The End of Me

My friend’s husband is in the throes of training for a marathon. When he first began considering this huge undertaking all those months ago, she championed his endeavor emphatically, encouraging him to go all in, to give anything it would take to cross that finish line and accomplish his goal.  It wasn’t just something he wanted, it was something that she wanted for him.  As month after month of his training progressed she cheered from the sidelines, taking pride in his perseverance and dedication.   And now, as the date of the race approaches, his practice runs have necessarily become longer and longer, keeping him out running for entire mornings and whole afternoons. Quite frankly, my friend told me today, she’s ready for her husband to stop running. Ready for this darn race to be over so that their lives can return to his pre-training normal. She’s ready for the return of lazy weekend afternoons at home – no stop watches allowed. But as for now, this very afternoon, he’s out on another one of his endless runs. He runs and he runs and he runs.

He runs and she waits.  She waits because it’s become clear to my friend by this point that this marathon has never really been about race for her husband, but has actually been about the running.  Not the running to anything in particular, but the running from just about everything you can imagine.  Because sometimes that’s just where life takes us.

So this afternoon as her husband runs, my sweet friend prays for an end. She’s praying, perhaps right now at this very second, for her husband to finally reach the end of himself. My friend prays that maybe somewhere out there on one of those never-ending country farm roads, as he times and as he paces and as he steadily breathes, that he will realize that he has finally exhausted his own efforts and maybe then he will finally be done.  Done trying, done working, done running so hard to save himself from the battle he’s been fighting.  She prays for an ending because she hopes against hope that when he gets to the end of himself, then that’s where he will finally find Jesus. Because isn’t that where Jesus is always found? At the end of ourselves?

Endings always seem to have such a bad rep, but I find them to be, at least in some way, almost always quite lovely. After all, I’ve never seen the end of anything that wasn’t the beginning of something else. And I don’t mean that in some overly romanticized sort of way. I’ve lived through an ending or two that I was absolutely quite certain would kill me at the time. But ever since the very first beginning, ever single end has began something else.

I remember the day I found my own end. All alone in that tiny apartment all the way on the other side of the world – the place I ran to find myself, funnily enough, was where, ironically, I realized how lost I was. How broken and fragile and downright ruined. After running and running and running, I finally broke down exhausted and collapsed into the oblivion of having no more of me to give.  I had finally reached the end of myself.  My worst fear had been realized:  I had exhausted my own capabilities, used up all my own resources – I had nothing left. For all those years beforehand, I had feared the moment when I would finally find my end more than any other thing. It’s so funny, the things we fear – because coming face to face with my greatest fear actually brought the sweetest relief I had ever experienced.   It was right there, somewhere in the midst of the fragmented pieces of my broke-down life, that I finally caught a glimpse of the Savior’s face.  One irresistible glance of the saving grace which carried with it no expectations, just acceptance of who I was right then.  At my absolute worst.  The end of me was the beginning of His life in me.  And that’s something worth running toward.  You see, the Lord loves a good runner, he’s just aiming to change our course.

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1-2

So today my precious friend encouraged her husband to go on that four-hour run, even though truth be told, she would have rather had him at home.  She opened the front door wide and watched him go, because sometimes that’s just about all we can do – encourage someone to run in the hopes that maybe today will be the day they run into the end of themselves.

 

Mirror, Mirror

I’ve spent a lot of time staring into the mirror lately. I’m fully aware of how vain that must sound, but let me tell you, middle age is hard on a girl. Maybe it’s the result of having three babies in four years, or perhaps it has something to do with the twenty-seven total months of pregnancy that resulted in those babies, the three solid years of nursing said babies, or all the child-rearing, toddler-wrangling, middle-of-the-night-time-soothings and everyday-life-still-a-happenin’ that went on in the meantime, but DANG am I all worn out now.

