I encourage you to read about the October Synchroblog theme “Down We Go” by clicking this link before continuing to read this post. Please explore the links to other bloggers participating in the October Synchroblog (at the bottom of this post). Those links will allow you to “listen in”, follow and comment on the “cyber-conversation” as other bloggers participate in writing about this month’s topic. The October challenge seems like a gigantic, multi-tiered party cake! Who knows what’s under the icing? If we take one slice at a time we’ll surely taste something of the Lord Jesus Christ in each writer’s portion.
“Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will never find you!” (Lyrics from Phantom of the Opera)
It didn’t start in the age of Dear Abby and Ann Landers. Of course we want to think Dr. Ruth or Dr. Phil can somehow silence that “inner voice” which tells us there’s something wrong with us and we need to “get our act together” before everyone finds out. I suspect it all started long before advice columnists in newspapers…before newspapers…before the printing press…just…”before”. Perhaps it started with two naked people and some fig leaves—two people who were silly enough to think God would never find them? Wherever it started , “it” is definitely there. Yes…it must have started long, long ago. I think Jesus may have been commenting on our “advice columnist” mentality with that remark about getting the beam out of my own eye before I presume to help you with the speck in yours. The knowledge that we lack “put togetherness” is behind the invention of masks and advice columns, you know. “Truth”. (High Five…or whatever cool people do…Amen?)
The Oprah Generation has a call on their lives! “Gather around the television set, all you broken folks out there in TV land. We know about your mask and we’ll help you with the problem as you sit there in the privacy of your own homes. And we’ll make it simple. See…it’s like this…just repeat after me ‘I’m Okay and You’re Okay’.” Okay…I feel better, don’t you? “Okay-ness” is so highly valued and now we’ve got it. “Okay” is the new mask, but that’s “okay”, right? I’m not trying to be flip. I’m not denying the genuine need for legitimate psychological help in some cases, or the benefit of legitimate and responsible counseling. But isn’t it interesting where people hiding behind masks will turn in an effort to keep the mask in place while they move “upward” toward some non-existent point in their journey of “self help” when the mask will become unnecessary?
what you are about to hear…
is the sound of a mask hitting the floor. No, I don’t actually wear this thing anymore–not with you, Dear Reader. I just keep it handy to remind me God looks on the heart. The world sees me the way the world “sees”. And I won’t argue the world needs an eye exam. I’m every bit as broken and ruined and hopeless as the world thinks I am. The world sees what the balance on my bank account says (or, to be honest, DOESN’T say). The world sees the pile of unfinished projects, the short attention span, and the long string of broken, messed up relationships. The world sees…well…the world just sees…me. Before you rush to my defense, let me clarify…the absence of Christ in that assessment isn’t an indicator of “low self-esteem” on my part. It’s an absence of “Christ esteem” on the world’s part. If we truly esteem Christ, He helps us see others with His eyes…and we begin to see others as made in God’s image. So, if you felt a desire to rush to my defense, then you’re seeing me the way I know He does and you esteem Him…so, “we’re all good here”. Better than just “okay”. You and I, well…we see each other and we know how to look for Him in each other. Therefore, let’s assume we really are ready to go “down” this road together.
By the way, “me” is pretty much everyone. Absent the presence of Christ, everyone in the world has a tendency to see everyone else as having the problem and to see self as “okay”…as long as no one comes up and rips off the mask. I don’t have to be completely “put together” as long as my “put togetherness” exceeds my “fallen- apartness” and, of course, your “put togetherness”.
“Woe to you, you Pharisees!” Again, I’m not making light of anyone’s brokenness—or anyone’s hypocrisy for that matter! I dare not make light of anything God takes so seriously. To borrow an adjective from my friend Lisa Koons (director of the Charlotte 24-7 Prayer Room), the human condition is just so “jacked up”. With the use of that simple street-slang descriptor, Lisa sealed my fate as to which slice of the Synchroblog cake I would take—and, simultaneously, she gave me the title for this post.
