Sometimes I feel like a total mess. I’m not talking about day-old mascara and greasy hair. Those things may have bothered me in a distant teenage life, but now? Please! I’m just thankful I still have hair after the number of times it’s been chewed, yanked, and caught in zippers. No, when I say I feel like a mess it’s not on the outside. It’s on the inside.
Anybody can take a hot shower, tidy the kitchen, and put on a bright smile. But beneath the smile I often feel like a frazzled storm of unfinished tasks, thinly concealed irritations, throbbing inadequacy, and weary battles to believe God. It’s as if my outside and inside are disconnected:
“Yes, sweetheart, Mommy’s listening.” (Say my name one more time and I’ll slam my head in the dishwasher.)
“Can I get you more manicotti?” (Good gravy, I’m going to be doing dishes til midnight.)
“We’re just waiting on God!” (Who I’m beginning to fear is never going to show up.)
Of course there are those moments when the inside erupts onto the outside:
“For the love of all things sacred, give me some SPACE!”
“COOK IT YOURSELF!”
“I just don’t feel like God loves me!” *sob, sob, sob, sob, sob
But for the most part I’m pretty talented when it comes to the outside. I know how to put on a cute outfit, camouflage the mess, and get the job done. And that’s what scares me. Because unlike most people, Jesus has never been fooled, nor impressed by the outside. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He cries in Matthew 23:27. “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” How’s that for a metaphor? So what do we do when our whitewashed exterior is as thin as a coat of nail polish and our interior is daily filling with decay?
Dear sister, we limp back to the cross.
The cross reminds us that life was not always this way. That once, long ago, there was no outside/inside disconnect. Once, all the joy and perfection we pretend to have on Facebook was truly felt in our souls. Mankind was at peace with God, with one another, and with self. Then sin entered the picture and just like that, all of creation broke. Nature, animals, mankind–together we began to groan under the weight of our own brokenness (Rom 8:22). And nothing could remedy the problem. Not outward appearances. Not religious practices. Not cute guys, or big homes, or double-stuffed Oreos. Nothing, except the cross. When Jesus died on the cross He absorbed the full weight of sin–the penalty, wrath, bondage, and brokenness. And He rose victorious. That single act has the power to obliterate the outside/inside disconnect.
As Tchividjian wrote, the cross reminds me that “Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak. Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose. Because Jesus was someone, I am free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.” You and I don’t have to pretend we’ve got it all together on the outside. We need only draw near to Him by faith, and in His sufficiency find our rest.
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