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The Very Worst Trend Ever


Jul 8 2013
How our love of brokenness actually fails us.

I confess: I make macaroni and cheese from that box. A green vegetable, organic or otherwise, has rarely passed the lips of my six-year-old. It's summer, and my kids have not been bathed in days (swimming in the pool counts, right?).

Once a "Dare I say it?" backlash against the picture-perfect family lives portrayed on the web, these kind of parental confessions have become a popular trope around the blogosphere, particularly among Christians. Recently, Jen Hatmaker's "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever," an expose of scavenged posterboard and last-second costume improvisation, went viral enough to land her a televised interview on Today.

Hatmaker, along with writers like Ann Voskamp and Jamie Wright (a.k.a. Jamie the Very Worst Missionary), with their stories of burned dinners and piles of dishes and moments of hair-pulling frustration, are making messiness cool.

But all stories, including self-deprecating humor and amusing little blog anecdotes, have theological implications. As Christians, our current obsession with brokenness may have us getting a little too comfortable with a life defined by often-petty imperfections.

Posts about failing do get so much right, and Christians, of all people, rightly understand what it means to be broken. Before the face of a holy God, we have no illusions about our own righteousness (the great Apostle Paul called his "rubbish"), and we have no need to pretend otherwise. It's no secret that we are the undeserving recipients of grace. We should be authentic, rejoicing with Paul: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Tim. 1:15).

Christ gives true hope to one who is the worst.

But these online confessions tend to underestimate sin. We read about spilled milk and overflowing laundry baskets and call it brokenness. We applaud the authors for being messy and raw. But sin is serious, and such posts can blur our understanding of what failure actually is.

Writer Marie Osborne voiced this in a recent blog comment: "I hate how often I hear moms say 'worst mom ever' or 'I'm such a bad mom' for stuff that has nothing to do with the guidance, training, and nurturing of children through life." If everything is failure, then nothing is. We warp our perception of sin when feeding my child Cheetos for breakfast qualifies me for worst mom ever.

Before calling himself the worst sinner, Paul describes his former life as a "blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent" (I Tim. 1:13). If we also have authentic confession in view, returning to biblical categories of sin would be more helpful. Instead of writing winking admissions of our forgetfulness or stress, let's talk seriously about our unkindness or laziness or anxiety.

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