broken but not crushed

Helping each other live successfully and abundantly in the face of brokenness.

Location: Columbus, Central Ohio, United States

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Terry's Story

Today I want to be completely honest with you – and then I would ask that you be completely honest with yourself, too. Last week we talked about storms - and it is so very true that storms come; they come hard and fast and deadly, and they leave behind damage. These life storms come unexpectedly, seemingly without reason or purpose, and an honest look at the situation often shows there was absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent them or even to slow them down. They just come.

But what should we do about a storm - hard, fast, deadly, and destructive – that really IS our fault? I mean, we’ve blown it - and we find ourselves in the middle of a storm that is the direct result of our own failure. What then?

May I introduce you to one of my dearest friends in this whole world? His name is Terry, and in my humble opinion Terry is one of those truly good men – you know the kind: Smart, good natured, a quick sense of humor, friendly, compassionate, well informed and well educated – the kind of guy you just expect to “make it”. He was in ministry, the pastor of a medium sized church in a nice community, was married with children and was dearly loved by his congregation and community. He was seemingly settled in for the long haul in this assignment. For all intents and purposes nothing could stop him from being a huge success – well, nothing except himself. I’ve asked and received his permission to briefly tell you his story. In respect for your time, I’ll hit only the highlights.

To put this as gently as possible, Terry blew it. He made some really terrible choices that led him down a path of utter destruction. He lost his ministry, his wife and family, his home, his self respect and the respect of nearly everyone he knew and loved. He found himself in a neighboring state, alone and broken – and when I say broken I mean completely broken. He, by his own choices, had failed his family, his church, his friends, and most importantly, his God. The storm had come with a vengeance, and to be blunt, it was all his own fault.

When I first met Terry he had just faced another round of rejection. Many years had passed since his “failure” but he was pulling his life back together again. He had come in humility to his Heavenly Father and God had forgiven completely. He had married a very special lady who is my dear ‘sister’ in every way except blood, and he was trying to find his place in ministry once again. But since his original failure was done while he was in the ministry, the church-at-large was basically unwilling to welcome him back. Just between you and me, I’m still pretty ticked at this religious “judgment call”. Who better to show the way out than someone who had already been there? Their logic is illogical, to me. Anyhow, this latest rejection was extremely painful. Rejection usually is. And it also seemed to be the final blow, with no recourse and no more appeals.

Let’s be real blunt for a minute: Terry could have decided that, "Hey, if the church doesn’t want me, then I quit. Why keep pounding on a door that just isn’t going to open, especially when it is the religious leadership holding it shut!?!" It would have been logical for him to walk away and not look back. Face it, hundreds, yea thousands, of people have done just that and are still outside the church because of the pain they found there. God forgive us for our lack of compassion and for the additional damage we’ve caused already broken people.

Be that as it may, God had a hold on Terry’s heart and Terry had hold of God’s – and God had plans bigger than the church’s narrow focus would allow. Terry and I became best friends and soon he and I were working together in the church where I pastored. We became prayer partners, and believe me, there is nothing in the world that can draw two men closer and more intimately tuned in to each other’s lives than to regularly, seriously pray together. Our lives became irreversibly intertwined. He was working as a counselor with seriously troubled teens – so troubled that this was in a locked-down residential facility with rules and lifestyle similar to a prison. These kids were abuse victims, drug addicted, gang members, physically damaged, crime infested, throw away kids that society had deemed too dangerous to their world and to themselves to be out on the streets. Talk about broken!

God broke Terry’s heart for these discarded kids. In turn, and because of Terry’s passion, God began to break mine. God’s plan, though, was big, bold, and, to be honest, a little brazen and from a practical point of view, impossible. You see, God wanted us, as a team, to start a brand new kind of church inside that “prison” for messed up kids. Now understand - this was a facility with government funding, ‘secular’ counselors, and “separation of church and state” issues galore! You don’t just start a Bible based, blatantly Evangelical Christian church inside a government funded facility. Oh, it took some time, but it happened, and the end result is that more than half the residents of that place – these discarded, abandoned, damaged, broken kids - came to know the Lord personally. Dozens of kids had their lives turned around and were changed completely because of what God did in that place.

The facility closed down a year or so ago, so, obviously, the church also closed. Truth is, that’s the only reason we can even talk about it now. But God, through a man others had rejected because of his own mistakes, dramatically and significantly changed the lives of more people in two years than he might have reached in a lifetime of “church” ministry. Terry is now in the final stages of earning a doctoral degree in theology. Not bad for a failure, huh! Never quitting, never allowing the circumstances of his own bad choices to determine the outcome of his life, never listening to the discouraging words of those he thought would be his support group. Terry’s life is a shining example of what God can do through a man, broken by his own design, who simply refuses to quit trying.

And that brings us to you and me. What if the mess you’re in right now is your own fault? What if you blew it and when the damage was assessed it was beyond fixing? What if your own stupidity has resulted in brokenness that has left behind raw and painful wounds?

First, turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential part of healing. And as part of that forgiveness process allow yourself to be forgiven. The worst thing you can do is seek forgiveness and then reject it when it comes. God said he would forgive if you asked, so trust Him and accept it.

Second, know that failure is not final. It is usually painful, often life changing, and hard to admit, but it is not final.

Third, own it. If you blew it don’t try to blame something or someone else.

Fourth, refuse to listen to discouragement. People are sometimes cruel and heartless, and the ones who are the most vocal are often the most guilty themselves. Simply REFUSE to accept that you are a “failure” and ...

Fifth, know that failure is an essential step in the process of success. H. Stanley Judd says, “Don’t waste your energy trying to cover up failure. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”

Finally – GO FOR IT!!! Like Terry, after the healing and forgiveness has done it’s vital and important work, refuse to stop, refuse to quit, refuse to “lie down and wait to die”, instead, get up and get going.

Thanks for allowing me to introduce you to a man among men, and my friend, and more importantly, God's friend. Please learn from Terry. You will not be sorry you did.

I expect we’ll revisit this topic for more insights some other time,


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