Jesus Won’t Make Your Life Perfect

Do you think you have the perfect life?

Even though we are all masterpieces created by God, we’re broken.  I don’t think anyone can claim that they have the perfect life or that they’ve lived perfectly.  I think the majority of us would find that we have more in common with Aron Ralston than Jesus.

On retreat down in Reu, Guatemala, after I gave my message on being broken, several students came up to me and asked to talk.  So we walked around under a grove a palm trees in the sweltering heat and talked.  They, like me, had made mistakes in their past.  They, like me, had felt stuck because of what they’d done and wished they could erase their mistakes.

Jesus doesn’t erase our mistakes.  He won’t make your life perfect.  And we shouldn’t want him too.

As my students told me what had gone wrong in their lives, I felt God nudging me to tell them about Aron Ralston.  Now, if that name sounds familiar to you it’s because you just read my blog from my 27th birthday about being stuck in Guatemala and how God used that to get me to where he wanted me.  Or you saw the movie 127 Hours.  But then maybe, you read Aron Ralston’s book, 127 Hours: Between A Rock And A Hard Place.

Aron, an avid outdoorsman, found himself trapped by a freak climbing accident.  He’d survived being trapped in an avalanche and stalked by a bear, but when a large boulder dislodged itself and pinned Aron’s arm to the side of Blue John Canyon in Utah, Aron’s life had to change.  After nearly six days of being trapped, Aron cut his arm off to free himself.

If anyone has reason to wish he could go back and have a past mistake taken away, it’s Aron.  He describes in the book how he had the opportunity to take another route through the canyon, which would have kept him in contact with people, but he chose to remain alone. His choice led to the loss of his arm.  That is why I believe more of us relate to Aron than Jesus.

The Bible says that we all have messed up and fallen short of what it takes to make it into heaven.  We’ve all gotten our arms stuck between a rock and the canyon wall, with no real hope of living life the way it was before we were trapped.  I could tell, as I looked into my student’s eyes, that they felt this desire.

But then I shared with them the rest of Aron’s story.

After he’d cut his arm free and recovered in the hospital he wrote, “For all that has happened and the opportunities still developing in my life, I feel blessed.  I was part of a miracle that has touched a great number of people in the world and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, not even to have my hand back.  My accident in the rescue from Blue John Canyon were the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life, knowing that, were I to travel back in time, I would still say, ‘see you later’ to Megan and Kristi and take off into the lower slot by myself,” (Ralston, pg 342).  Because Aron cut his arm off so that he could live, he inspired other people to fight to live.

Aron understands that God uses our pasts to help others.  He gave Aron a greater story, one not just about hiking and extreme sports, but about what it means to live and be connected to God’s greater story.

This is Redemption.  Aron is still missing his arm, it hasn’t grown back and he still has the painful memory of the time inside the canyon.

Our mistakes may seem simple when we place them next to Aron’s.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter to God.  I was truly saddened as my students told me what had happened in their lives over the last year.  But, if we let God, He will redeem or pasts, He wont make our lives perfect, but He will take what happened and use it to connect us to His greater purpose.

Redemption uses our imperfections.

Now, if you have been following my blog, you know that I have been talking about King David.  After committing adultery and then murdering to try to cover up his mistake, he realized he needed to ask God to renew him and purify his heart.  Because David opened his heart back up to God and asked Him to redeem his life, David’s story doesn’t end with his mistake.  David’s story becomes part of God’s greater story, the story of Jesus.

If you look at Jesus’s family tree, its roots lead back to David and his mistake.  God doesn’t sweep away our past, but he does use it, if we let him, to make something beautiful.

Jesus didn’t come to bring us peace or to make our lives perfect.  He came and died on the cross to pay for our mistakes.  And then he rose from the dead to mess up our lives.  The truth of the matter, that Jesus is alive, forces us to live differently.  It connects us to his story, and when we are part of his story our lives start to change.  We start to have a greater purpose.

As I sat there talking with my students, my hope was that they would start to let Jesus redeem their mistakes.  That they would realize the power for the resurrection, its ability to give them a new story.  A story with imperfections, with pain, and with hard times, but one that is far more adventurous than anything they could’ve tried to live before.

