“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
The end-of-the-year holiday seasons have always been a time of reflection for me. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this year is no exception! My son, Maddox, is in North Carolina with his Dad and soon-to-be stepmom and step-brothers. As I sit by myself, in a paradox of simultaneous renewal and restlessness, I am struck by the irony of life. I am 39 years old, slightly more than four months away from the Big 4-0, and my life looks NOTHING like I had imagined it would when I was younger. There have been far more tragedies and trials than I would have liked. Still those exact things have also brought strength and beauty into my life. Likewise, facing my fears head-on has also led to freedom. Looking back, if you would have told me that I would be writing about my spiritual journey three years ago, I would have told you that you were a crazy person! Three years ago, I would have cared too much about what other people thought and would have been too scared to tell my story, not to mention I was still grieving a life that I lost but so desperately still wanted. Today, I still have many questions without answers, as well as prayers and promises yet to be fulfilled. Yet, in this one-step-at-a-time journey, I am dancing through a season that I can only describe as one that is “Beautifully Broken.”
Beautifully broken? Is there really such a thing? As each season passes, I am convinced that “YES,” there is such a thing! At first I wasn’t sure, so I decided to spend some time investigating broken things and then comparing them to my experiences. (#GeekAlertComing) Here are some real-life items that MUST BREAK before they can be fully enjoyed:
~The Sunrise~Eggs~Records~Water Balloons~Pinatas~Hats~Baseball Gloves~New Shoes~Nuts~Ice
~Bad Habits~Fears~Comfort Zones~Barriers~Thought Patterns~Misconceptions~Complacency~Chains
The sun breaks the horizon before the beauty of morning radiates through our day. Eggshells and Nutcases (I had to, it was just too easy) have to be broken before you get to the nourishment. Hats, Baseball Gloves, and New Shoes all need to be “broken-in” before they become an extension of ourselves. Likewise, Water Balloons, Pinatas, and Ice all need to be shattered to get to the refreshment and excitement of life! Lastly, Records continue to be broken when someone works through pain and persistence to perform to level that was, at one time, impossible!
Similarly to the first list, the second list also encapsulates things that are better when broken, starting with Thought Patterns. The research on neuroscience and neuroplasticity now proves how amazing the brain is! It can actually be reprogrammed to replace old, detrimental thoughts with new, life-giving thoughts! Of course, doing this is an intentional process that needs practice, courage, and a willingness to surrender the known for the unknown. Chains are broken when misconceptions, bad habits, and fears are confronted and re-framed. Comfort zones and complacency need to be challenged and changed one habit at a time. With focus, discipline, and determination, barriers become building blocks and training ground for growth and freedom!
While the first list is full of things that are instantly enjoyable, the second list can be a little more tricky! I mean, who really spends time intentionally breaking things that are ingrained in everyday life to create an experience that ends up better than it started if pain and rejection are part of the process? I know of one who has done just that and, in turn, is in the midst of transforming my life. You may have heard of him before. His name is Jesus.
Growing up in church, you would think that I would know much about God and Jesus. The truth is that I am just now starting to see the different faces of God’s Love, as well as understanding the sacrifice made on the cross. For me, it has been through a repetition of brokenness that I am finding the love and provision, the mercy and grace, and the freedom and power of Christ! Complacency and comfort, on the other hand, have been obstacles between the freedom I seek and the predictable patterns that I know.
I struggle with something that I call the “Destination Disease.” Essentially, I wait for perfection or completion to move into gratefulness, happiness, action, or acceptance. I would tell myself things like, “God can do amazing things, but He won’t for me,” or “I can’t be used by God; I am a hot mess express!” That, my friends, is just the beginning. There is also, “I can’t! I’m not strong enough!” and “It hurts too much… It’s not worth it,” or “His way can’t possibly be better; I can’t see it or feel it yet, and it’s taking too long.” Finally, and my favorite, is “I will when… (fill in the blank).” “I will when…” is the biggest misconception that has led me to a new understanding of what it means to be beautifully broken.
The image in my head is of stained glass art. The pieces are broken and intentionally melded together to create a masterpiece. Like that, Jesus intentionally broke cultural norms and intentionally used broken people to create a beautiful picture of LOVE and, in that love, REDEMPTION! Jesus didn’t wait for our perfection to make a difference; He already was—and still is—perfect, so we don’t have to be! Jesus had an incomparable compassion for others. He befriended women, lepers, tax collectors, and a whole host of sinners in a time that such a thing was unheard of. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He called on the ORDINARY to do the EXTRAORDINARY and taught them along the way!
Uh-Oh!! I see my excuses (and, yes, that is what they are—excuses) starting to dissipate! You, mean it is not by my power, but by HIS love and compassion that my brokenness will be used? All I have to do is ask for Him to guide me, be open to God’s plan, and be vulnerable to others? You mean, I don’t have to arrive at some definition of holiness BEFORE I can have a relationship with the one who made me? That’s problematic! I’ve been holding that belief my whole life, until recently. Hmm…Let me try another reason to avoid embracing my brokenness!
