Friday, October 10, 2014

Five for Friday: The Gifts of Brokenness

I seem to be pondering brokenness frequently of late.  Be it the broken world we live in, the broken bodies we inhabit, or the broken relationships we are part of, we all are confronted with brokenness on a daily basis.  But that doesn't mean we recognize it, or learn from it as we ought.  Here are five kinds of brokenness I've been pondering and what they teach me.

1. The brokenness of physical illness: our bodies break down, they hurt, they won't function properly.  We sometimes have blessed respite from this brokenness, and at other times this eclipses many other details of our lives.  Our culture tells us to flee this at all cost: either find a cure or find a distraction.  And while I am in favor of both cure and distraction in their proper place, physical infirmity teaches us so much about our own finite-ness, our dependence on others and on God.  In my life, I have really only learned to prioritize my life by looking squarely at my own mortality.  This is a gift, albeit a difficult one to bear at times.

2. The brokenness of inability: I remember with much tenderness watching my sweet daughter-in-love learn to care for her firstborn child. She was the baby born early, who spent the first weeks of her life in a NICU, and for whom her mama (and all the rest of us) could do very little but wait.  Mama's heart wanted to hold, fix, bless.  But she could do very little,and it broke that heart.  But in the breaking something new and more tender and precious was born. When we come to the end of ourselves and can do no more, we are thrown at the foot of the cross, at the feet of Christ, because we have no where else to go.  Another good gift.

3. The brokenness of my own sin: with St. Paul, I do the very things I hate, and fail to do those things I intend.  Wretched woman that I am, when will I learn?  I do the same stupid and revolting things over and over again, feel the weight of the guilt, and repent yet again. How can I stop this viscous cycle?  But when Paul called himself wretched, he didn't ask how he could stop being wretched.  He asked a much better question: Who can save me from this body of death?  The answer is Jesus, of course. He lived a perfect life, and then gave it up because I couldn't. Knowing this is, again, a  great gift.

4. The brokenness in the sin of others: I feel increasingly that we live in a culture running at a full gallop towards its own destruction. I see people justifying any number of forms of sin or pure madness all in the name of their sacred autonomy. This mad dash seems to ruin everything and leaves me feeling very old and curmudgeonly.  But as soon as I forget that every sin others do is a sin I could do but for God's grace interrupting me, then I run the risk of falling into the same or similar sin.  If I respond to the sin of others in pride instead of a broken heart, I join them in my rush to destruction.  Self-righteousness is more fun and distracting, but the brokenness that comes from really seeing the sin of others for what it is creates tender hearts that God can use for healing and peace.  What a gift.

5. The brokenness of relationships: we all sabotage our relationships with others in our own selfishness, and those others return in kind.  We can't help it.  It is consistent with our fallen nature.  We pick up offenses or hand them out, we don't forgive others as we ought, nor even forgive ourselves.  Every relationship, horizontal or vertical, is tainted with brokenness.  The only way to reconciliation is through Him who came with healing in His wings. He was broken in every way, and willingly, for me and for you, Gentle Reader. He is our peace. And His peace enables us to extend wholeness to one another.

Yesterday a dear friend reminded me that we out not to shun suffering because of the great good God works through it.  And brokenness, too, is a sharp tool in the hands of the Great Physician.  It cuts deep, and hurts, but like Ustace freed from his dragon skin, we find the pain from the cuts that excise the disease bring lasting joy.  May I rest there in my brokenness.


Quotidian Life said...

Dear Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to articulate your ponderings. I've been pondering some of these kinds of brokenness as well, particularly the brokenness of sin and relationships. As I prayerfully carry the burden of dear friends who are hurting for lost children, I think that the brokenness of relationships cuts the deepest. At least that is how it seems to me right now. And I'm pondering how that may reflect the heart of our Heavenly Father, whose image we bear. I have not (yet) faced the physical challenges that you have in recent year, but yes, I too am helped by considering my own mortality. Thanks for sharing your journey. I'm thanking God for His faithfulness to you and your family throughout the health trials you have faced in the past months.

MagistraCarminum said...

Thank you, Melissa! And I am thinking dealing with some of the situations you have faced (living overseas, far from family, and dealing with health issues in our children) have taken you down similar paths. God is so good to bring us friends along the way!