I’m Not Unbreakable.
Some days everything feels broken and the only thing left to do is fix something. I’ve had a lot of broken-feeling days lately. I’m not sure if work is challenging because my back is injured. Perhaps my back hurts, in part, because the work is so all-consuming right now. Or maybe it’s plain old parallel hurts, a season–a reminder.
Nothing humbles me like needing to apologize at work. The job asks much of me, these days (no more than it deserves of me, mind you). And I’m moving into month four of a painful flare of my not-so-young-anymore low back.
Neither of those bits of life in this real skin is a reason to unleash a sharp tongue on another person. But I did. God help me, I did. Preparing for a daylong, navy-blue-suit serious meeting that would open the final (I hoped! I prayed!) phase of a long, major project that had been unduly scuffed by false steps, dinged by incomplete information, I reached the end of my frayed, pitifully slender rope.
Angry words gushed forth unbidden, unwelcome, uncalled for. Not just to anyone, either–No. I aimed my anger down the org chart.
It takes bravery to aim your anger up. And I wasn’t feeling brave. Just busted almost clean-flat in two. I was broken enough to taste my cowardice and still I loosed my craven tongue.
Later I apologized. I meant it. But it didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t feel clean.
(As if I believed my own words could wash away the dirt.)
I needed to fix something. My fingers longed to busy themselves in tactile amends.
We display a small picture frame in our conference room where I work. It holds a small piece of paper providing instructions for accessing our WiFi. When I had pulled it out for our guests at The Big Meeting, its back fell off. Inspection showed me that one of the tabs holding the easel to the frame had broken; another one had bent.
Later, after The Big Meeting, after the apology, after five p.m., after everything, I fixed that frame. A few strategic strips of packing tape secured the easel to the frame. Our WiFi instructions would stand once again.
It feels tender, this mending. Yet I feel no less broken, no less coated in dirt, than I had as my tongue flailed bitterly.
Realization tickles the back of my brain, rises like dawn flinging her insistent light into the dingy cellar of my regret. I see that my humility is a sick masquerade.
This Lady Macbethian breast-beating–it is all about me, just like the poltroon’s outburst I served up at work. It’s selfish and prideful and as ugly as that sharp, sharp tongue.
I sink into a featherbed of gratitude for a God who knows I’m broken and loves me anyway. I take to my knees for a God who settled my beggar’s debt once and for all, long before I was born, at unimaginable cost.
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Romans 8:5-8 (MSG)