No One Can Love a Stone
A friend’s story came to mind right in the middle of one of my recent sermons where I tried to express how people aren’t attracted to Christianity because of our competence. Rather, people are attracted to our confession: we are broken, afraid, and worried just like everybody else. Her story was the perfect example of how we don’t attract others with our muscle and our might, our intellect and our have-it-all-togetherness. People tune in and take notice when we are the first to stand up and admit that we are weak–that we are bedraggled and broken and in desperate need of grace.
Her story goes like this: She had been through a difficult divorce and while there was no abuse in the marriage there was significant emotional neglect. After almost 20 years, she was alone with three children and a life of changes ahead. So, for more than a year after the divorce, she took the two youngest to a children’s therapist. The therapist was impressed–the children were adjusting quite well. My friend was so proud of her little ones and proud of herself for being the stable adult who was helping them weather the storm.
After a few months of sitting in the waiting room, staring down her own demons while the children used play therapy to explore their own, the therapist asked my friend to come into her office. The therapist posed one simple question to her: “How are you doing?” My friend just stared at her. Not one person in the months since her marriage ended had asked her that question. I mean, she had it together. She was the rock. She hadn’t shared her true feelings with anyone. No one even thought to ask.
Even though my friend wanted to appear strong and competent, for some reason she decided to be real. Fighting back tears, she explained to the therapist that the week had been rough and she was in despair. On one afternoon, she broke down in tears in front of the children after a long day of work–staring at a messy house, a pile of bills, and frustrating homework assignments. “I feel horrible that they saw me like that. That they saw me cry and break down.” The therapist held her shoulders and said, “Look at me. It’s okay to be human in front of your children. They need to see your emotion. They need to see that you aren’t perfect–that you’re not a robot. Everyone needs to see the authentic you, the real and broken you. No one can love a stone.”
You see, for her entire life my friend had been taught that it was not okay to show her brokenness, her frailties, her heart. From her strict parents to her insecure husband, she was bound and gagged. Be perfect. Don’t fall down. And, if you do fall down, don’t tell a soul. So, she lived a life where she guarded her heart and never let anyone see the cracks. That was, until she was finally given permission–first by a caring therapist and then by Jesus.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
The Hound of Heaven tracked her down and softened her heart. She has since soaked in the beautiful freedom of the Gospel and the power of God’s grace. Today, she is the first to admit the she is a mess–a broken person, living in a broken world, with other broken people. For the first time in her life, she says, she’s free to let her cracks show because she knows that a perfect offering was made on her behalf–setting her free from the need to be strong, to have it all together, to be perfect…all the time. She has discovered what the late, great Robin Williams once said he longed for: “To be free. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.”
Jesus came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves and fix others. He came to rescue us from the enslaving need to be right, to win, to be strong. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel to “get it done.” Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life ceases to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves by what we do and who we can become.
Because of Jesus, we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. We can take off our masks and be real. We hold the winning hand. We have nothing to lose by admitting our fears and failures, our weaknesses and insecurities.
That’s freedom! And if you don’t believe me, ask my friend.