Breaking Down My Heart When it’s Breaking Bad

Today my guest blogger is Rick Thomas, an unusual guest post from a man! I asked his permission to post his blog because what he writes is so in tune with my own heartbeat, and with the pulse of my ministry.  I have known Rick for several years now, and he has been a great blessing to me and the ministry.  I would like to invite you to join his site, and there's more information about that at the end of today's post.  

Walter White is representative of humankind. He was the discontented chemistry teacher who was given a death sentence. Assuming he had only a few months to live because of lung cancer, he removed all the stops to his conscience by choosing to live life according to his heart rather than familial, cultural, or supposed moral expectations.

Walter White is a case study of human depravity unleashed. Though a death sentence was given to him, it was all the people who came in contact with him who died.

Approximately 200 people were murdered, whether by his hand or through the implications of his actions, e.g., the midair plane collision. Those who survived Walter White died through the incurred losses in their souls.

The thing which intrigues me about Walter White is how I see myself in this man. I’m a walking dichotomy between right and wrong, that which is moral and that which is immoral.
Sometimes I want to tell some people off. Then my Spirit-illuminated mind and biblically informed conscience kicks in and I refrain. Other times I don’t refrain. I give in to my true self–the real me which is hidden from you, but unmasked to my heart.

I have an expectation of how life should be and it is hard to subject what I want, need, crave, or lust after to the cross of Christ. At times what I want and what God calls me to are at odds. Walter White chose not to give honor to God or submit to His authority.

He threw all caution to the wind by choosing to live on this terrestrial ball according to the dictates of his heart. Though he’s a fictional character, his life is an appealing case study about me. And you. Walter White is the fictional mirror of our non-fictional lives.
  1. Part of me hates him because he was ruthless (Romans 12:9).
  2. Part of me pities him because he was caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-2).
  3. Part of me is afraid of him because I could do what he did (Psalm 37:13).
  4. Part of me wants to be him because he fully indulged his flesh (Ecclesiastes 1:8).

Flashes of Walter White

When I become angry at my wife or children, I’m indulging my flesh. I’m refusing to submit whatever it is I’m thinking in the moment to the death of Christ. I feel entitled in those moments of unleashed depravity and no amount of reason is going to persuade me from what I want.

After I come back to my biblical senses I can simultaneously hate, pity, and fear myself, while realizing there will probably be another turn of self-indulgence somewhere down the road because I’m easily tempted to indulge my flesh.

Haven’t you experienced these quadrilateral morality twists? Something does not go your way or you don’t get what you expected and you turn into your version of Walter White–you simply don’t care anymore? This is your true self.
What would you be like if you no longer had the power to keep the real you hidden?
About twenty years ago I was ministering in a nursing home environment. All of the folks in the home were near death. Their ability to control their physical selves was limited.

They wore diapers and were fed by others. They were lifted out of their beds and rolled in their wheelchairs. They were at the mercy of the staff to do for them even the simplest tasks they used to do without thought or effort. Their bodies were returning to the dust (Psalm 103:14).
Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)
One of the other things I observed about these people was their inability to control their spiritual selves. The same lack of physical control was proportionally translated to the other side of their dichotomy–their inner person.

What was so instructive about their physical and spiritual brokenness was how their true selves was manifested to everyone in the nursing home. What you can’t control will be revealed. This was profoundly and painfully obvious when I preached Jesus to them each Saturday morning.

I remembered one Saturday where I was extolling the goodness of Christ and there was this elderly black lady who radiated joy as she listened to the Words of life.

Physically, she could not hold her hymnal in her hands. Spiritually, she could not hold back her tears as she thought about her Savior. Who she was on the inside made its way to the outside as each tear journeyed down her deeply crevassed face and fell into her lap.

About seven wheelchairs over from her was another person in similar straits: he could not control his inner self. As I was extolling the Words of life, he was bellowing his replete treasury of profanity.

While I marveled at what I saw and heard from these two people, the Spirit quietly reminded me there is coming a day when I will not be able to manage my hypocrisy–regardless of the degree to which it is real inside of me. I will be just like them, should I live as long.

The LORD gave me a gentle and kind warning over 20 years ago as I preached to these two people. One lady, wasting away, was about 90% in heaven and joyfully picking up speed.
One man, wasting away, was about 90% in hell and he didn’t care who knew about it. He gave up on God and chose to live life on his terms and to hell with everyone else. As Walter White said,
I’ve been living with cancer for the better part of a year. Right from the start, it’s a death sentence. That’s what they keep telling me. Well, guess what?
Every life comes with a death sentence, so every few months I come in here for my regular scan, knowing full well that one of these times – hell, maybe even today – I’m gonna hear some bad news.
But until then, who’s in charge? Me. That’s how I live my life. – From the Hermanos episode
He later said,
If you believe that there’s a hell – I don’t know if you’re into that – but we’re already pretty much going there. But I’m not gonna lie down until I get there. – From the Say My Name episode
We all have a powerful choice to make: who is going to be in charge? I learned a long time ago I can’t trust myself. I must have someone else running my life. If I give way to the depravity of my heart, there will be no telling what kind of death I will bring to my world.
  1. After your outer person wastes away, what kind of inner person will we see?
  2. When you lose control of your inner faculties, what will we observe about the real you?
  3. Which person in the wheelchair will you be?

