Treasure: Broken and Triumphant
My daughter is into cartwheels. She loves them. I mean, she really loves them. If there is an open space of oh... let’s say, 2 feet, she will do a cartwheel in that space. She does them inside and she does them outside. Whether someone is standing next to her or not, she does a cartwheel. It’s become a point of contention in our house. It’s one of those moments as a parent when you never pictured yourself having to say, “you are NOT allowed to do another single cartwheel inside this house. You get outside right now and do your cartwheels.” There are many things I say as a parent I never imagined there would be the need to say!
When the Olympics came on, my daughter was captivated by the balance beam. Guess what do they do on the balance beam (besides flips and jumps and some kind of arm-motion-thing for show); they do cartwheels. All of a sudden, my daughter wanted to do cartwheels on a single line. The problem is, she kept falling off on one side or the other. She overcompensated. She lost balance. She fell. The Christian life often feels like a balance beam. We are trying to stay in the middle and not fall off one-side or the other, while at the same time doing flips and cartwheels.
One balance we often find hard to maintain is the balance between brokenness and triumph. We know we are to be humble, but we also know there is victory in Christ. We don’t want to think highly of ourselves, but we also want to be confident in Christ. We don’t want to hide the fact that we are sinners, but we also want to focus on the forgiveness that’s found in Jesus.
Recently, while I was reading Dane Ortlund’s book “Defiant Grace” (highly recommended), he hit this balance so well I had to share it with you. He says,
One way we see Christians falling off on one side or the other of this tension is in the encouragement of some that believers should be perpetually ‘broken’, on the one hand, and in the call to be ‘triumphant’ or ‘victorious’ Christian living, on the other hand. Both amount to one-sided reductionism of a gospel-formed life.
Are Christians to be broken? Well, it depends what we mean. If by ‘broken’ we mean downcast, long-faced, perpetually discouraged, hand-wringing, abject, ever grieving over sins –no. If by ‘broken’ we mean contrite, low before the Lord, poignantly aware of personal weakness, self-divesting, able to laugh at ourselves, having sober judgment, being sensitive to the depths of sin within us – yes.
Are Christians to be triumphant? If by ‘triumphant’ we mean self-assured, superficial, obtuse to personal weakness, beyond correction, self-confident, quick to diagnose others’ weaknesses and our own strengths, showy, triumpalistic – no. If by ‘triumphant’ we mean confident of God’s unconquerable purposes in the world through faltering disciples, bold with a boldness that accords with the outrageous promises of the Bible, quietly abandoning ourselves to God in the light of Christ’s irrepressible victory, relentless in reminding the enemy of Christ’s emptying the power of Satan’s accusations, prepared to take risks not for the sake of reputation-seeking but fuelled by a faith that is fixated on God – yes.
Brokenness without triumph is Eeyorish gloom that emphasizes the Fall to the neglect of redemption, crucifixion to the neglect of resurrection, and Mark 9-16 to the neglect of Mark 1-8. It is personally under-realized eschatology. Triumph without brokenness is Buzz-Light-Yearish naivety that emphasizes redemption to the neglect of the Fall, resurrection to the neglect of crucifixion, Mark 1-8 to the neglect of Mark 9-16. It is personally over-realized eschatology. ‘Cross and crown, death and resurrection, humiliation and exaltation lie on the same line,’ wrote Dutch Theologian Herman Bavinck. Our two options are: a cross with a crown, or neither; contrite brokenness with ultimate triumph, or neither – not one or the other. A cross-shaped life is the path, not the alternative, to the only crown that matters. For in the gospel we are liberated to experience both fall and redemption, crucifixion and resurrection, brokenness and triumph, Mark 1-8 and Mark 9-16. This is so because the only person who was ever in himself triumphant without brokenness switched places with those who in themselves are only broken without triumph, so that now the greatest triumph is freely ours, even as brokenness remains.
Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace: The Surprising Message and Mission of Jesus, pp. 62-63.
Broken and triumphant, humble and confident, sinner and saint, as a Christian, these all go hand-in-hand. Honest sinners find amazing grace and free forgiveness in Christ. They may go up the mountain beating their chest because of their sin, but they come down the mountain singing for joy because they are forgiven!