Postcards from My Dark Past   9 comments

Early this summer I dragged out a cardboard box from my closet, blew off years of dust, and opening it, pulled out a stack of notecards. Each card held a quotation, insights that inspired and challenged me, scribbled down from a decade of reading, and I planned to transcribe them to my computer. For two months I couldn’t muster the energy, but last week I finally plunked them down in my lap and started flipping through for some encouragement to share on Facebook.  I read through ten cards… and then ten more, pulling them randomly from the pile, and discovered that what I meticulously recorded and saved was toxic. They were snippets of a mindset that dragged me into darkness and despair, a spirituality that was intense and genuine… and deeply flawed.

One of those treasured nuggets read, “A really humble man would rather let another say that he is contemptible and worth nothing than say so himself….  He believes it himself and is glad that others should share his opinion.”  Another famous divine wrote, “Strive always to choose not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult; not that which is most delectable, but that which is most unpleasing; not that which gives most pleasure, but that which gives least; not that which is restful, but that which is wearisome; not that which gives consolation, but rather that which makes disconsolate.”



Even when the quotations were “positive,” they crushed me with their impossible standard, like this prayer: “Grant that every word I speak may be fit for you to hear; that every plan I make be fit for you to bless; that every deed I do may be fit for you to share” –flawless speech and thought and action daily.  I was a very committed young man.  If this was the measure of true spirituality, then I was determined to reach it.  With all my heart I drove myself to meet this standard, redoubling my efforts when I fell short, and finally I despaired.

In my brokenness, the grace of God found me.  In my years of striving I would have looked on such a free gift as “cheap grace,” as taking advantage of God’s goodness, as spiritual lukewarmness like the church of Laodicea.  But once I despaired of myself, grace was the only hope left to me.  We cripples cannot earn our keep.  It must be given to us.

For years after stumbling into the light of grace, I blamed myself for that twilight of wandering, of waste, of wounds to myself and others, but that murky stretch of my journey may have been inevitable, even necessary, since only the destitute embrace grace. Moses spent four decades in the backside of the desert herding sheep. David spent years running from Saul, sleeping in caves, being tagged a traitor.  Demolition sets the groundwork for re-creation, so that the very strength and success of the unbroken stunts their souls.  So let me, like Paul, brag about my weaknesses and magnify the grace of God.


Posted September 6, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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9 responses to “Postcards from My Dark Past

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  1. I so relate. You’ve said it so much more eloquently though. Thanks. I appreciate your journey. Not unlike mine, or…dare I say, ANY OF HIS CHILDREN!! Your last two lines sum it up well…..”Demolition sets the groundwork for re-creation, so that the very strength and success of the unbroken stunts their souls. So let me, like Paul, brag about my weaknesses and magnify the grace of God.” (I’m the older brother of an MK who was named after the founder of CBC.)

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I was a grandson of that same man, whose biography was titled “Always In Triumph”… which I tried to emulate to my own undoing.

      • Then we have a shared HIStory …at BL, (maybe CBC?)…and certainly in our struggles. Rom 2:17, 23, and 29 have helped me through the years — more…recently, the last 5-10 yrs, than the previous 25-30!! Thats maybe why my brother refered me to your writing! By the way, I have a copy of that book, and even had some good personal visits with ….Robertson (!) So, all three of you have had an impact on me!! Blessings!

      • Yes, I went to BL and CBC (and of course I grew up on campus). It is always good to find others who can identify with our journeys!

  2. Yikes. Those do seem toxic.
    Amen, amen on the last lines.

  3. His strength is perfected in weakness…let me be found weak so that Gods strength can be perfected in me…and when I see this strength I know it is Him and boast in Him and His great love and grace..

    • So what does that mean to you, that His strength is perfected in weakness?

      • Yes His strength is perfected in my weakness…if I dont ever admit to God or come to the conclusion that I need Gods help…then it does not leave room for Gods strength to be perfected in me. It is only when I realize that I can try and try in my own to no avail ….that weakness staring right back at you in the mirror…that I can say ok I need your full undivided attention to…live… Your power…Your strength to get on with things…we want to be perfect in ourselves…we want to be ok on our own…but the bottom line is we are not….I count it a blessing to be weak…. in that I found God…I count it a blessing to be weak in that is when His strength is made perfect…and what ever that weakness is …that weakness will become so over shadowed with shadow of the Almighty that there will be no doubt in my mind it was God that made me strong…not me so that no one can boast…

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