A new song by Selah entitled “Broken Ladders” speaks to one of the spiritual “land mines” in male spirituality. Here is the refrain: “All you ever wanted was my heart/My heart, my simple heart/To You that’s all the really matters/Why do I feel I have to reach/Believe I have to rise/When you never said I had to climb/These broken ladders.” Climbing broken ladders is an apt metaphor for men working on their personal “spiritual improvement projects” measuring their spiritual progress through personal “sin management.” It is an impossible task. Why do men keep climbing broken ladders?
We keep climbing and reaching because of broken hearts that we can’t fix. Our work on sin management produces the frustration of broken ladders. God, first and foremost, wants our hearts not our effort. It takes an “inside job” to fix what is broken. I heard of a very successful high school football coach, who had lead a double life, say he life was broken and he was not able to fix it. Amen.
Men we are broken. But the good news is that God is close to the brokenhearted. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). He is able to heal what is broken. “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). Isaiah prophesied of Jesus helping the brokenhearted. “He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released…” (Isaiah 61:1). God is pleased with a broken spirit. “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart” (Ps 51:19).
It is humbling to pray along with David as he acknowledges how broken he was after his affair with Bathsheba. He is aware of his total dependence upon God’s mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion blot out the stain of my sins. (Ps 51:1). It is difficult for men to surrender totally to the mercy of God. We think we have to fix something. No, we come before God in brokenness and humility.
David had some broken ladders. “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone have I sinned. I have done what is evil in your sight….For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:4a-5). He could not fix himself. No climbing broken ladders for David. He knew that only God can change his heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me” ( Ps. 51:10-11).
David knew healing started on the inside. No amount of effort could fix his broken heart. “Purify me from my sins and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…….Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt” (Ps 51:7 & 9). Remember the transformation of a man, begins as an “inside job.” David had confidence in God’s inner work. “Create in my a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:10-11). God’s inside work brought joy, giving David a willing heart. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Ps 51:12).
Instead of climbing broken ladders produced by a broken heart David found joy and willing heart. There is a big difference between climbing broken ladders and finding the joy of inner transformation.