I asked my friend, Vince Antonucci, to guest blog for me. Gateway Church partnered with Vince to start a church on the strip in Las Vegas. What I love about Vince is that he’s real – No Perfect People Allowed started with him! Vince is not only a pastor, but he is also an author. Check out his books! Enjoy this post!
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My wife would say that’s an understatement.
And coming from a dysfunctional family has scarred me in all kinds of ways.
It’s led me to a low sense of self-worth.
I’ve questioned whether I’m capable of being loved.
I’ve wondered if perhaps my background disqualifies me from doing ministry, or at least makes me unable to have a significant impact with my life. Maybe I’m just too messed up to make a difference.
I’ve felt like I could never recover enough to be a good husband and father.
Now before I come on too strong with this victim card, let me tell you that I do realize others had it worse.
And I feel worse for those people than I do for me, but . . . I still feel bad for me.
Now I know God is for me. He was for me even back when I was going through my Three Mile Island childhood. But when you’ve gone through or are going through that kind of pain, there’s something lacking when someone tells you they’re “for you.”
I can be for my friend battling cancer, but that feels somewhat hollow. I’m not the one going through chemo. I don’t have to face the thought of my daughter having no dad to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. My friend does.
If you haven’t walked in someone’s shoes, just being “for them” somehow seems inadequate.
But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He walked in our shoes. He walked in my shoes.
My parents weren’t married when I was conceived. Neither were Jesus’. And he had it even worse than I did, because growing up in a close-knit and extremely religious town, everyone would have known and would have looked down on him as “the bastard kid.”
When I was born, my father thought he was wanted by the FBI. We went into hiding and lived life on the run. At Jesus’ birth a paranoid king wanted him dead, so Jesus’ family had to go into hiding and live life on the run.
My father would continually go on long trips or just disappear. Finally, when I was eleven, he left and never came back. I had to grow up without a father. It seems that Jesus’ dad died young, so Jesus was without a father. But Jesus had it even worse—I rode shotgun in a U-Haul truck, whereas Jesus was probably on the back of a donkey.
I didn’t grow up in a home that was as supportive as it should have been. One time when Jesus was teaching, his mother and brothers showed up and told everyone he had lost his mind and they wanted to take him home. It’s unbelievable. Can you picture what Jesus must have been thinking? Are you serious? Mom? Mary! Are you kidding? An angel showed up. You got pregnant by a ghost! Shepherds showed up at my birth. Wise men brought baby shower gifts. And you don’t get this? You’re not behind me?
Jesus had a dysfunctional family. The things I went through, he went through. The Bible says he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
And because of that, God being for us is not just some theoretical platitude for old Christian ladies to cross-stitch and put up on their living room walls. It is real and powerful and life changing. Jesus shared in our flesh-and-blood existence, he went through the same struggles we do, and he understands how we feel. So we can go to him with confidence, and we can find real help in our time of need.
I always wondered if I could find someone to love me. I mean, even my own father, who was obligated to love me, didn’t. I always doubted that I could be a good dad. What did I know about being even an adequate father? And I doubted I could be an effective pastor; I just didn’t have the pedigree for it.
Today, the best things I have going for me are my wife and kids. For some reason, they love me, and I think I keep getting better at loving them.
Today, the best thing I have going for me as a pastor is that our church reaches lots of “messy” people who relate to my messy background.
God has redeemed my dysfunctional past and translated it into the most functional parts of my life today.
Perhaps you have some dysfunction in your family.
Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great- (times a couple more) grandmother was a prostitute.
Jesus’ great-great-great-great (times a couple more) grandfather was an adulterer who killed his mistress’s husband to cover up the infidelity.
Jesus’ mother was an unmarried teenager.
Jesus grew up poor, from a little backwoods, redneck town that people made fun of.
His family thought he was crazy.
That’s how God chose to come into the world. He could have had an easy life, but he chose to live in dysfunction.
Because he is for you. And he wanted to go through what you’ve had to go through. So he could understand how you feel, and so he could help you grow past it.
You can turn to him as an empathetic and trusted friend. And not only does he understand, he has the power to get you through what you have to get through, so you can go where you need to go.
Vince Antonucci is the author of the new book “God for the Rest of Us,” in which he explores God’s audacious love for the lowest, the lostest, and the least of us. (And yes, he knows that “lostest” is not a real word.)
You can follow Vince on Twitter: @vinceantonucci or his blog: vinceantonucci.com.