I just finished a book written by Doug Nuenke, a man I've known since high school, when he led the youth ministries at the church I attended. I have not had direct, personal interaction with him much since those high school years, but I have always rather admired him as a man of God and a successful leader. He now leads a major Christian ministry, so when he published his book I was curious to see what he had to say.
His candor about his own failures and brokenness through his adolescence and years of ministry surprised me. From my perspective, this is a man who has had years of successful ministry, whom others admire and who has achieved great things for God. The revelations (which is a bit strong of a word, there's nothing in his life that most of us have not dealt with) in his book do not discredit these perceptions. He has had many years of successful ministry. But he has done so through failure, brokenness and hurt. He cites the words of A.W. Tozer:
“It is doubtful that God will use a person greatly whom He has not hurt deeply.”
Doug continues by saying:
“...It is brokenness, weakness, and trials that lead to humility and set the stage for a deeper experience of God's care and grace. Likewise those who make waves of grace most readily are those who have gained credibility through their own suffering.”
Strangely enough, reading that encouraged me. Too often I see Christian leaders held up as paragons of virtue, their lives virtually perfect, their families beautiful—a reality unattainable to me. Therefore, I obviously cannot aspire to serve God because I certainly don't have my life together like they do. In the past few months I've seen God take away from me a ministry that just seemed to be at the cusp of bearing fruit. I've seen myself and my family pass through serious struggles of identity and faith. As I have shared in other posts, these struggles are not over.
Doug argues, as have others such as A.W. Tozer, that the first step toward spiritual maturity is to be broken. We must become dependent on him before we can really be used by him. Otherwise we're just serving our own egos, trying to satisfy our own desire and need for authenticity, identity and meaning through our own efforts. As Doug writes, “You see, broken dependence leads us to pursue God.”
I am drawn to Jesus and the message of the Gospel because it doesn't require me to get my life together before I can be accepted. I don't have to be perfect to earn God's favor. In fact, the more I pretend that I've got it together, the farther I am from him. I don't need to have my sinfulness emphasized. I already feel plenty unworthy. What I need to hear over and over again is the message of God's grace, the message of the Father welcoming back his wandering son, embracing him with open arms without reproaching him for his failures and foolishness. This is the Good News. I appreciate that Doug shared his vision of how God can work in and through us, not despite our brokenness but because of our brokenness. That's a message I can relate to.