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The Wall

Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.


A.W. Tozer


Self perception… that is to say how we see ourselves… is absolutely key to self improvement and self realization. If we perceive ourselves incorrectly… we spend our time and energy fine tuning and changing things about ourselves that are not broken… I’ve done this in my life.


I’ll start by sharing a story of a car I owned. Back in my mid twenties I owned a 1981 Pontiac that was running rough. It was an intake gasket that needed repair. I could not really afford to take it to a garage so I tried to fix it myself. I took apart the engine and installed a new gasket. Then I started it up and took it for a drive. I could not get it to idle at all. I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what went wrong with my install… finally I brought the car to a mechanic which I thought was reputable. The mechanic spent 8 hours trying to find out what was wrong as well and at the end of the day he handed the keys back to me and a bill for $800… and a car that still did not idle. I drove away from the garage completely overwhelmed… I had just spent over half my monthly income on a repair that did not work, I had taken apart and rebuilt my original repair twice, spent hours and hours and still could not drive the car without constant management of the accelerator and brakes…. What now??


I was just going to drive home when I remembered I had another friend who was a mechanic… I wonder if he would know what to do? I stopped in on the way home. My friend was glad to help and asked me to start the car with the hood open… he listened for about 3 seconds before he asked me “did you lay the carburetor upside down while you replaced the intake gasket?”. Confused… I answered “yes I did, why?”. As I answered he was already removing the air cleaner cover and asked me to start it again. I did so… he used the accelerator assembly on the engine to keep the car running at mid rpm and then slammed the choke closed… and suddenly I had a car that idled again. It sat there purring like a kitten… my friend explained further that when I had placed the carburetor upside down on the bench it lodged some dirt in the idle circuit… a common mistake apparently.


I sat there dumbfounded… the simplicity of the repair was very evident to me. I felt elated… and honestly rather dumb. I had agonized over this stupid thing for  so long and my pain was over on it with a swish of air over a clogged idle circuit.


The experience above… it’s funny when I think of it now… but back then I was NOT laughing.


I’ve done the same thing in my walk towards wholeness and peace as well. I’ve done this in my marriage… I’ve done this in my relationship with my kids… I’m a mechanic at heart. I like to fix things… but sometimes when my perception is wrong I can spend time and energy fixing things that are not broken or that are not something I should even try to fix. Sometimes… friends I’ve trusted have also steered me towards spending time and energy fixing the wrong things… and I’ve ended up breaking things that were not broken before… creating more brokenness instead of less.


This is not a judgement on these wonderful friends… they meant well… like the mechanic who tried to fix the car and could not… he wanted to help… he was just focusing on the wrong things. Sometimes I have been that friend… or dad… or husband… trying to fix things that are not broken. This is part of our human nature… we are a bunch of broken people trying to fix other broken people… which is why even the Church is so messed up… a bunch of broken people trying to fix other peoples brokenness… in essence the blind leading the blind. We are bringing our “cars” to the wrong mechanic…. Placing our trust in others, or ourselves to address our brokenness while we ignore the one who can actually fix the problem.


Our vision is failing.


Our hearing is dull.


Our understanding is weak.


Our knowledge is lacking.


Our works yield bad fruit.


And yet… we keep tinkering… we end up taking apart previous work and redoing it again…

Albert Einstein once said:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”


In the letter to the Church of Laodicia in Johns book of Revelations he says


“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”


We keep trying to fix ourselves, fix our relationships, fix our own brokenness, fix the broken stuff in others… all with an incorrect perception of ourselves… which leads us continually to incorrect conclusions… incorrect assumptions… incorrect analysis… and incorrect diagnosis of the problem. As a result our path towards peace and healing is a long, painful, expensive process.


While there can be a purpose for pain… and sometimes we do need to live for a season with brokenness… as evidenced by the book of Job and in the psalmists writings… often though we extend the pain and intensify the hurt by fixing the wrong stuff… both in ourselves and in others.


I think of a classmate of mine who came to the deeply traditional church as a teen… this friend had a rough life. He rarely stepped into a church. He walked in, sat down and very quickly someone came up to him and said something about how he was dishonouring God because he was wearing blue jeans… it was the last time he went to church during his youth if I remember correctly. Blue jeans was not the thing that was broken in his life however and I often wonder how much pain he might have endured because of an overly religious judgemental believer.