With each passing year that pushes me deeper into my thirty-somethings, it is becoming increasingly more obvious that my body was better suited for youth. The boundless energy that I use to know has long since fizzled into a 9 o’clock bedtime (that’s for me, not the kiddos – God forbid). The natural brunette tresses that use to come, well… naturally, have started needing some assistance in staying natural. The near-flawless skin that characterized my twenty-somethings has methodically been collecting the small lines, creases and wrinkles that unfortunately seem to be characterizing my thirty-somethings.

As a result of all this wear and tear on my body, I’ve found myself spending more time looking closely in the mirror than I ever have before, inspecting my face to see what’s changed since the last time I gave a good look. I’ve invested in eye cream, a cleansing facial mask, a pore reducing toner, a sensitive skin treatment, and a night-time refining cream. I’ll tell you the same thing I told my husband when he questioned my hefty purchases, “These expenditures have become necessary”. I can no longer go on pretending that time hasn’t taken it’s toll on my body. And this week it became clear that I can no longer go on pretending that time hasn’t taken it’s toll on my soul.

Because, oh my, has it ever. As I worked my way through some difficult interpersonal terrain these last few weeks, God revealed to me several places in my heart that had fallen into disrepair. He seemed to be speaking right to me, “You so intentionally seek out the places where your skin has grown rough, calloused, and marred by imperfections, but I am more concerned with those places on your heart”.

Have you noticed that God has a funny way of intercepting our lives with His Word? Last week, I was reading about Abraham’s wife, Sarah. It turns out that just like me, time had taken it’s toll on her body and her soul. Sarah had longed her entire life to bear a child, but at ninety years of age, the Lord had yet to grant her request. This state of affairs caused all sorts of turmoil in Sarah’s soul, because somewhere way back in time, the Lord had made her a promise that echoed through the recesses of her heart. A promise that He would give Abraham more descendants than there were stars in the sky (Genesis 15:6). But twenty-five years later, a child had yet to be given. As Sarah’s body aged and grew decrepit, so did her hope in the God who had promised a child. And right about the time Sarah stopped believing that God would give her a child, the Lord decided to ask her if she still believed that He could give her a child…

Genesis 18:10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’  14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Whenever God asks a question in Scripture, it is always for our benefit, not His, seeing as He already knows the answer to every question. God’s questions always provide us an opportunity to evaluate our own heart and then repent if necessary. God’s question to Sarah in verse 14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”, served as an invitation for her to take a close look in the mirror to evaluate the person she had become. And the truth is, that over the years, Sarah had grown bitter over her barrenness.  After years of being left unattended, that bitterness had grown into disbelief. So although she was afraid to say it aloud to Him, the obvious answer to the question God had posed her – “Do you think that anything too hard for me, Sarah?” – was Yes. As year after year after year went by without a pregnancy she had nursed the lie that perhaps there was something too hard for the Lord until it had become full grown. She had looked at her circumstances and after waiting for His timing and praying for His will and wrestling with her own desires, she couldn’t understand why if he could do it, that he hadn’t done it. Over time, Sarah’s heart had grown rough, calloused and marred by imperfections.

While my struggles, heartaches, and insecurities are quite different from Sarah’s, and your struggles, heartaches and insecurities are different from mine, left unattended, they all lead to the same place. They eventually lead us to doubt the One who made the promise.

After the Lord left Sarah that day, she did one of the most difficult things a girl can do… she took a long look in the mirror, intentionally seeking out the imperfections, false beliefs, and accepted lies that marred her heart.  As last week went from bad to worse for me, I sensed the Lord prompting me to do the same.  So I did.  Sometimes looking in the mirror is not just a vain attempt to perfect your appearance, but a necessary step in reorienting yourself to the truth.

The Things We Leave Behind

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him… Genesis 12:1-4

One of the great lies that has been propagated by our generation is the idea that we can have it all. (Don’t even get me started on the lie that we deserve it all). The notion that we might actually have to sacrifice one thing in order to gain possession of another thing has been rejected as a self-imposed limitation. After all, why should we have to give up anything?