As we finished retreat and I said goodbye to some of my favorite people in the entire world, I hoped that God would connect them to a their true adventure.  Like in Hugo, where at the end of the movie, each character finds their purpose because they have let their past be redeemed and have been connected to something greater than themselves.  I know once we all start living in the reality of the resurrection our lives will truly become an adventure.

Are You Broken?

God made me into a masterpiece.  And yet, like the broken volcanic rock I’m standing on in this picture, I’m a broken masterpiece.

I’m a broken masterpiece who’s enamored with a kids movie.  When Hugo came out before Christmas I was blown away by its beauty, but as I’ve watched it again and again, I’ve seen the true elements of God’s grace and redemption weave their way through the story.

In the movie, Hugo Cabret, the main character, loves fixing things.  As the story progresses he realizes that everyone around him is broken. Just as Hugo realized that the people around him were inventions who needed fixed, I realized that fact is true to life.  We are all creations who have been broken.

I’ve been writing a lot about my recent mission trip to Guatemala.  During the first part of March 2012 I led a small team down to Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala to help out with a vacation Bible school program and a high school and middle school retreat.

Now, if you have been following my blog you know that the week was quite an adventure.  You also know that you are God’s masterpiece.  You know that God created you for a reason.

But what happens when you mess up.  When you feel broken. Does God just toss us away?  Can we mess up so bad that even God wont take us back?

During the retreat, once we’d made it down to hotter than hell Reu, Guatemala, I asked my students if they knew what the word redemption meant.  We were packed into a small dining hall for games, worship, and a message.  Going along with the theme of creation I asked three boys to create something with Hot Tamales.  First they had to chew them up and then build something artistic.

The game failed.  I’m pretty sure all of the students were bored during the game, which wasn’t how I pictured it.  I’m glad it was just a game.  But then, somehow the games failure fit into my talk.  How often do our lives not go as planned.  If we are inventions we sure tend to break down a lot, and sometimes it’s our own fault.

In my last blog I talked about how God chose a little shepherd to be king of Israel.  David was the smallest in his family, but he had something God desired.  An open heart.  But let me tell you the rest of David’s story.  If he was a man after God’s own heart, he was also horribly broken.  Once David becomes king he stops following God’s plan for him.

If I think I’ve messed up, well at least I haven’t skipped out on God’s job for me so that I could commit adultery.  David did that.  But wait, there’s more.  David finds out he knocked up the woman he slept with, and wait, she’s married.  So, after he tries to pin the baby on her husband, which fails miserably, (as is what happens most of the time when we try to hide our mistakes) David has the man killed.  So, David has gone from a man after God’s own heart, to an adulterer, to a murderer.  I am sure when he woke up the morning before all this happened, he didn’t write on his to do list, sleep with a married woman and then kill her husband.

No.  We never plan on making mistakes.  As I shared this story of David with my students, I wanted them to realize that even great biblical figures mess up. If someone in the Bible screws up royally, then what does that mean for us normal folk?

And so I opened my Bible and shared with them how David responded to  God.  Yes, at first David hid from God, tried to cover up all his wrong doing, but then he does something us normal folk should do.  He admits his wrongs and asks God to redeem him.  In Psalm 51 verse 1-12 David writes:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

The Cost of Redemption

according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David was a broken invention.  God set him on a path to be king of Israel and David messes things up.  We are God’s masterpieces, but if you are like me you have messed up.  The first step to redemption is admitting to God how you messed up.

I have found that when I am open with my faults God tends to redeem them. Redemption doesn’t mean erasing all that we did wrong, but fixing what is broken.  Like David said, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  He didn’t say take this all away as if it never happened, he asked for God to fix him.

That is exactly what God did on Easter through Jesus.  He sent Jesus to fix us.  But that can only happen if we admit that we’re broken and need someone to repair us.  If we do, our story will be as meaningful as Hugo’s, probably even more so.  Because when we are living out God’s plan for us our stories turn into grand adventures.

As I finished giving my message I prayed that each of the students would keep their heart open to God and know that, no matter what they’d done or will do, they could never separate themselves from God.

I hope you know that too.  That this Easter is a time to celebrate redemption.  I urge you to join me, and my dad, Eugene Scott, in Living Spiritually.  We have set this year and hopefully our lives to keeping our eyes and our hearts open to God.  It has been an adventure so far and it would be amazing if you joined us.