You see it all around you. Good men and women who are finding themselves in a downward spiral they can’t seem to stop. Incredibly bad choices that have worse consequences pile up to create nightmarishly painful troubles. Once it starts, it’s so hard to stop. Often friends and family feel helpless and heartbroken, but that’s not enough to stop the runaway train. It’s a crash and burn that scorches everyone near enough to be hurt by it.
The awkwardness of the aftermath is felt by all. Exposure and shame have demolished relationships and destroyed trust. There are no innocent bystanders because none of us are innocent, but often there is a lot of finger pointing and blame. Crash and burn.
Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Not only is a mess made by incredibly poor choices, we have help in making it happen. An accuser, who never lets us forget the guilt that resides in our conscience. His work is not to wound, but to destroy.
Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.- 1 Peter 5:8 (CEB)
I’m thankful that we have a Crash and Burn God. There are many witnesses to this truth. Shall we ask Adam as he sweats over his garden? Ask faithful Abraham who thought it best to lie about the identity of his wife. Perhaps inquire of adulterous murderer King David as he weeps through his penitent Psalm. Why not consult with Peter, moments after his curses and denials. The prodigal in the pig-pen can remind us how life can go when we are willingly blind to our own actions. These are not people who committed “little sins” of misjudgments and mistakes. They were people who made a wreck of their faith.
It was supposed to be a three-hour-tour (a three hour tour), but the inane crew and hapless passengers ended up on a desert island. I’m not sure how they survived a week, much less 98 episodes of Gilligan’s Island. In the regular show the stranded cast never was rescued. That’s true of some people who crash and burn in life, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are no simple answers to complex life situations, but here are few things that seem to be clear to me.
*Rescue. Whether they come in the form of recovery groups like AA or Celebrate Recovery – if we’ve learned anything by now it’s that we can’t do it by ourselves. Don’t turn away the rescue missions.
*Time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it can take the jagged edge off of the pain we feel now. And it will take time (maybe a LOT of time) for those we’ve hurt to begin to be able to give us a chance again.
*Self. Everyone may have their own set of expectations for us, but we have to take care of ourselves for a time. That’s not to ignore the consequences of our actions but it is to say that if we do not heal and get centered again in life, nothing else much matters.
*Responsibility. It just never fails when someone falls into a pit in their life they begin to look around and point fingers. True, maybe someone did hurt us or push us in the wrong direction. Maybe we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in if they had not done so. Ultimately, there is no healing until we take responsibility for what WE did.
*Faith. This probably should be first instead of last. Since God has always in the business of rescuing those who have crashed and burned, I am pretty sure he can rescue any of us. Everything about our lives might not go back to what they used to be, but the promise of eternal life and the hope of heaven remain.
But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. – 1 John 1:9 (CEB)
For those of us who can see this crash and burn playing out in someone else’s life, we have a very heavy burden of forgiving. And after forgiving we have to figure out what boundaries we have to set in place to keep ourselves healthy. But graceless unforgiveness is not really an option for the Christian.
You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him. – Booker T. Washington
Questions for Contemplation
*What are some simple steps I can take when I’ve crashed and burned? It’s obvious it’s going to take a long time to move beyond this. What small step can I take today?
*Being realistic with myself, how am I going to keep from crashing and burning again? Perfection is something for life on the other side. Just for now, I want to keep from falling into the spiral again. What barriers need to exist to keep that from happening?
*What might I see in God’s character / attitude toward the fallen if I read my Bible once again?
*While I desire for others to forgive me, who do I need to forgive on an ongoing basis?
*How will I demonstrate to others ‘this time’ that I’m serious about making real changes? In what ways do I need to lower my expectations that they will believe me without some significant long-term changes?
Thanks for reading, JD.