Nov 13 2011
No One But Jesus

"Joe Paterno wouldn't cover something like this up.  I know he would never do something like that."

Really?  You know him?  Really? You know his motivations, whether there's any rift between very public outward actions and inner reality?  Are you able to see into everyone so clearly, or has God just given you insight into the heart of this particular sports hero?

This isn't about Joe Paterno, but maybe it's a teachable moment. 

Maybe it's just me, and I lack the insight others have, but I can't see into anyone's heart.  Not Joe Paterno's, not Billy Graham's, not my own kids. So i'm going to stop pretending. It means I have to admit I don't know everyone's status with God, and it also means I can't wrap my own identity into that of someone else, not even a little bit.  But here's some good news:  

You can actually live like this.


Years ago, the brilliant satirical "news" outlet , The Onion, ran a headline:  "Neighbors Say Serial Killer Seemed Like the Serial Killer Type".  Satire works, of course, because it's precisely the opposite of what we're used to: "I never thought he could do this," or "He was always nice, kinda kept to himself, I never dreamed this," or "They were involved at our church, and good people in the community, and..."  

And...we knew him, but it turns out, we didn't.  And, satire aside, this resonates with millions of people who's marriages have broken up after many years, when, in a heartbreaking moment, even spouses find they didn't really know their loved ones.  Not completely.  (I caught MSNBC's special on the BTK killer recently. He was president of his church board, had a wife, kids, regular job...and raped and strangled people for years. His own family had no inkling who he really was.)

Bizarre as that is, this isn't about expecting the worst in people, or even a warning about the "dark side" of others.  It's about one thing:  Humility about what you and I actually know.  That's all.

We don't like admitting this.  In fact, once we take a stand on a particular issue, or person, that alone is enough to provide psychological momentum to just keep going with him, all the way down, if need be.  A few years ago, I was part of

a church who's very charming pastor - and he WAS a cool guy! - was having multiple affairs.  There was denial from the congregation, a lot of let's-not-look-that-way.  When finally confronted, the pastor strongly and convincingly denied this character assassination, too... until he was handed, by the board, a DVD showing him in his car, making out with a member of the church staff, recorded by a private detective.


Case closed?  Not for his ardent supporters.  Even though he admitted it, they knew he wasn't that kind of guy, you know.  He wouldn't do that.  Video or no, he was a man of God, and really knew his Bible, and...

Happens all the time.  My Grandma Hansen was a Republican, and she defended Richard Nixon.  He was completely innocent.  And when Nixon admitted his own guilt, it did not dissuade her. Makes me think of the words of Matt Thiessen, from "When I Go Down":

When I go down, I go down hard

And take everything I've learned

And teach myself some disregard

But Grandma Hansen wasn't that into Relient K.  

We think we know more than we do. We find our identity in someone else, and we get on board.  Trouble is, if it's not Jesus, we're getting on a train with no guaranteed destination, and a high probability of going off the rails, anyway.  And the eerie thing: The way our consciences work, once we're aboard, we can even see the thing going over a cliff, and we still don't want to jump off. We'll even re-write the story in our minds, doing whatever narrative gymnastics necessary, to make our hero, and therefore us, the real victims.

So don't buy a ticket.  Don't find your identity with anyone except Jesus.  Not even the most charismatic, wonderful-seeming, harmless, funny, charming, person you've ever met.  Not even the most learned, scripture-seeking, powerful-preaching, or stirring worship-leading person ever.  Not even your own family.  Not your children, not your dad, not your spouse.  No one, but Jesus.


"But Brant, I happen to really look up to you, and -- "

I get this from time to time, and I'm blown-away honored, as a Z-list Minor Radio Celebrity.  But you don't deeply know me, not really, try as I might for honesty on and off the air.  I don't even know me, not my innermost motives.  (Once again, check out I Corinthians 4!) My motives are a mixed bag, always.  And yes, I do, much of the time, want to be an example of what it can look like to grow in and toward Jesus, but that's just it - follow me only on the way to Jesus.  Find your identity in Him.

Jesus is your Teacher.  No one else.  

He will not let you down.  Pay attention long enough, and I will.  

Better yet, let's walk together, humbly, toward God.  And all the while admitting we see only outward appearances, while God, and God alone, sees the heart.


Comments (15) -

11/14/2011 11:25:07 AM
Rachel United States
I feel like God sent this message directly to me today. My husband of 5 years walked out this weekend leaving me to try to pick up the pieces for our 2 children. I'm finding that maybe I didn't really know him like I thought I did. I am finding out that Jesus is all I have to cling to and He is the only thing holding me up. I know this current suffering will be used for something and I'm finding myself completely relying on God every moment of everyday just to get through. Thank you for these words and for letting God use you in such a powerful way.
11/14/2011 11:37:42 AM
brant United States
Rachel, this is heartbreaking to read.  I'm so sorry.  I'm glad this is a timely blog entry, but we're hurting with you.
11/14/2011 11:51:10 AM
Tricia United States
Thanks Brant for posting this...

