices she and her husband finally divorced. We talked at some length about her marriage and all that has happened over the years that has brought her to where she is now. We talked about pain, fear, blame, guilt, disappointment, anxiety for the future, the need to forgive and be forgiven; about issues: marital, personal, emotional, and her struggle to reclaim the relationship she has had with God for a lifetime and longs to have again.
Through all our conversations one of the primary recurring themes surrounded her sense of failing God and spiritual brokenness, despairing that she is not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. She has practiced her faith consistently throughout the years and has never lapsed but she admits that she has let slip her focus on the immediacy of her relationship with God. Her sense of failure in the midst of her situation was so great she could not imagine God accepting her into his loving forgiving arms again. She has been in counseling and worked hard on her issues. She is gaining the courage to do what it takes to address her issues for herself, her marriage, her family, and her faith.
Life is filled with many complex issues – for ALL of us – to be sure. I find it interesting yet troubling that so often we who live our lives in relationship with God having once received His gift of Grace even though we don’t deserve it, feel that once we find ourselves broken by disobedience or wandering or loss in our lives as disciples, we somehow think we are unlovable by the God who chose to love us in the first place. Somehow we believe that the God who “first loved us when we were yet sinners” in His unconditional love [Apostle Paul in Romans 5: 6-8], will not now love us once again as we seek Him – even in our brokenness. We tend to think that because we have failed, God will not accept us. We know all the right words to say – the “Sunday School answers” – and we are quick to share them with others who feel the same way. But when it comes to ourselves we just aren’t sure…
There is a village nestled into the foot of a mountain in Eastern Europe. High up on the sheer face of the mountain – about half way up, an ancient monastery has been carved from the rock. In that monastery live an order of Monks known for their lives of deep faith, great piety, and holiness. They live totally unto themselves except when one of the brothers comes down into the village to sell their hand crafted wares to buy supplies. On one such trek down the mountain into the village a peasant woman met one of the monks on the road. She knew of their reputation for holiness and piety and she was acutely aware that her life, with its many imperfections, was so very different from his. She was torn between her curiosity of what life was like “up there” and her own sense of guilt heightened by the coming presence of the holy man. When they met on the road he greeted her. In her sense of inadequacy she stammered and could not meet his eyes with hers. Finally, haltingly, she asked the holy man, “Forgive me for asking, Brother. I know you live on the mountain with the other monks and that you are so holy and so filled with faith. What do you do up there on the face of the mountain?” The monk looked steadily into her eyes with kindness & deep understanding and said, “Like you, we fall down, and we get up. We fall down, and we get up. We fall down, and we get up.” And then he continued on his way.
What did he mean? What was his message to the woman on the path? Is there a message here for us? It occurs to me that he was sharing the truth with the woman & with us that everyone – even the holiest, most faithful & mature – fail [fall]…& fail [fall]…& fail [fall]…& the hope that no matter how many times we fail/fall we can get up again. And that God is always right here with us encouraging, supporting, protecting, and giving us strength & courage to get up again. He stands there within our reach with outstretched arms just waiting for us to reach out for Him. In that very moment He embraces us, dresses our wounds from the fall, holds us close & walks beside us as we go on together.
If you are reading this and your “knees are scratched from falling,” Know this - God is kneeling right in front of you longing for you to look up from where you have fallen. You can almost hear Him saying, “Come on! You can do it! Reach out to Me, just stretch out your hand, give me an inviting look & I’ll take you into my arms & we’ll get up & go on together.”
Anyone else out there suffering from scraped knees & wounded spirits from falling? God is right there with you – within reach right now, longing for you to give him permission to pick you up & hold you in his arms of unfailing love. Why not reach out right now. He is already waiting, arms outstretched to pick you up & hold you close.