Person looking into aspen trees in fall

What I Need in a Broken, Dysfunctional World

Bill Fowler, YTI Church Relations and Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology

January 11, 2019


We live in a dysfunctional world. It has destructive rhythms and broken ways of relationship. Love has to be earned. Shaming and blaming are ways people avoid responsibility and seek to manipulate others. The culture demands impossible perfection which leads to frantic image management which in turn short-circuits wholehearted living. Harsh comparisons and cutthroat competition beat us down even further. Living in denial with quick cosmetic fixes to major problems is common. To survive in this world, addictive compulsive behaviors become normal. Emotions become frozen. There is little occasion for celebration and real joy.

What Do I Need?

What I need is a source of love that is unconditional. I need someone to love me regardless of how well or how poorly I perform. I need a relationship where I can live without threat of love being withdrawn, where nothing I do can make me be loved any less, or any more. This kind of love is liberating. It’s both inspiring and empowering.

What I need is to live without a sense of condemnation. I mess up, yes, lots; but I need to recognize that I still have value as a person. I need to learn to take responsibility for my actions and quit blaming others. I also need to learn how to politely refuse to be governed by the demands of others who try to guilt me into their expectations. I could use some help by having a friend who refuses to condemn me.

I need to be encouraged toward excellence and maturity while being allowed to make mistakes and grow from them. I need a partner who believes in me and sees more in me than I see in myself. I need someone who loves me enough to accept my imperfections while encouraging me to make daily progress my goal and excellence the ultimate outcome of my journey.

I need someone who will help me be realistic about my issues. I need someone who will not allow me to address core needs with cosmetic fixes. I need someone who will help me face my faults and grow beyond them.

I need someone who can affirm my worth and my needs simultaneously. Such a person will rescue me from pointless comparisons of myself with some people who leave me feeling that I am uber important, or others who leave me feeling that I have no importance at all. I need someone who can help me see my place in community as being vital to others and yet interdependent upon all, where everyone’s worth is realistically affirmed.

I need help to find out what it takes to fill this core hunger and thirst that I know in the depth of my being, this longing and aching that nothing I have found on this earth can assuage. I need this because I am likely to destroy myself with addictive compulsive behaviors if I don’t get help soon.

There must be a friend in whose presence I can begin to express the full range of human emotion in a healthy way. I need someone who could help me express grief and sorrow over a sense of loss without plunging into despair. I need someone who could help me process my feelings of anger, or rejection, or jealousy, without telling me that I am not supposed to feel those things. I need someone who could help me express laughter and joy without guilt.

In the company of such a friend I think that I would find much to celebrate. Life would be an adventure. Key steps along the way toward healing and maturity would become the occasions for parties accompanied with great delight.

Who Can Help Me?

Is there someone who can be that friend, that person, that companion with me on the journey of life?

I would say, “YES!”

In my own life there are some folks who approach this ideal in certain ways. There are times and seasons in which they come alongside and encourage me.

But most folks struggle with the same cords that bind right along with me. There are days when I find myself trying to get the cookies I think I need out of their empty cookie jars at the same time they are trying to get the cookies they think they need out of mine. We can get really tangled up together.

Jesus, Our Friend

So let me tell you about another….
I have found a friend in Jesus…

When I was helpless and ungodly, still a sinner, he demonstrated his unconditional love for me by dying for me. That kind of love brings out the best in me. (Titus 2:11-12)

There is in him NO CONDEMNATION! (Romans 8:1). Conviction, yes, but not condemnation. I can experience conviction, confession, and cleansing in his presence.

Jesus calls me to a different kind of perfection, not of flawless performance, but of fullness of character. He has pledged to take me as I am and transform me into his own image as I follow him. Faithful is he who calls who will also do it. I am persuaded that he who began a good work in me will perform it until the day of Christ. Behold what manner of love…we are called children of God, and we are, and…we shall be like him (John 4:1ff)!

Like David in Psalm 32 I can keep silent about my sin and wither away from the inside out, or I can confess it, be forgiven, and experience a wonderful renewal of life as God puts together the broken pieces of my life into a work of His art.

Competition is unnecessary. The only comparisons worthy for me to make are to his own being, and he has promised to grow me into his image.

Feasting in fellowship with him my hunger is satisfied; drawing on the fountain of life that flows from him, my thirst is slaked. I have found that he is enough, more than enough for me.

In his presence the full gamut of my emotion finds healthy expression. In his presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Life is no longer shades of gray, but full-color, high definition. Indeed, life is a celebration. There is a party going on and I’m invited. He’s the guest of honor and I’m his friend! No longer bound by cords, I can begin to live free in him!