Here they come. You can see them outside the window of your heart as you attempt to hide. They’re gathering supporters in the dark and getting closer. Carrying their torches and their pitchforks. Their voices growing louder as they come near yelling. Shouting. Thrusting their fires of anger into the air crying “Freak!”, “Traitor!”, “Monster!”. And then the dreaded roar as they rush forward screaming “Kill the Beast!”
Your crime? Struggling. Falling. Failing at something. Causing the way that they see you to change. The expectations that they had of you have been shattered. And so has your image. How dare you defy what they believe about you? How dare you mess up? How dare you embarrass them?
You are now a failure. Ugly. A monster worthy of dragging into the streets and ridiculing – persecuting – abusing in front of the world. You are nothing short of a hideous beast!
Ever experienced this? You fail at something and your heart is shattered and broken. You hide behind your pain because you are ashamed and hurt. Struggling to forgive yourself. And to make things even more difficult, your judges seem to be beating down the door to shame you further. It can make for a challenging recovery.
In those times you can often count the number of those who still love you – unconditionally – even in your “beastly” state – on one hand. But that hand is critical. In times of falling and failure it is vital to keep hold of those who are able to look past the mistakes into your damaged heart and are willing to listen, to love, to help, heal and restore. Whatever you do, don’t push them away. Don’t hide from these. Don’t ignore the hand that is reaching out to help in the midst of chaos and judgmentalism. Grab hold and don’t let go.
And when the fires of anger have subsided – when the soul-piercing shouts of judgment become silent, when the crowd of vigilantes has disbursed and you feel safe again – walk out from the rubble. With a humble heart, and head held high, take step after stumbling step, hand in hand with those who have been willing to endure the chaos that has resulted from your failing. And go and tell.
Tell of the obstacles in your path, that you didn’t avoid, that brought about the stumble. Tell of the turmoil and struggle within your own soul. Tell of the pain and humiliation of falling… of the endurance and determination that led to recovery and restoration. And tell of the wonder of unconditional love that has led you out from the rubble. Your telling may be the salvation of another.
But most importantly remember. As you see another stumble and fall, remember how you hid and watched the angry mob swarm to persecute you and resist the urge to pick up a torch of judgment and join the crowd yelling “Kill the Beast!”
One of my best friend’s house burned this past weekend. The fire started in the rear bedroom and burned so hot that it collapsed the floor and burned everything in the basement. In the basement had been stored boxes of books that belonged to me…and books are one of the things that I absolutely treasure.
I have learned so many things from reading. In reading a book I can go places in my mind that my body may never be able to travel. Words paint pictures in my mind. I “feel” the heart of the writer when I read. And God shows me so many things – beyond the written words – in even “every day, ordinary” books… I absorb those things into my heart like a dry sponge. Words, especially written, are one of the things that speaks to the very depths of my soul. So books are a treasure to me. And now most of them were gone. Lost in a pile of charred rubble.
I went with my friend to see her home after the fire. As we stood outside and looked down through that bedroom window into what was left of the basement below, lying on top of the blackness – outside of the pools of black water – was one of the most important books in my life Heart of the Artist. It’s a book about creativity and the heart of God, worship versus performance, servanthood versus stardom, accountability, and how God can use the heart of the artist to reach into others’ souls and touch even the very deepest and darkest places with His love and His light. And there it was. It’s full-color cover was still intact and it stood out to me in the midst of the darkness surrounding it. And God spoke to me, about my life, through that image…
In the last several years, the things that had brought me feelings of security, those things that I had considered stable in my life, had collapsed. Things that had been comfortable and safe were gone. Things that I had invested my life in were no longer there. All had been lost in the rubble of a world that had fallen down all around me, charred from the fires of conflict and anger, seemingly destroyed.
And for the last several years I’ve cried… watering the rubble that was my life with my tears. Tears of shame for the marriage that I had lost. Tears of guilt for the failure that I had become to my children – not living a life that I was willing for them to follow. Tears of grief for the ministry that I loved passionately, and was no longer able to do… no longer “fit” for in my mind. So many tears in the last few years. So many days and nights weeping for things that I had lost hope of ever being restored. Unable to forgive myself. Unable to recover, rebuild, or even heal in some of the wounded places of my heart and soul.
Yet as I wept I yearned for that closeness with God again. I longed to sense Him. To feel His touch. To KNOW that He was still there. That He still heard. That He still loved. (Knowing this with regards to others was easy, but accepting it for myself – one of the impossible things in my own mind). I ached for some kind of confirmation that I was still “worth-it” to Him… that His gifts and callings – in my life – were without repentance… that my heart was still His and His hand was still on my life to minister to others – to use those creative passions in my own heart to touch the hearts of others. This has been my painful journey for the last 5 years. Tears of black water over a life of rubble.
Then today I see, untouched, The Heart of the Artist in the midst of a pile of crumbled, charred, tattered debris.
And although my heart is not untouched by the destruction in my life, God showed me – through this simple image – that my heart is still His. It can be restored. “Full-color” creativity can be uncovered and recovered by Him. My gifts and talents are still intact and He still sees me worthy to carry those gifts.
I am humbled by the reminder that in the midst of the rubble that has been my life of late, God can still use the heart of this artist to reach into – and touch – the hearts and souls of others with His love and his light.