Just Who I Need

I don’t like to admit it, partly because it feels shameful and partly because I was raised not to notice it, much less confess it. I was taught to do exactly the opposite—to cover up weakness by becoming competent. (And if I couldn’t genuinely excel, I learned to lie about it.)

As a mother, I taught this same competence hack to my kids—“try hard, work harder,” “excel and do well,” “be the best you can be.” These aren’t bad mottos, they’re just empty. They ask for the moon but can’t give anybody the rocket power to get there. They hold up an ideal but leave us to our own devices about rising to it. In our single-minded, dogged drudgery, we’re tempted to fudge it.

When I think about the things my kids have struggled with—getting chores done, telling the truth, learning to read, feeling peer pressure, wetting the bed, breaking rules, sneaking around, memorizing a spelling list, drinking underage, getting sick, being betrayed, wrecking a car, mending from injury, surviving a broken heart, running out of gas, feeling misjudged, feeling left out, getting depressed or stressed or oppressed—I see a whole lot of missed opportunities to come alongside and gently tell them what is true about weakness.

Rather than holding their noses to the grindstone, I wish I’d said, “Reality is hard, but sometimes it’s good to be on the bottom, because there’s a helpful message tucked inside this hot mess. Just like a leak in a pipe shows a plumber where the pipe’s problem is, your leak shows you where yours is. And that’s a good thing, because when you know where the problem is you can get help to fix it. And here’s even better news, you have a Plumber-Savior who’s eager to help you right this minute.”

Telling the truth is so much easier than holding up an ideal like “just do it,” and it’s quicker, too. A person can get on her knees and tell God what’s up and ask for help in an instant, compared to trying to fix a problem all by herself. Competency requires goal setting and discipline and striving, and there’s a place for these, but confessing and repenting only require SOS’ing, “I’ve messed up. Help!” Two seconds, tops, and with it…relief.

Confessing I need help is the most honest and real thing I do, because confessing says I can’t live my life on my own. I need a rescue; I need saving. And I don’t mean just being saved from hell. I mean a rescue now, like when the police car ambles by and I’m 15 mph over, or when I want to put someone else down to boost myself up, or when my father needs my help in the restaurant restroom, or when my son tells me his son has cancer. I need all kinds of rescues.

And here’s another truth, and it connects with the honest and real thing above: I have a Savior. Burned out, down-on-their-luck, broken people are the reason why Jesus came. He didn’t come to save the ones who don’t need him; he came for the sick and sorrowing, the messed up and messed with, the weak and worn out, the addicted and driven, the hated and hopeless, the ones who keep trying hard and failing at the same darn thing. Jesus came for sinners, not for those who think, “I’ve got this.” Lk 5:32.

I need saving, and I have a Savior. I love the way those two true things connect. Together they keep me sane and hopeful. Together, they’re a reality check to begin and end my day with. When you really know you need saving, there’s no better news on the planet than that you have a Savior. It’s relief like the cop who didn’t use his radar gun, like the grace I’m given to let a mean moment pass, like the kind man who bought Daddy shorts at the beach shop, like my son telling me his son’s last screening was clear—only better.

Jesus came into Jerusalem, humbly and holy and bringing great joy. He was God Almighty, astride a lowly donkey, and he cleaned out sin at the temple, and set everyone shouting “Hosanna!” All three of these events were foretold in Scripture, hundreds of years before, Mt 21:1-17.

But it wasn’t the way anybody expected a Savior to arrive, least of all the who’s-who at the temple. They were horrified because Jesus accepted the ignorant praise of children running wild, shouting like their uneducated parents, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” These priests imagined a different Messiah and were blind to the signs. They missed everything about his coming, even when he stood right before their eyes.

When Jesus comes to us, he comes like this—humbly and holy and bringing joy. He comes gently and meets us where we need cleaning up. And while the scrubbing can be painful, the joy is flooding, and it fuels our ride up. When I hit bottom, Jesus is just who I need.

Being on bottom gives me eyes to see him.

2 thoughts on “Just Who I Need”

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