Painfully Human


Painfully Human

When Those We Look Up to Show Us They are Broken People in Need of a Savior — Just Like Us


He committed suicide. She had an affair. Their kids have an eating disorder. He cuts himself. She is depressed. 

Disbelief comes first. You must be joking, you think. Then shock. Then grief. Such grief to find the ones you look to for guidance, the ones you thought had it all together, the ones you come to in need, fall so far. You never thought it'd happen. Not to them. 

What do you do when you find your heroes are human, painfully so? 

I think sometimes we have this notion, even if we think we don't, that our pastors or mentors or teachers or parents or idols don't struggle ... that they never fail. They have a limit to the wrong they can commit because, well ... they're better than we are, right? At least they were supposed to be. It's easier to see where they've fallen, now that they've picked themselves back up. We love to hear their testimonies of past failures, of how God pieced together a broken drunkard's life. We feed on stories of rock bottom epiphanies and jail cell redemption. And then we use those to put them on a very high, and very small pedestal and tell them never to fall again. 

Dance, monkey, dance. Be everything I need you to be, because I'm still at my rock bottom and I can't be perfect, so you need to be for me. 

Such mentalities are far too justified. But our place, our justification is mistaken. In Acts 20 Paul addresses a group of elders (church leaders) and basically says, "Listen, I've done all I can do here. I've poured out my heart in sharing the way of Jesus with you. But still, some of you will fail. Some of you will believe false doctrine and lead the Church astray. Some of you will fall away." (Acts 20, paraphrased, obvi). I don't think he said these things because he didn't believe in the Ephesians, but because he recognized their humanness, their capacity to fall. 

Redemption is real and grace covers all offenses. Did you catch that? ALL offenses. God uses broken vessels. Yes, even that broken. Look to David, the man after God's own heart, the patriarch in the lineage of the Messiah! He committed adultery and murder. And yet the sincerity of his heart bleeds through the pages of the Psalms and into our hearts that yearn for God. Because of his brokenness, we too, in our own can come to a place of worship we may have never known without the stories of David ... no matter how gruesome. 

Where would our faith be if we discounted David's faith, his psalms, his stories because of his sin? It is easy because he is a character in a story, a story that is not always directly relatable to ours. But if we are going to look to David's heart, to his words to guide us to the foot of the cross, we must also consider that what he had done in his life was completely visible to God and completely forgiven. If we measured David against our own standard of greatness, our own standards of success and goodness, then he fails one million times over. But God uses failures. Ah, that might just be my favorite thing about our God. Our weaknesses declare His greatness. I want to follow that God completely and whole-heartedly.

Jesus is your standard for greatness. He is your only savior, and your only measure of perfection. And what's more, He and he alone is the only person worthy enough to place such a measure of expectation on His followers. We are called to keep one another accountable AND to stand by one another's side when we fall, because we have and we will. They will, too ... the ones you've deemed your heroes. 

Superman doesn't always save the day, Spiderman has been late to the show one too many times, Ironman's ego often trumps his sincerity, Captain America's idealism blinds him. But their flaws do not discredit all the good they've taught us. Because the person standing at the pulpit isn't there any longer, does not mean all they said and taught is lost. 

Whether you're face to face with the person who failed, who left, who messed up or not, it is imperative that you recognize they are a child of God. God sees his son when He looks at them just as much as He grieves over their offenses. The prayers that they prayed over you, the values they taught you, the times they've listened to you, they are not null. They are powerful tools implemented by a powerful God and carried out by weary flesh. God uses broken vessels to carry His good news to other broken vessels. There is nothing He cannot rebuild, nothing He cannot redeem. 

Photo by Tiraya Adam

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