Bruised Jars of Clay

In early 2009, I hit a wall after years of performance Christianity where, among other things, I thought God’s opinion of me rested upon my progress as a Christian. God was pleased with me, so I thought, when I was getting better at the whole Christian life thing. Was I reading? Was I being hospitable? Was I improving as a dad and husband? Was I becoming a better pastor? Was I becoming a better counselor? Was I becoming a better teacher? Was I becoming better as a worship leader? Was I meeting regularly with other believers? Was I growing in my knowledge of God? And on and on the list goes. I, I, I, me, me, me.

The Christian life became all about me and my supposed progress. I believed in grace alone thru faith alone in the finished work of Jesus alone but functionally, I was obsessed with my own behavior modification and the behavior of those around me. They in turn were preoccupied with my behavioral progress as we would casually toss around phrases like, “A believer looks like [Fill in the Blank]” in order to passive-aggressively manipulate one another to try harder to convince each other that we were getting better at the whole Christian thing. Add to that the fear of punishment and possible public humiliation if I didn’t look like a believer (whatever that means!) and the mask-wearing begins. Out of fear of rejection and exposure, we start wearing masks to fool those around us (who are also wearing masks) into thinking we have our act together so they will leave us alone and not come after us. That, my friends, is law-laden, rules-based performancism. And I lived the dream for years.

Enter, God’s gracious crash and burn. When God brought my world down around me in early 2009, I wrote a blog. It was different than my previous blogs which, looking at them now, had become lifeless, dry, cold, theoretical, and impersonal. Fact-filled, but dead. Right perhaps (perhaps not), but not real. Fake. Then all of that crumbled to the ground and out of the ashes God showed me anew his all-sufficient grace and power, which in my story, was strongest when I was at my weakest. It was at that time, in February 2009, that I wrote the blog I’m sharing with you below, for which I took quite a bit of flak at the time because I talked about how weak I discovered myself to be instead of pretending to be strong. I’ve resisted the temptation to tweak it in any way in order to preserve what I was thinking at the time and to allow you to see what I was coming to grips with in that moment. From February, 2009:

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