When the Lord called Abram, He made it abundantly clear that Abram would be required to leave some things behind when he set out to follow Him.  And the things God asked Abram to leave behind were big things, not mere incidentals – his country, his kindred, his father’s house. These were undoubtedly the most significant things in Abram’s life. They represented everything that was comfortable, familiar, secure and safe to him. The things God asked Abram to walk away from represented everything by which Abram defined himself and everything by which others would have defined him. God’s message to Abram was clear – you can’t have it all.  In this case, Abram’s pursuit of one thing would necessitate his neglect of another.

Abram’s life is not the only Biblical picture we have of this principle.  Jesus would repeat this message like a resounding gong to those seeking to be His disciples.

Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The idea of sacrificing one thing in order to inherit another is a Kingdom principle. Just as Abram willingly left behind all the things in which he had placed his hope so that God could become his only hope, we willfully give up parts of our lives in order to gain possession of God’s promises. As followers of Christ, this principle will color many of the decisions we make as we go about the business of living.

At the time my husband and I got engaged to be married, I was completing the final year of my master’s degree at The University of Texas. I had done well enough in the masters program to gain entrance into the school’s doctoral program. I remember sitting down with my faculty mentor to discuss my decision to decline the invitation to continue my studies. She made no attempt to hide the fact that she felt I was making a mistake. She was one of the younger faculty members at the time and was already making a name for herself in the world of academia. On top of being an amazing lecturer, she was conducting research studies, publishing articles and contributing book chapters left and right. She was my academic idol – young, talented, passionate and hard-working, she represented everything I wanted to be. So you can imagine the dissonance I felt when she sat me down to ask why on earth I was turning down the opportunity to pursue my doctorate – especially given my “promising future” in the department.

Don’t think the very same question hadn’t crossed my mind. It had. In fact, I had given the decision quite a bit of thought. The truth was that I knew exactly where I wanted to focus my efforts in the years following my academic career and (as unpopular a notion it was with my professor) – it wasn’t on my professional career. She wanted to make sure that I understood the repercussions of my decision to leave the program when I did - there would be no job offers from prestigious universities and no tenure track possibilities in my future. Honestly, I was flattered by her concern over the loss of all my possible possibilities, but I was well aware of what I was giving up. I also knew exactly what I hoped to gain. I didn’t have the resources necessary to nurture a young marriage, raise the babies that I hoped would arrive in the coming years, and manage a demanding career. I knew my tendencies toward perfectionism too well. In trying to have it all, I would have ended up destroying myself.

So I made the hard choice to give up one thing in order to whole-heartedly pursue another.

I still think about that choice sometimes.  On occasion, I have even asked myself if what I lost was worth what I have gained.  I don’t have to think about it very long, because without a doubt, it has been.

Like Abram, somewhere along the way I have come to peace with the truth that I can’t have it all. There are those who will spend a lot of time and energy fighting hard against this idea, hoping to prove it wrong.  But as for me, I have found this revelation to be incredibly freeing. The realization that I can’t have it all has freed me from the pursuit of it all (which is desperately tiring, don’t you think?) I now possess the ability to choose what I want. To neglect certain things in order to faithfully pursue others.  And at a certain point, I even got to the place where I could look back on those things that I lost – all those once-upon-a-time hopes, dreams and wishes – with the understanding that there was beauty in the act of leaving those things behind so that I could put my hope in something better.

His First Day of First Grade

My friend Becky sent me a text last week. “We have first graders,” it read. I fully expect to get a similar text from Becky at this same time every year up until our oldest children go to college. My first born, Cole, and her first born, Laurel, were in Mother’s Day Out together before they could even walk. They took some of their first wobbly steps side-by-side down the hallways of that big baptist church, back when Becky and I were first learning how to be mamas. She and I, we stumbled and fumbled right alongside our babies as we learned how to walk the rocky terrain of motherhood. And now, just like that, “we have first graders.”