“Jacked UP”! If I read the Sermon on the Mount with a grain of discernment, what I’m discerning is that the answer to my “jacked up” condition is to encounter “down”…as in “lay it down”. Granted, “down” doesn’t always present itself negatively in our conversations, but how many times have you heard the following phrases?
“That’s a real downer…I’m having a nervous breakdown…down in the dumps…Well, you can go down with the ship if you want to, but I’m getting out of here…Hey, stop putting her down…It’s going to be your downfall…The conversation went downhill from there…”.
In the presence of a culture chasing “up”, I need to be reminded that Jesus calls me to lay my life down in order to take it up again. I need to be reminded of the outcry of the heart (nearly three decades ago) when, in a time of intense personal brokenness and pain, I read the 51st Psalm and wept, “Lord teach me to embrace pain if it will draw me nearer to you!” I need to be reminded of the dangerous and daunting prayer I uttered little more than one decade ago: “Lord, teach me what it means to ‘die to self’…and help me mean this.” I need to be reminded that I, like Timothy, have an eternal destiny that was planned in Christ from before “In the beginning”—not because of anything I’ve done (as in “having my act together”), but because of grace!
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:7-10
I need to be reminded that I might not look “fixed” in the eyes of the world—that what still appears “broken” in me may actually be God’s custom-tailored answer to a deeper and more dangerous brokenness: pride, boasting in my own works, ignoring God’s plan for me in pursuit of my own plan…any number of carnal temptations.
I need to be reminded that, while others may judge me harshly, according to my brokenness, the state in which I find myself may be a gift of “sight”. What the world calls being put together is something even the very wicked can often accomplish, if only temporarily. Yes, I walk with a limp…but my brokenness reminds me that He loves me enough to wrestle with me through the night, and that He blesses the one who doesn’t let go.
And, being reminded of all these things, I need to lay even my self-awareness down daily in order to become a help to you, as you are to me—and as we two shall be to our brothers and sisters—until Christ is formed in us…a mutual “funeral” for the “old creation” that plays itself out in a matrix of Kingdom relationships…dying and being reborn together as we are built together into a New Creation temple—God’s habitation on the earth, an expression of His Kingdom wherever we come together, that the world might know Him because they see Him in us.
While the online slang dictionaries offer definitions of “jacked up” ranging from what we do to the automobile so we can change a flat tire to more recent and “obscene” alternatives, the most accurate interpretation offered by Urbandictionary[dot]com must unarguably be “not working properly or as intended”.
From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity simply has not been “working properly or as intended”. Top that for “obscenity”! Imagine…a species created in God’s image…a species into which (as we read in Genesis) the Creator breathed His own breath of life…and yet here we are—“all jacked up”. The solution is to “lay it down” and He loved us enough to set the example…Personally. He intervenes on our behalf. He redeems. He “makes new”.
We can affirm moral absolutes—they do exist—and still not reap life! We can stand squarely in the center of doctrinal orthodoxy and miss the point! We can muster all eloquence (the tongues of men AND angels) and profess the highest of ideals…build magnificent edifices…design programs…write books…raise our hands high in worship…work hard and make a “success” of ourselves (and proudly say “to God be the glory”—even though God already has all the glory and it’s impossible for us to add to it) …and still be just as “jacked up” as Cain was when he murdered his brother.
But here’s some good news: reading the Sermon on the Mount with my “jacked up” understanding, I still get the idea that the people who realize they are “all jacked up” may well be standing in the front of the line when it comes to entering the Kingdom.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame; let the poor and needy praise your name. (Psalm 74:21 NRS)
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalm 147:6)
If you enjoyed reading this post, I invite you to join “the other voice in my head” at “my other blog”. I took a second piece of cake in a piece entitled “How Low Can We Go?”.
More importantly, PLEASE visit the fifteen other writers who tackled the October topic—”Down We Go”: