Do you ever find yourself wishing you were truly unbreakable? That the bones and sinews that hold you together physically could never be pushed past their level of strength and that the heart and other internal organs that are protected by that muscular-skeletal system would never have to go through the intense pain of being broken?
There are many times in my past that I have wished this for myself; that every part of me would be strong enough to withstand anything but instead, I looked in the mirror and more often than not saw pieces of myself shattered like glass shards all over the floor.
Physical breaks are so different from the emotional or spiritual ones. Having struggled with illness myself, I know the frustration of being unable to make my body do something it previously could or that it should be able to do. I know the sheer exhaustion that comes from just getting a shower or walking to and from the kitchen. I remember being absolutely furious with how challenging it was to ride in the car for a period of time longer than 20 minutes. Those times are frustrating and infuriating, but for me, they also spurred me to push myself harder than I had before to find physical strength and abilities I never knew I had – or that I wanted to have, for that matter.
Emotional and spiritual breakage is so much harder. There is no scan to say things are healing well, no blood test that can be done to say that the thing that caused the break is being eliminated.
I remember when I was quite young feeling so broken, damaged and forgotten that all I wanted to was a Mulligan for my life. I wanted someone to offer me the chance to start over and see if I could do it better the next time. I recently heard a woman discussing suicide among teens and 20’s which indicated that this feeling is quite widespread these days.
Everyone wants the chance to start over – to erase the things that went badly and try again to see if we can do it again better. We want that magical superglue that will put all of the pieces of our lives that have shattered off over the years back in place so we can feel whole again; pretend those things never happened.
Most people I have come across hate the idea of being broken. We all want to pretend that we are better than that; that despite the circumstances of our lives we have remained strong, unbreakable.
But of course, we know this isn’t possible for any of us. It wasn’t even true for Jesus.
Despite being the Son of God, Jesus, too, was breakable in His humanity and not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Jesus wept at the loss of his friend, Lazarus, he screamed in anger at the vendors in the temple, he felt betrayal from his friends and family and begged for the mercy, crying out to His Father to be freed from the need to walk the road to crucifixion.
I would like to say that these this glimpse into the humanity of Jesus always made me feel better, but it didn’t. Instead, I took His frailty to mean that if He couldn’t be unbreakable, there was no hope for me. While I believed that I was placed here by God for a purpose, I didn’t think that God could ever really love someone as broken and un-lovable as me. I saw myself like a caricature of a scullery maid. I was here to do the dirty work and then I would simply be tossed aside like so much dust and dirt from a dustpan.
It was a lonely, sad existence.
But after my second divorce, something happened.
Through the times of being essentially homeless, unemployed, no access to any money and no support system around me, I found my strength in my brokeness.
At some point, I began to see myself less like shards of glass and more like the individual threads that make up a strong rope. Each piece by itself is fragile and useless, but when woven together the whole is strong and purposeful.
As I have worked through the pieces of my brokeness caused by anger, abuse, frustration, self-pity and the pressure of life itself, I found that each piece was broken for a reason.
If I had never been abused, struggled with depression, had marriages fail and fought to find self-worth, I would not be in a place to minister to those who fight similar battles.
I realized that being unbroken would be far more of a disadvantage than being broken. Each broken place in my life both past and current is an opportunity for God to prune off parts of me that are unhealthy and allow me to grow stronger, healthier and more connected to my root – God Himself.
Now I can’t say that I enjoy this process. Its painful and there are many of my broken pieces I not only wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but that I wish could have been pruned from my far sooner than they were.
The hard part of recognizing my brokeness is realizing that I have often chosen the things in my life that broke me. It was my choice to put myself in situations I recognized as unhealthy or dangerous and ignore the screaming bells ringing in my head telling me to turn away.
There are even those who believe that it was my choice to come to this earth when I did and to live the life I have lived meaning I chose to enter into a home where I would be abused; I chose to enter into a life where I would suffer illness and depression; I chose to enter this life at this time in order that I could be the person I need to be to serve God in His kingdom.
While that is an extremely hard pill to swallow, I can tell you this.
At this point in my life, I would not choose to change or remove any of my broken pieces. They make me the person that I am and I am extremely proud of who I have become. In all likelihood I would not be this same person without every once of brokeness that has occurred in my life nor would I be able to understand fully the blessing that awaits me in the unbroken state that I will have when I am united with God.