The Immensely Frustrating Step-by-Step Guide to Filling the Holes in Your Heart

A stunningly wise twenty-year-old friend (living proof of 1 Timothy 4:12) told me recently that in order for God to fill the hole in my heart, I’ve got to stop trying to fill it myself. In all my newly acquired knowledge and vast longings, I am asked to feel the immense gaping hole and allow it to remain unfilled.

The funny thing is, all this time I thought that was exactly what I was doing.  But acknowledging longings and being kind to them is not enough.

If we don’t invite Jesus to fill our holes in His way and His time, we will never see the great and mysterious goodness of Himself and the plans He has for us with which He wants to fill them.

In that vein of thought, I’ve written a guide for myself and my fellow travelers on how to fill the holes in their hearts. It is a fallible, incomplete guide, and often one must go through the steps out-of-order. Sometimes one must be participating in all of the steps at the same time. It is also highly likely that the individual will return to any and all of these steps for each of the holes in his/her heart . . . multiple times.

Overwhelmed yet? Keep reading.


The Immensely Frustrating Step-by-Step Guide to Filling the Holes in Your Heart

Step One: Acknowledge the Hole
Peer down into the terrifying depths of dark vacuity and shudder. If you don’t know the hole is there or if you choose to ignore it, you are living half-alive.

Step Two: Climb Down the Hole
Build a ladder, tie a rope around a tree and rappel down it, or stumble down the perilous footholds as best you can. You don’t know what you’ll find. It could be much deeper than you initially thought. The further you go, the more alone and terrified you might feel. But somewhere within you is a light, however faint, that keeps you from being consumed by the darkness and that illuminates just enough to keep you going.

Step Three: Observe Your Surroundings
As you make your way down this seemingly bottomless pit in your heart, you stop along the way to observe your surroundings. The light within you sometimes illuminates a whole section of the cavernous hole. And here you must live and learn to look with compassion on what you have neglected.

Step Four: Meet with Jesus
When you finally reach the bottom (or what you think is the bottom because let’s be real, the hole is probably always deeper than you realize), you are exhausted. You crane your head back and look up to see how far you’ve gone. How are you going to get back up there? If climbing down was this difficult, how agonizing is it going to be to go back up? Is it even possible?

Its here where you see Jesus most clearly.

Here is John 1:5 incarnate:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Step Five: Return to Top with Jesus
The climb up with Jesus is both draining and invigorating. Sometimes you want Him to carry you the rest of the way. Sometimes you want to push him off and muscle your way back to the top in your own way.

Step Six: Panic
When you finally take that first step out of the hole, you realize you’ve changed. You may be back where you started in a physical sense, but you will never, ever be the same.

Panic sets in. Now that you know so much, you want to know less. At the same time, you want to know so much more. You do what you don’t want to do and don’t do what you want to do and really all you want is to feel ok again. You regret going down the massive hole in the first place. So you attempt to fill the hole on your own.

Again and again and amen.

Jesus stands off to the side. You’ve kind of forgotten about Him. Or you think He’s kinda passive and doesn’t really care about filling your hole except with spiritual crap so you acknowledge Him politely and say, “You can stay here, but I’ve got this, ok?”

Jesus is always happy to stay.

Step Seven: Cue Despair . . . and Jesus
At some point in your desperate efforts, you realize that nothing will ever fill the hole.

Nothing.

Cue despair.

That also happens to be Jesus’ cue.

At this point you are muddied and bruised and battered and probably look half-dead. You’re sitting at the edge of the hole in numb resignation to your fate of unmet longings.

Step Eight: Allow Jesus to Fill the Hole
“Are you finished?” asks Jesus gently. He sits next to you and places a holy hand on your dirty shoulder. You feel the warmth of undying affection and lean into His chest and weep. “Good,” He whispers, kissing the top of your head tenderly. “Now watch what I will do.”


Heavenly Father,
help us to live
with the massive holes
in our hearts
that You may fill them
in the way
and time
that You see fit. 

The Puzzling Pursuit of Perseverance

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

I was boiling with anger. I felt paralyzed, helpless against the ever-changing tide of circumstance and self. I tried to keep my body language open. The usual practice of hugging my arms tightly around the blessed pillow (which doubles as a barricade for my heart) too often suppressed the unruly tornado swirling inside me.

“Ok, I can’t believe I’m asking this, but . . . how do I lose my conscience?” I asked awkwardly. I laughed, and my therapist chuckled. “I know that’s terrible . . . I mean, who asks their counselor that?” I added, my tone shifting quickly into incredulous despair.

“No . . . no, its not terrible at all. It just shows me how much you’re in pain. I can hear it,” she responded gently.

Apparently God has graced me with a remarkably strong conscience and a resolve to pursue truth no matter what it costs me.

I get angry about that a lot.

I observe the cultural stream of self-actualization and self-fulfillment with wonder and longing. I see the happiness of my friends who give more authority to the phrase be yourself than I am comfortable giving. In contrast, I step into self-sacrifice over and over again, to be met with disappointment (let me be clear – I do “go my own way” a lot, but there’s a boundary that I just can’t seem to cross that some people seem to be able to do a little easier).