Okay, how about this… It is scary and painful to let go! Everything I have experienced up to this point has been conditional. If I work harder, then I get rewarded in my job. If I have a “human moment”—aka, fall apart and be real—then I get rejected. If I don’t get what I want, then I can’t be happy. Culture tells me that it is the end product that counts vs. the process. God tells me, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again…(Jeremiah 31:3)” and, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV).
Everlasting love, huh? Don’t be afraid or discouraged? Have you not seen what life has done to me? I have been left behind, abandoned, hurt, lied to, intimidated, and made fun of for being me. Lord, I felt alone and like you weren’t there! You said that you wouldn’t leave me nor forsake me, but there has been so much pain. And the Lord answered, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Don’t worry, my daughter! I will work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28)”.
I responded with, “But it is easier to give up and settle in the known than to trust enough to step into the unknown. Plus, sometimes life just flat out hurts. Why in the world would I let you, God, use my brokenness when I am bound to get hurt and possibly more broken? It’s easier to build walls, that way I can control what I allow in. Also, I don’t know if I mentioned yet that I am far from perfect and have many flaws! Not all of my pain is from other people. Sometimes, I cause my own pain in my own stubbornness and impulsively bad choices.” Then, patiently as always, God led me to King David, a far-from-perfect person with adultery and murder in his past. His Psalm reminds me that I have a reason to be THANKFUL and to REJOICE! David reminds me that without the challenges, there would be no renewal nor redemption,
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
-Psalm 103:2-5 (NIV)
Who wouldn’t want that? Healing my disease? Redeeming my life? And, I’d do just about anything for a taste of that unconditional love and compassion! And so it begins… a trip into my beautifully broken parts, in all of their glory, to see if what was written could really “be” in the world today. In a moment of temporary insanity, I said, “Yes!” to God, and told Him that he could use my broken parts, and He did just that!
First, as I unfolded my brokenness, God sent people into my life who were either going through the same hardships that I was, or had gone through the hardships and were now on the other side. Like a beautiful blend of both light and dark, hurt and healing, pain and purpose, God used people to speak HOPE and PROVISION into my life when I needed it most, and he still does to this day! I saw a good God THROUGH the people around me. They not only accepted me with my broken parts as I cried in a heap on the floor or threw a fit (and occasionally an actual household item), but they also encouraged me, supported me, and spoke life over my circumstances in a way that profoundly changed who I am. Because of God’s people—His hands and His feet—I began to believe in something bigger than the challenges in front of me. It didn’t matter if it was divorce, grief, anger, sadness, financial difficulty, depression, fear, obstacles, or apathy. God orchestrated a web of acceptance around me that still catches me when I fall and sets me back on the road to recovery when needed. It is a start to real-life redemption.
There has been morphing over time as my experiences with my good God, and the incredible people who continue to cross my path, weave together in unexpected ways. What was at one time a collection of broken pieces is now beginning to take shape. I am starting to use the jagged edges to cut through the fears and change bad habits, one at a time. With God’s help, the complacency and comfort zones are being turned into a new territory of training and opportunity. Now, I am learning how to demolish strongholds as I take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). I stand in the awe of how the broken pieces are beginning to blend together to create the present masterpiece of progress. What I once viewed as disaster followed by more disaster, I now see as purpose. When my expectations shatter into slivers of disappointment, I now see a new batch of color ready for another part of my redemptive story. I may wallow for a moment, but eventually I say, “Okay, God! I can’t wait to see how you redeem and use this one!” God’s grace and provision in the pain always ends up blessing me in the end AND allow me the opportunity to help someone else!
Do I prefer the pain over the pleasures? HECK NO! I just don’t run away from the hidden treasures of darkness anymore. Instead, I look for the bigger picture and focus on the blessings that shine through the hardships of life. I don’t know what parts and pieces of your story you would like to change or ignore. I don’t know if it’s a part of your personality that you wished were different or a circumstance that you wish would end or change. I don’t know if you are searching for provision or purpose. What I do know is that YOU are wonderfully and fearfully made for a purpose and on purpose just as you are, and YOU MATTER! It is just a matter of time before God weaves it all together for good, and, in the process of weaving, use YOUR beautifully broken pieces to bless someone else’s life! All the while, God’s love will remain steadfast and not change as his mercies continue to emerge every morning!
Instead of waiting for something different, what if together we simply enjoyed the creative process one piece at a time? Personally, I am eagerly anticipating the completion of the next piece. Do I know what it will look like? Nope. Do I know when it will be completed? Nope, again. Do I know what my part in the pieces will look like and sound like? Still, no. For me, it is just another step in the dance to be beautifully broken under the care of the Master Craftsman as he makes me something I simply could not be on my own. I wonder what the story of our art blending together will look like a year from now!?!
For now, I THANK YOU, Jesus, for loving us, trusting us, developing us, providing for us, caring for us, and giving us purpose! Today, and every single day, I will sing Matthew West’s lyrics in a prayer that,
“I wish I could bring so much more!
But if it’s true, You use broken things,
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours!”