Archives For broken

I love Tom & Jerry. That playful cat and mouse bring back such beautiful memories of after school peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

(Oh, and of course, gratuitous violence).

Remember those classic reels where Jerry would smash Tom with a hammer and a giant lump would grow out of his head? And then in a beautiful moment of animated realism, Tom would push the bulging lump back down into his skull only to watch it pop up again on the other side.

Watching these cartoons didn’t turn me into a violent criminal, but I wonder if I subliminally learned more from them than I realize.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, we’re wired to build over the top of our broken places rather than dig them up from the roots. And just like Tom, we end up trying to push these giant, gaping wounds back down into place only to watch them re-emerge just as blatantly somewhere else.

We can put filters in place to help manage an internet porn addiction. But if we don’t dig up the root of lust, the issue will just find a new place to grow.

We can work through feelings of jealousy towards a friend. But if we refuse to address the core of our insecurity, envy will just find new victims to target.

Arrogance doesn’t always manifest as obnoxious overconfidence. Squelch it there, and it could find new expression in your piety. Spiritual pride is perhaps the ugliest mutation. Deal with it at the root.

What brokenness are you simply trying to manage? Find the courage to go back to the source. Dig it up. Or you may find yourself maneuvering around different expressions of the same root cause. Pushing down one cranial contusion only to find it popping up again somewhere else. Maybe somewhere you weren’t expecting.

Repentance is a beautiful thing. Jesus is ready to meet you there.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know (let’s politely say) I’m on the lower end of the bell curve when it comes to fixing anything. If you’re a car, furnace, leaky roof, broken appliance, you’re out of luck.  I wont’ even attempt a Chris Martin and “try to fix you” (yeah, that’s bad).

(My greatest success story in fighting an “Ice Dam” that formed on our roof last week was simply not adding an additional consonant to the end of that second word).

My name is Erik, and I am constructionally challenged.

And sometimes I think the Church is, too.

We’re broken people. All of us. Some of our brokenness is more socially acceptable, but all of us are cracked. Flawed at the foundation. But our churches are usually more wired to build up, not root up. To look up, not necessarily dig under the surface.

Read another book. Complete another study. Build Christian friendships. Attend another service. Subscribe to more Christian podcasts. Listen to positive and encouraging Christian music. Ingest more God-information. Construct a bigger God-edifice and you’ll effectively swallow up those broken places.

These are all worthy and noble pursuits. Imperative pieces to our Christian journey. But thrown at a shattered foundation, I fear they’re just masking an impending disaster.

I know what some of you are saying. “Hey, our church has a 12 step program. We even have a small group for porn addicts. And a staff counselor for people having marital problems.” Great! Don’t quit.

But I’m not talking about the brokenness that’s easy to see. Compartmentalize. Separate into one of those “dysfunctional boxes” that allow us to express pity with a little side of self-righteousness.

I’m talking about you and me.

Self-reliance. Materialism. Insecurity. Control. Self-protections. Immaturity. Arrogance. Past rejection. Religious abuse. Things we believe about God that just aren’t true. (Do you want to keep brainstorming this list together?)

These are just a few of the “respectable” cracks and fissures we easily overlook, drowned under a deluge of God-knowledge and socially acceptable church-culture behavior. Yet underneath, these godly facades are fueled by depression, anxiety, doubt, and fear. Do any of those words describe you?

Broken foundations.

So what’s the answer?

I think we’ve got to commit to getting our hands dirty. We need each other. The beauty and risk of godly community is where we find the courage to identify and call our broken places. But these aren’t issues we can simply reason, talk, or will our way out of.

The ultimate remedy is repentance.

Repentance begins the Jesus journey. Allows Him to begin miraculously doing what only He can do. What He promised to do. Fix our cracked foundation. I don’ care how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s time for an assessment.

What if the Church became great at repenting? At rooting out as well as building up? What if we stopped ignoring the broken places? What if we found the courage to lovingly take them on? In ourselves? In one another?

We’re not doing this well. Not yet. But this is one area of construction I’m determined to become skilled at.

Lay the First Brick

Erik Cooper —  December 3, 2010 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I spent the morning across a coffee table from a heart wrenching story. A young man who’s past is marked with substance abuse, felony charges, and broken relationships.  A lost decade.  And the reality of beginning a journey he should already be well into is simply too much for him to carry.

Alone.

Scared.