Rachel, God's timing is impeccable... I'm praying for you sister!  *hugs* even though I don't know you!
11/14/2011 12:32:44 PM
Becky United States
Who said those  without sin cast the first stone God said Love every1 . He also said as long as you Believe in Him and have Faith Hope and Love you can have a everlasting life with Jesus.  He said ask and you shall recieveknock and the door shall be opened.  As I take the plunge and walk totatlly with God all things are possible I say this because God sent His s0n for us.  so how many Amens do I got the truth shall set  you free I was set free yesterday and I am claiming that freedom and I will soar Like A  eagle in the morningGod told me and said it and I claim it. God Bless America
11/14/2011 1:09:02 PM
Becca United Kingdom
Thanks for this, absolutely spot on!  Cheers Mate!

Praying for you Rachel!
11/14/2011 1:23:33 PM
Sarah United States
This is one of the HARDEST lessons to learn, and I learned it this past year. My husband of almost 8 years (we had been together 12 years)cheated on me and called it quits on our marriage. I had never been so shocked and confused and humiliated in all my life. But through it all, I learned a very hard lesson...that I had put more trust in him and who he was than in my Savior. When people idolize other people (no matter how wonderful and awesome they seem), you are setting yourself up for disappointment because people aren't perfect, and they will at one time or another let you down. The ONLY person we can truly rely on day in and day out is Jesus. When our hope and trust is in him, then we can lean on Him...especially during those times when others fail us. And the knowledge that Jesus loved me and forgave me, a sinner, when I didn't deserve it, helped me in forgiving some people who did not deserve it.
11/14/2011 1:32:31 PM
Jeannette Gardea United States
Jeannette Gardea
It's like you read my mind --past two weeks I've been struggling with me having supposedly  "disappointed" a dear friend --I've been getting mad at him for making me feel so small then mad at myself for letting myself feel so judged.Blah! I say! BLAH!!--cause it hurts to be put down or to feel like u suck at life...But your post helps me remember my own truth--that one thing I know I can depend on and rely on-- God Loves me very much and I know my heart is read and understood by my savior--whom then  should I fear!?... Laughing
Thank you for this post--its awesome and that dude is the almighty using you to help yourself while helping others--WoOT!Laughing
11/14/2011 3:02:49 PM
Beth M United States
Beth M
Brant, Very very well said. I once heard a wise christian woman say, "Have no expecations of anyone." Wow. Anyone? I'm still finding that hard to chew and swallow. It sounds cynical. Like you say, "Looking at the dark side," but I think it rings true. When we have unrealistic expecations and misplaced dependencies of another person, we are open to a recipe for disappointment which could lead to despair and depression. Our dependency, our hope, our expectation should be in Jesus.  We can look to Jesus to meet our needs. Sure, he uses people to do that, but we can look to Jesus IN the person (as a brother/sister in Christ). Easier said than done. There seems to be a propensity in us to put people in that spot that only Jesus has in our heart. Whether it be a pastor, husband, best friend...Jesus, our Life, is the Alpha and Omega. He is THE first and THE last. And He loves us so much.
11/14/2011 3:37:34 PM
Kevlyn United States
I definitely heard God speak in this Brant. Recently I had an experience very similar to what you described, putting my faith in someone who did something I "didn't think he could do". I feel like this was God working through you to answer all of my unspoken questions. Thank you so much for doing everything you do. It's saving people and letting them know of God's love. He is truly with you.
11/14/2011 4:38:24 PM
Matt E. United States
Matt E.
Great post, Brant. I think you might enjoy some of Paul Zahl's writings/sermons.
11/14/2011 5:24:17 PM
Ming-Wai Ng United States
Ming-Wai Ng
This is so applicable for my life right now.
11/15/2011 6:23:07 AM
Rachel United States
So appreciate of those of you who've offered prayers for me and my situation. After being gone for 4 days, my husband came home last night and wants to go see a Christian counselor. I know God is doing a lot of work in our hearts and I am so thankful. So many of the comments on this blog have been a blessing to me. I'm definitely realizing that I've put my husband in a place in my heart and my life where only Jesus belongs and that rocked me to the core. These days have been clarifying in that aspect and for that I am very thankful.
11/15/2011 5:20:58 PM
Lisa United States
Wow! This was shared on Facebook by one of my best friends.  I needed to hear this so much today.  I'm dealing with my husband of 18 years, deciding he isn't "happy" and he moved out about 2 months ago.  He doesn't really want to work on the relationship yet but I haven't given up hope.  I so agree with Rachel, I have put my husband in a place where only Jesus belongs.  Today, I was hurt by a member of his family, very deeply but I'm feeling the sting lift, my mind and heart are leaning towards forgiving them for their hurtful words.  
Thank you for posting this today.
11/16/2011 6:21:48 AM
Rachel United States
Lisa, I'm so sorry. My heart hurts for you. I will be praying for you and your husband.
11/21/2011 1:24:23 PM
Andrea United States
Well said.  So hard to truly live, but never-the-less very well said.  
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