A few weeks ago we were trying to sell our SUV. It was a great car we just could not afford it anymore. I like the heavy cars for the wife and kids. It puts my mind at ease. However, it had some problems. Nothing big, just “cracks,” bumps, and bruises here and there. Since we did not have the money to fix the “cracks,” we thought we would just try to sell it as-is. When I was writing up the ad for the car, I told of the problems. I did not want to hide anything. That would have been deceptive. Sure, I might have been able to get it out the door without anyone noticing, but sooner or later they would have figured it out. It might have been too late for them to return the car, but it would not have been too late for my integrity to have been tarnished.

As important as it is for us to reveal the “cracks” when selling our car it is infinitely more important for us to be up front about the cracks in our lives to others. Chuck Swindoll told a story on his blog the other day. Early in his ministry he was looking for the “keys to success” and sought the advice of a man he admired very much:

“How do you do it, Jim?” I asked him. “Tell me the secret of ministering to people.” I expected him to say, “Always set the pace,” or, “Be strong no matter what,” or, “Model the truth, and stand against the adversary as he attacks you.” I got none of that. Jim just smiled in his inimitable, casual way and answered, “Chuck, let people see the cracks in your life, and you’ll be able to minister to them.”

That’s it. That’s the distilled essence of all he told me.

As we left their cabin that cool evening, I felt somewhat like the deflated, rich young ruler, who had just asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Like Jesus’s surprising answer to the ruler, Jim’s reply was not what I expected. Frankly, it convicted me. I was looking to minister from my strengths. Jim challenged me to serve in weakness.  He made that statement to me over fifty years ago, and it remains one of the greatest lessons I have learned in ministry. I have never forgotten it.

I immediately related that to theology. I look out across the spectrum of all those I admire, all those I read every day, all those I listen to, and find myself coming back to those who have cracks. They write the books I read a second time (or just get through the first time!). They record the sermons I listen to again and again. They are the ones who are real. I can relate to them. Why? Because I have cracks.

None of us have it all figured out. Sure, we have some success stories that can wow the listeners. Yes, we have some convictions that are set in cement. But we also have cracks. We have a lot that confuses us. We have skeletons in our theological closet. We have doubts that we don’t allow to surface. We have experiences that don’t quite add up. Many times we are walking on the tight rope of life with the weight of pain and hope sharing space on the balancing pole and sometimes pain wins the day. These are cracks. 

Just once I would like to see someone conceded a debate. Just once! (Or at least a point in debate.) Just once I want to see someone give themselves as the negative illustration—the “what not to do.” Just once I would like to see a testimony of someone who loves the Lord that is not concluded with a nice red bow. Sometimes we are still a mess. But we have our image to keep up. And, sometimes, we can get caught up into thinking that image is more important than truth. The sell is more important than integrity. But when push comes to shove cracked people will not listen to uncracked people very long. And believe me, they know. Sooner or later people will start looking for someone more like them.

I talked to a pastor the other day who shared with me in confidence a terrible emotional trial he went through last year. I had no idea. I had to pry it out of him. But as I sat and listened to his story, for the first time in a long time I felt as if he knew pain, discouragement, and doubt the way I had. For the first time, he became real. And you know what, his stature and authority did not diminish a bit. It actually rose five or six notches.

He told me that he had never told anyone but his wife. I asked him why not. He said he did not want to discourage his  people. But you know what? They are already discouraged. They are not looking to you for perfection, but for hope. There is a lot more to be said for a person who has battle wounds (yes, even open battle wounds) and is still fighting than for the one who has none.

Showing cracks is really the only way to be real. Whether it is in your life or in your theology, don’t be afraid to let them see your cracks. If you don’t have them, then you are not in the battle. It’s that simple.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    9 replies to "Cracked"

    • Saskia

      “He said he did not want to discourage his people. But you know what? They are already discouraged. They are not looking to you for perfection, but for hope.”

      This is so great, and so true.

      An encouraging article all round.

    • jim


      This really pushed my buttons this morning! Thanks for your insight. This is why I so thoroughly enjoy your site and how you minister to me from afar. You are transparent and you don’t find many people of any denomination so willing to share. There are alot of people on this blog who are very intelligent and sincere but I often just don’t see the application of the word always being that straight forward in the real world. I believe you are correct that we all have many cracks, I leak all over the place (LOL)

      I really appreciate the work you are doing, God bless you this morning Michael, the best for you and your family is my sincere prayer.

      Merry Christmas

    • Lynn

      You do seem honest, human, and real, and I appreciate that.

    • C Skiles

      Great post Michael. My kids are 18 and 21 and it was through them that I began to realize that people want you to be real. It seems their generation is really big on this. When my son was about 16 he referred to dishonest people ( in regard to their issues) as posers. It appears that their generation has brought on a huge wave of interest in our spiritual leaders and all of us being “real”.

    • John From Down Under

      I’m about a day late…but I echo Jim’s sentiment. Your ‘cracks’ are the biggest drawcard of your blog for me too. Don’t get me wrong, I learn a lot from your ‘professional’ input (theology) but it is your personal side that I connect with.

      As Jim pointed out there are some (very) intelligent commenters on this blog whose intellectual & theological fortitude I truly admire. But if you can only interact about your faith in academic terms, an entire dimension is missing, it’s not 3D! It lacks depth, there’s no rubber-meet-the-road effect.

    • jim

      John , exactly my thoughts as well, my grandmother used to say about some people that they were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good!!! I understand better now what wisdom she was passing along.l

      Merry Christmas John, God Bless

    • Evan

      Perhaps one of the most encouraging things about your blog posts, Michael, is that you’re very open about your own short-fallings. Nobody wants to hear from someone who is “perfect”, because nobody is perfect. Thanks being willing to be a true leader.

    • Liam Moran

      This was an excellent article. Often it is our pride that wants to not allow there to be cracks whether in our Christian life or in our theology. This seem to be even more apparent with those in Christian leadership as was pointed out due to image. Again, great insights.

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