The real Mr. White

Fortunately, as biblically centered people we don’t have to live in a shroud of mystery as to who we really are and we don’t have to grope for the walls like blind Walter White’s with no hope (Isaiah 59:10). The Bible is a mirror too (James 1:23-24). We can look into its pages to find the mystery revealed and hope given.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. –Luke 6:45 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
If you want to know who you really are, then wait for those moments where you’re no longer in charge. In the case of my nursing home friends, the last stage of their lives were those moments which revealed their true selves.

In the case of Walter White, he made a decision to stop fooling his family and friends long before he lost his ability to take charge. He took control by giving his true inner person full reign. The only hypocrisy left in his life was his frantic and feeble attempts to pull the wool over his family’s eyes. But once the cat was fully out of the bag, all hypocrisy was gone. Who he was (depraved) and what he did (depravity) were in perfect harmony. When your true heart is fully manifested in your behaviors, only then will the hypocrisy be gone. Doesn’t this give all of us something to ponder?
  1. How willing are you to reveal your true self to others?
  2. What kind of gap is there from who you really are on the inside and the person your friends know you to be outside?
I’m not trying to manipulate you by fear tactics. My hope is for the Spirit of God to bring light into whatever darkness remains in your heart, while motivating you to run to His light (Hebrews 4:13). This is what the story of Walter White does for me.

I don’t sit in judgment of him any more than I sit in judgment of myself. If ever the following Christian cliché were true, it’s true now: except for the grace of God I would be just like Walter White.

The key for me is a simple one. Don’t do what Mr. White did. Each moment during my day gives me the opportunity to choose the way of Walter White or the way of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It’s really that simple.

The choice you and I make, either for God’s glory or our glory, will become easier and easier. We can either put ourselves to death now or we will move toward greater and more profound iterations of death as we choose to walk away from the LORD.
I was reminded of this truth after reading The Gospel Coalition article on Breaking Bad by Chris McNerney. He quoted John Owen’s classic, The Mortification of Sin.
When a lust has remained a long time in the heart, corrupting, festering, and poisoning, it brings the soul into a woeful condition. . . .
Such a lust will make a deep imprint on the soul. It will make its company a habit in your affections. It will grow so familiar in your mind and conscience that they are not disturbed at its presence as some strange thing.
It will so take advantage in such a state that it will often exert itself without you even taking notice of it at all. Unless a serious course and extraordinary course is taken, a person in this state has no grounds to expect that his latter ends shall be peace.

Break bad or break right

Breaking bad is a term from my era–the hippie generation. We used it all the time. To break bad is to go bad–to do wrong. Here’s my appeal to you: don’t break bad, but more than this. When you do break bad, take a serious and extraordinary course of action to change.

The following is my all-time favorite, number one prayer which I bring to the LORD throughout my day. There are several ways of saying it. I’m going to give you the full version.[1]

The reason for this prayer is because of my acute awareness of how I can break bad. But it’s more than breaking bad: it’s breaking bad one time, while refusing to not change, and then breaking bad again.

Then it becomes a sequence of breaking bad, with each new event becoming easier than the last. Simultaneous to this process of breaking bad is the layering of my conscience, until I am no longer able to discern right from wrong (Hebrews 5:11-144:7).

In the end I will be prostrate on the floor in my meth lab with a satisfied look on my face, as I am dying from a gunshot wound, not realizing the severity or consequence of going from Mr. Chips to Scarface.
Dear LORD,
Help me to be sensitive to your Spirit. Help me to see what you see, to hear what you hear, to know what you know.
Please remove anything which hinders me from hearing you, knowing you, discerning you. I want to keep in step with your Spirit, always being immediately aware of how you want me to respond and what you want me to do.
I don’t want to be dull of hearing. Illuminate my mind. Give me an ever-increasing sensitivity to you, while removing any sin which interrupts my ability to know exactly how you want me to think, speak, and do.
Dear LORD, stop me from breaking bad. – Rick

Written by Rick Thomas

Rick Thomas
(Greenville, SC) has been training and counseling in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own Christian training organization in order to assist Christians around the world regarding a better understanding and practice of Christian discipleship. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology.
Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with a nationally recognized counseling group. Today his organization represents clients in over 90 countries as well as all 50 states through his consulting, training, blogging, and coaching.

I want to encourage you to join Rick's Member Site at Counseling Solutions if you are looking for excellent quality materials and godly gospel-centered counsel. It is the best 4.95 per month you will ever spend!