Paralyzed.

The distance between where he currently is and where he knows he should be is so great, he’s completely unable to see the other side of the chasm.  No vision means no hope means no ambition means no action.

Means despair.

Grace is free.  God makes beauty from ashes. But there is no “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” waiting to magically re-build your life in seven short days (barring inclement weather) while you vacation in Disney World.

It’s a process. One you can’t do alone.  One you don’t have to do alone.

It’s time to lay the first brick.

Deal With Your Crap

Erik Cooper —  June 2, 2010 — 6 Comments

You can get away with a lot in the minor leagues. A little slow off the line? No problem. So is everyone else. Can’t dribble with your left hand? No worries. Neither can your defender. Occasionally caught napping in the dugout? So what? There aren’t any TV cameras at a minor league ballgame.

But in the pros? Yeah. The bar? Higher. The pressure? Immeasurable. The competition? Scary. Your weaknesses?

Obvious.

Visible.

Exposed.

(like one of those dreams where you’re out in public in your undies…yeah, you have them, too).

One of the best pieces of advice I got before my buddy Nathan and I launched City Community Church was “deal with your crap.” All the issues and brokenness you were able to keep hidden from others (and even yourself) will come screaming to the surface when you jump to the big leagues. Boy was that good advice.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had some crap he never dealt with. Some see these verses as a sign of humility. To me, they scream of unfaced insecurity. An early sign of the disastrous future that was in store.

“But I’m ONLY a Benjamite, from the SMALLEST of Israel’s tribes, and from the MOST INSIGNIFICANT clan in the tribe at that. WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME like this? (1 Samuel 9:21 MSG)

Classic self-protection. A sign of rot at the core. And this crap that was never dealt with would torment King Saul, ravage his closest relationships, destroy his kingdom, and ultimately end his life.

Tragic.

Avoidable.

Courage. Honesty. Vulnerability. Relationship. True community. All these things could have helped King Saul expose his raging insecurities. And repentance and accountability could have healed them.

Yet many seem to think they can just jump to the next level, head to the pros, and skip over shoveling the crap. The next level doesn’t fix you, it exposes you.

Marriages, business partnerships, even church pulpits (honestly, especially church pulpits) are full of people hiding from their stuff. Ignoring their brokenness. Running from their pain. And leaving a holocaust in their wake.

The next level will always expose. It’s inevitable.

But dealing with your crap is hard. It costs. Sometimes more than we think we can pay. But the bill for hiding our junk will come due. And it may have eternal consequences (and not just for you).

Repentance is liberating. Grace is free. Admitting we’re broken is the expensive part.

Is it time to deal with your crap?

What’s the difference between a prophet and a cynic? No punchline here.  That’s an honest question.

Last week we talked about Hard Truth, that the truth is offensive and really does hurt sometimes.  But when does hard truth cross the line and become wicked cynicism (you have to say that with your best Boston accent)?  Are they even points on the same continuum?

Cynicism is easy.  It’s not hard to identify corruption in the brokenness of humanity, and being hurt by it isn’t a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, the church isn’t much different.  And our heightened expectations in spiritual environments just adds to the disappointment when the proximity of human interaction shows it’s ugly side.

“…cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.”

Sometimes we take it on the chin and lower our expectations.  Sometimes we might even lose our naivete and learn to rightly speak hard truths.  But far too often we cocoon our disillusionment and begin nurturing a cesspool of anger and resentment.  And cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.

There’s a fundamental difference between a proclaimer of truth and a cynic. Prophetic voices speak hard truths, but they’re God’s truths, spoken in response to His Word and His revelation.  The motive is obedience.  The desired outcome redemption.

Cynics are selfish.  And while their words may carry some nuggets of truth, their motives are self-gratifying.  Self-justifying.  Self-righteous.  Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk. The want to be right, not reconciled.

“Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk.”

The Old Testament prophets agonized, even wept over their words. Cynics embrace theirs with glee, almost as if they desire to spread the pain and disappointment that drives the core of their own existence.

Becoming a cynic is almost natural, the path of least resistance.  Seeing beauty and potential amidst the brokenness of humanity is the tough road. Embracing Christ’s redemption is the challenge, and also our calling.

Some days I’m a cynic.

But what if we made this pact?  Instead of just pointing out what’s wrong, let’s endeavor to create what’s right. Cynicism is just words.  Let’s allow hard truth to become action.