What’s the point? To hell with suffering for Christ… I want to live!

In my darkest moments, that is my anthem.

Still, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit’s unrelenting pursuit of my heart. Somehow, deep down I know that perseverance in pursuing what I know to be ultimately good and true is nurturing a maturity in me that will far supersede the temporary happiness of going through life the way I feel will make me happy. I have even been able to experience glimpses of this truth in my life now.

If it was just about maturity and growing into Christlikeness, I don’t think I would be able to resist rebelling. But its not just that. Through my suffering and my shaky trust in God’s goodness, I am being made complete.

Complete.

What a gloriously attractive word! If I were to marry a word, “complete” would be the one for me.

There is so much that is incomplete in this world. Whatever perspective you look from, the 107 billion¹ puzzle pieces (and counting²) of humanity scatter the earth in chaos. God the great puzzler sees everything that has been, is now, will be, and could have been. Keeping all this in mind, He is in process of shaping each of us to contribute to the whole picture in the most beautiful way we can. Some of us are side pieces, bordering the edges of this fraying world. Others burst in with color and focus in the center.

Each one He has made and chosen are essential.

Imagine for a moment scrolling through Amazon and seeing an advertisement.

700-billion-piece puzzle (2)

Intrigued, you click the ad, but all it reveals is a short description:

Box not included.

Such is the way of humanity.

We buy the puzzle and try to create meaning of a 107 billion piece puzzle with no box.

Only God has the picture on the box, but in His great mercy He allows us the freedom to choose… will we try to fit ourselves in our own way into a massive puzzle which we can only begin to imagine…or will we trust that the God who made us also created the box we came in and will fit us in such a way that we will be rendered eternally complete?

Perseverance must finish its work.

And what is that work?

It is the work of allowing God in His sovereignty to shape us into the puzzle pieces that will reveal us as the glorious, complex, integrated, communal, creative, complete human beings that we are.

It is the work of realizing that in the waiting for Him to finish the puzzle, God knows how we best fit better than we do.

And when that last piece is lovingly placed, we will experience that wondrous eternity where we will truly “lack no good thing.”

But for now, by the grace of a suffering Savior, I’ll try to continue on in the puzzling pursuit of perseverance.

¹the estimated number of people who have ever lived

²remember that show 19 (20? 21?) Kids and Counting? If you thought that was a nightmare, imagine having 107 billion kids! Its all about perspective, right?

 

My Response to The Nashville Statement

Earlier this week, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a document entitled “The Nashville Statement.

Because I am passionate about loving LGBT people well due to some very personal ties, I feel compelled to express with utmost clarity my own convictions regarding sexuality.

Though I am an Evangelical Christian and though I live in Nashville and though I incompletely agree with parts of “The Nashville Statement,” I believe it is an extremely poor and untimely expression of beliefs in numerous ways, and one about which I am sad and angry.

And so, I’ve come up with some statements of my own.



Article 1

I AFFIRM that sexuality is complicated, confusing, and ultimately a gray area in a world that insists on being black and white.

I DENY 
that sexuality is merely the sum of our biological parts and AFFIRM that the characteristics of gender difference are mostly shrouded in mystery and therefore cannot be described in ultimatums.

Article 2
I AFFIRM that God has boundless compassion for individuals questioning their sexuality, and that He will love people through their own particular journeys.

I DENY that LGBT people are going to hell based on how they identify themselves.

Article 3
I AFFIRM that the Church is called to be a place where sexuality can be discussed openly, freely, and without fear of judgment.

I DENY that the Church has any right to condemn God’s children based on their gender identity.

Article 4
I AFFIRM that describing oneself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. as a partial expression of one’s experience of life are helpful descriptors that have many nuanced layers of meaning and that each person’s story must be heard in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.

I DENY that describing oneself as any of the LGBT descriptors is a violation of God’s “natural order”.

Article 5
I AFFIRM that a continuous searching of the Scriptures combined with consulting of the Holy Spirit is required to mold our understanding of sexuality.

I DENY that the discussion should ever be “closed” on the topic of sexuality.

Article 6
I AFFIRM that I will personally love and cherish every LGBT person I have the honor of knowing.

I DENY that my own convictions will prevent me from respecting another person’s story.

Article 7
I AFFIRM that evangelical Christians have been historically hateful and phobic of LGBT people.

I DENY that hate and fear are appropriate responses to difference of any kind.

Article 8
I AFFIRM that Christians have the radical and joyful privilege to BE FAMILY to their LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ.

I DENY that same-sex attraction for a Christian equates to a lifetime of loneliness and shame.

Article 9
I AFFIRM that God is fully and uniquely at work in each of our lives and that He will mold our hearts to His will if we are willing to be open to the painful and uncomfortable processes He uses.

I DENY that I have all the answers.


I’m sure I could go on and on . . . but for now I will stop there and leave you with this beautiful song about a Christian man who experiences same-sex attraction and how a church’s all-too-common condemnation of LGBT people deeply affects him . . . and the radical love of Jesus that broke through all of the man’s shame and fear.