If we have an incorrect perception of ourselves we see ourselves as incorrectly holy… when we are not… we are all in fact broken in some way or another. No one person is better than another…


Oh there are so many ways I could go with this… but I will save it for another blog post…


To heal… to truly heal. To walk in peace with ourselves and those around us we must start with a correct perception of our current condition. We cannot do that only intellectually… for if we try to do that we will surely fall short. A veil covers our eyes… it keeps us from seeing the truth about ourselves, about others, the veil keeps us from seeing the things we need to see to actually get better.


There is an old saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees”. Often we are looking at the trees… missing the log in our own eye so to speak.


When speaking of understanding the book of Moses - Paul says to the Corinthians:


“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”


We see here that in order to see we must get this obstruction removed… it is not a complicated process. It involves drastic action that is called confession.


Paul writes further to this:


“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”


Walls come down, fears are dispelled and community is restored in the atmosphere of confession and submission to seek Jesus together!


I’ll end this with a story… this story came from a picture my wife received as we were working through a difficult tearing down of personal hurts and secrets we kind of kept from each other. There were some painful past things we did not share with each other… and it caused a lot of conflict. We spent a season just confessing these and sharing both our dreams and our deep hurts with each other… and the end result was incredible breakthrough… the idle circuit was restored as we blew out the junk so to speak.


Here word picture or parable went something like this…


After getting married we both had ideas of what marriage should look like. We started walking together holding hands, happy and content. As we walked... for various reasons, past hurts, current distractions or our own brokenness we stopped holding hands. Our love remained deep… but we struggled in our perception of each other as at times on this path there were various obstacles and obstructions between us.


Sometimes those obstacles and obstructions were large and ominous… giant walls that kept us from seeing each other… we could hear each other… kind of… but we could not really see each other. As we continued to walk this same path together we found that the obstructions were not always the same… the wall so to speak… it turned into rose bushes at times. We would try again to hold hands through the rose bushes but would bleed because of the thorns. The roses smelled beautiful… but the beauty was deceptive.


Still other places the path would become a glass wall… we would admire each other through the glass… still separated in our understanding of each other and ourselves… but we could see each other. We continued to walk forward… the wall would change… and sometimes it became a small hedge… we could again hold hands over the hedges… but it never stayed the same… the wall continued on… changing occasionally… but always there.


We began to realize that there was a problem. We looked at the sky and asked ourselves… why are we trying to walk this path in this way? Separately together? As we began to talk and shared our deepest hurts and past experiences... unhindered by fears of rejection we began to also tear down the wall together… soon we were again together as we were once… in love and walking in unity and purpose. Now when obstacles came up we tackled them together… choosing to live as one.


This story has a meaning.


The pathway is life… it is living… it has a beginning and an end. There are easier parts that are wide and narrow parts.


The wall of obstructions is our secrets… secrets of sin, of fears, of past trauma, of hurts, anger, unforgiveness and disappointments.


The types of obstacles were times in our life where we dealt with an aspect of our relationship but held back being truly transparent with each other in our darkest parts. This would leave the wall there but changed in its effects on our relationship.


The point at which we tore down the wall was when we laid everything bare… we shared it all… we prayed together… sought God together… committed to complete transparency together… committed to helping each other instead of judging each other and committed to lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. It was also the point at which we saw ourselves and our part in placing the obstacles there through our individual relationships with Christ. He helped us see the log in our own eyes so to speak… thus enabling us to see what parts of the wall were our own doing.


I share this knowing that many people who know us have thought we had a perfect marriage… there is no such thing. I share this praying that others will look at their marriages and then intently look at Christ so they can see the log in their own eye… and stop calling out the fact their partner is "wearing blue jeans in Church". I share this praying that relationships are restored as walls of secrecy and wrong perceptions get demolished through confession and recommitment to Christ and each other.


I share this knowing my own faults in the deepest sense… I am not the man I was. Who am I to talk about anything? I’m just a broken vessel repaired by the one who understands me better than myself…. Beautifully broken…


Let’s be beautifully broken together… and be the change!













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