Here’s my column in today’s Greenville News.  I hope you enjoy!

Merry Christmas,

Edwin

Over and over again, I have asked suicidal or depressed patients what is pushing them to the brink.  Their answer is so consistent that it must have a deeper meaning than we realize.  ‘I’m no good,’ they tell me.  Sometimes they are hearing voices, so I ask what the voices say.  ‘That I’m worthless.  That I should die.’  I don’t know how many times I have heard those words.  They’re usually spoken with the person’s head hung down, looking at the floor, as if hiding from some horrible, revealing illumination.  Their voices quiver, their faces lined with tears as they speak.

I know that those thoughts are not unique to patients in an ER.  They haunt millions upon millions of humans; on some level, everyone in the course of history has heard them. One need not be depressed, suicidal or even psychotic for the words to slip to the front of the mind and whisper ‘Who do you think you are?  You’re not any good.  You never were and you never will be, so face it.’

The world is full of that kind of brokenness.  It tears at my heart to hear it, to see it.  And it shows me how powerless medicine can be in treating the inner misery of mankind.  Heart attacks and infections, bullets and cancers are comparatively manageable; our true brokenness lies beyond medicines, surgeries or x-rays.

The problem is perennial.  As long as humans have existed, we have sensed that we were not something that we ought to be.  As long as we have been wounded by family, friends or strangers, we have doubted our worth.  The treatments are new, perhaps.  We treat some with prescriptions, some with counseling, some with ‘self-help’ books and courses.  But treatment is no cure.  And the cure seems too simple for our rational scientism.  For the cure is not subject to any laboratory confirmation.  It is not empiric; it is mystic.

The cure was not any machine or system of thought.  It did not require electricity or advanced computation.  The cure did not ask for anything except acceptance.  The cure for all our worthlessness and brokenness did not emerge in any clinic or laboratory.  It was not born in a government think-tank or instituted by a political party or movement   It did not result in a Nobel Prize or Pulitzer Prize. It has not been changed or modified, but remains effective.

The cure for all the fractured suffering of the human heart, all the terror we visit upon one another, all the guilt we bear with bent spines our whole lives, all the horrible, condemning voices, is the fact of grace.  Grace, I propose, is the greatest concept in human history.

This season, we celebrate the birth of the author of grace.   He came to earth worthless and was born into oppression and domination.  He came to a place and people broken, and in the end was broken himself.  The author of Grace was told by many that he was no good, that he was a liar, that he was useless, deluded and mad.  Finally, he received the ultimate rejection and insult, and paid with his life.

He was broken for the broken and hated for the hated.  He was ‘despised and rejected,’ so that the despised and rejected would have a hero and comforter.  And yet, in all of it, he announced the cure of grace.  He told us what we already knew; that we were broken and needed repair.  He told us the repair would be free for the taking, that we were all loved in spite of the voices in our heads, the words of our enemies and cruelties of our families and friends.

In bringing us grace he changed the world.  He said that we could never do enough to be truly good; but we could share his goodness and accept the gift he offered.  In that fell swoop, he negated any other contingent therapy for the misery of humanity.  No wealth or position could cure our loneliness; no rule or law could overcome our weakness; no plan or good deed could earn our healing.  Only the gift he brought.  Only himself.

At Christmas, Jesus shouts down the voices in our ears with ‘you are worth everything to me!  I’ll make you good!  You don’t need to die…I came to do it for you.  Then you’ll really live!’  At Christmas, the cure of grace embodied came for all.

Brokenness was broken at last.

PS  This is the link to the actual column, complete with comments from newspaper readers…good and bad!
https://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20081215/OPINION/812150303/1008

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