“I have been ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot.” Psalm 31:12 New Living Translation
“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” Psalm 51:17 Christian Standard Bible
“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” Isaiah 42:3a New International Version
“The moment has come to talk about our brokenness. You are a broken man. I am a broken man, and all the people we know or know about are broken. Our brokenness is so visible and tangible, so concrete and specific, that it is often difficult to believe there is so much to think, speak, or write about other than our brokenness.” (The Life of the Beloved pg. 85, Henri Nouwen)
If there were just two concepts I could communicate to the world today, they would be the understanding of Being the Broken and Being the Beloved. I believe on these two issues hang most of the misunderstanding attributed to what constitutes life. The first, because we are afraid of admitting we are the Broken and the second because we are afraid we will never be the Beloved. And fear drives the wedge deep into our hearts, our minds, our souls, into the inner recesses where the dark seeks to destroy the only we hope we have.
The enemy wants us to be afraid of the brokenness that is our legacy from the Garden of Eden where our parents, Adam and Eve, became the first rebels without a cause. They chose the lie which led to more lies, which fed more lies, driving them and us into the dark as we seek to hide from that which we are unable to change. We are the broken pot, the bruised reed, the smoldering wick, the damaged goods, and we know it!
As if that wasn’t enough to cope with, along comes the enemy who makes sure you and I know exactly how broken we are! If you catch nothing else in this paragraph, please catch this one extremely important truth: the enemy is always a liar. Let me repeat that one more time before I move on, The Enemy is ALWAYS a Liar, period!
“Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate, and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort.” (ibid pg. 87)
We desperately long for someone to feel the pain that is tearing out our very soul! That’s why forgiving someone who has caused us pain can be so difficult. We want them to feel what we have felt as a result of their words, or their actions, or whatever it is that has driven the proverbial stake through the center of our heart! But there is a law of the universe just as solid as gravity, no one else can ever feel your pain; they can only feel their own pain. And causing someone else pain has never lessened the pain of any other individual. For just as what goes up must come down, so it is true that no one else can experience another’s pain.
As citizens of this broken planet we experience being the broken, it cannot be otherwise. However, this is just as true, we also are already God’s Beloved even as we are becoming the Beloved through our brokenness!
And as we embrace the reality of being the broken, we have the ministry of reaching others who are broken, offering them the twin reality of being and becoming the Beloved! Part of our egocentricity is to view all our circumstances as having their center in us. However, as a disciple of Jesus, I am challenged to consider that quite possibly my circumstances may have less to do with me, and more to do with some process God is providing for someone else. I just happen to be a cog in the machine of God’s Grace as He responds to the needs of another who is just as broken and needs just as much to become the Beloved!
“How can we respond to this brokenness? I’d like to suggest two ways: first, by befriending it and, second, putting it under the blessing… The first response, then, to our brokenness is to face it squarely and befriend it. This may seem quite unnatural. Our first, most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm’s length; to ignore, circumvent, or deny it.” (Ibid pg. 93)
For several years, Joni and I have experienced the reality of living with pain and suffering, both as a couple and as individuals. We each have had physical pain which has created its own firestorm of emotional pain, current and past. My own experience in the last few months has been in many ways the most challenging as I am facing some ghosts from my past. To learn to befriend my brokenness and pain is something that brings its own extreme fears. The fear I acknowledge is the possibility there will be even more pain, which will be deeper than the current pain. However, what if the result is a healing that will allow the ghosts to finally be laid to rest?
Maybe that is the real issue holding us in check from the healing God offers, fear of the unknown. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say we fear the anticipated outcome of following what God’s Grace is leading us to experience in Him. This fear is directly connected to our Sin issue, the God complex ruling in our sub-conscious. This complex infiltrates into our innermost being. It leads us to develop attitudes of arrogance, pride, and self-focus all in an effort to combat the pain of self-rejection. The answer is in accepting our being the Beloved and befriending our brokenness as part of the process that requires God’s Grace.
“For me, this ‘putting of our brokenness under the blessing’ is a precondition for befriending it. Out brokenness is often so frightening to face because we live it under the curse. Living our brokenness under the curse means that we experience it as a confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves. It is like saying, ‘I always suspected that I was useless or worthless, and now I am sure of it because of what is happening to me’ …It is so arduous to live without an answer to this ‘Why?’ (the explanation of why we suffer/experience loss) that we are easily seduced into connecting the events over which we have no control with our conscious or unconscious evaluation.” (ibid pp. 96,97)
Once more we have the opportunity to choose. We can choose what we will do with our brokenness. Do we allow it to dictate our reality and lead us into chasms of doubt, fear, confusion, and continued self-rejection? Or will we, through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, seek the Grace of being the Beloved that is ours as children of God?
I recognize myself in so many of the insights Nouwen has revealed for us in his book, The Life of the Beloved. And in sharing with you, I have been reminded once more of the tremendous love our Creator pours over us like a gentle tsunami! It’s all there for the asking, all the help we need for the sacrifice that we all need to offer, the broken spirit that God can remold as the potter does the clay!
“And so the great task becomes that of allowing the blessing to touch us in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves as the Beloved. This explains why true joy can be experienced in the midst of great suffering. It is the joy of being disciplined, purified, and pruned.” (ibid pg. 98,99)
“My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit…” John 15:2 The Voice