Yesterday I heard a television preacher say, "You have to reach down into yourself . . ." He was talking about winning "the victory" over something, I don't even remember what for sure. All I know is he is not correct. When I reach down into myself I only find . . . myself. Which is never enough, I'm afraid. Never strong enough. Never clean enough.
Yesterday evening some of us gathered to pray, and an old friend joined us, someone none of us had seen in a while. She was broken and sorrowful and confessed to some things. She wanted to come back to God but wasn't sure that God could forgive her. She wanted to hear the word of forgiveness and believe it. She wept, and people gathered around to pray, and there was, I believe, the beginning of healing and restoration.
It got me thinking about broken-ness. It seemed to me, as this woman asked me and others for forgiveness, showing us her sense of utter helplessness, that she was showing us "the one thing needful" for all of us. And that the only genuine response that I or anyone could make in that moment was not, I forgive you; but instead, Oh, dear one, I too need what you need. I too am broken. I too have tried to go my own way. I too have strayed. Thank you for showing me how to confess my utter helplessness. May I join you? May we go to the Father together?
How quickly we move from our holy moments of true dependence on God back into self-reliance again. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." They hunger so because they do not have it. Not only are they unable to find it in the world, but neither can they find it in themselves. The choice at that point, when every option has failed you, is always between despair and God.
I too am the sheep who went astray. I followed my instincts, which seemed right in my own eyes. For a while the grass was green and good, but in the end I came to place of barrenness and darkness, and the wolves surrounded me, and truly I was as good as dead. I cried out at last for my shepherd, though in that moment he seemed so far away. Then all at once my shepherd was there. He leaped into the midst of the pack, brandishing his flaming brand in the faces of the panic-stricken wolves, scattering them. Quickly he hoisted me to his shoulders and carried me home. He saved me when I could not save myself.