Just like that. I’ve noticed that ever since I became a mother (6 years, 5 months and 7 days ago) I’ve developed a very bipolar relationship with time. I’m either begging it to speed up (Is it nap time yet?) or praying it would slow down (first loose tooth already?!) It’s as if the moment that first baby was placed in my arms my entire life became suddenly consumed with the notion of time.

bed-time, bath-time, lunch-time, play-time, nap-time, dinner-time (no time for me-time)

If there’s one thing having kids will do to you, it is to direct your attention to the relentlessly unwavering passage of time. Although at almost any given moment of practically any particular day with these wild boys of mine you can bet that I’m counting down the hours until bedtime, not one night passes where I don’t tip-toe into their rooms to kiss them goodnight – fully aware that eventually my time with them runs out.

Motherhood is all-consuming and seemingly never-ending, yet it is engulfed by the finite.

Yes, mamas, as endless as it may seem to us while we are here in the trenches, we exist in a world where all things are finite. There are a finite number of baths to give and bubbles to blow. A finite number of lullabies to sing and bedtime stories to read. A finite number of booboos to kiss, temper tantrums to quell and dinnertime shenanigans to bear.

And as each little milestone turns my attention once again to all this passing time, I mourn the thought of these children of mine growing. I wonder, how can I fit the infinite amount of love that I have for my littles into the finite amount of time I have with them? How can you squeeze something that knows no boundaries into something so bound by the boundary of time?

Admittedly, these questions have at times caused me to shake my fists toward the heavens.  The systematic way in which I have had to let go of my littles has seemed almost cruel to me as I have struggled to understand why God would place them in my arms only to pry them from the tight grip of my hands. I just can’t always make sense of the tension between my desire to hold them near and the reality that I am always having to let them go.

These heart-tensions came to a head for me at this same time last year – the day I sent Cole off to Kindergarten. That Monday morning I loaded him up with everything on the school supply list, sucked back my tears, and bravely sent him on his way. There’s not one social-related fear in that kid, so he trotted in like a pro without so much as a glance back at me. As I watched the door close behind him, it was obvious that my boy was fine (but his mother obviously was not). I held it together just long enough to make it back home, where I stood in the kitchen and cried.  And cried.  And cried, working myself into a full-out, heaving, choking frenzy until finally, I resolutely told the Lord “NO!” that I simply could not let go of the babies he had given me.

After a few minutes of silence, I realized that I had no choice in the matter, so I asked Him why.  Why was He going to require that I let go of my children time and time again?  (At that point I didn’t think that I could survive the whole kindergarten send off two more times with the other boys, let alone middle school, high school and God forbid they move away for college…)

And then I got an answer I didn’t expect. He said it right to my heaving, frenzied heart, “Letting go of them forces you to grab hold of Me.”

And suddenly the grace of it all filled up my soul. Because boy, has it ever.  Somehow, by placing what is so vulnerably finite into our arms, He pulls us into the embrace of The Infinite One. And with each passing milestone that this life brings, the Lord is rising up in our mama-hearts a furious longing for the things that will never end.

So with all this in mind, I sent my first-born off to Mrs. Kennedy’s first grade class this morning, his backpack filled to the rim with everything he might need for the day.  He marched in like a champ, just like I knew he would, not once looking back.  And his mama?  Well, I lingered outside the school for a bit, clutching on a little tighter than usual to the hands of my 4 and 2 year olds, and eventually we walked away too, as I said a quick prayer, thanking the Lord for the infinite beauty of the finite things He has given me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me – Psalm 50:23

 

Interrupt Me, Please*

I know you’ve felt it.  You’ve had to have felt it.  Please, tell me you’ve felt it.  That ever present, but conspicuously covert tinge of tension surrounding our distinctively American brand of Christianity, where comfort comes before kingdom.  Although the tension is obvious, we scarcely talk about it or, worse, don’t (or can’t?) admit it’s undeniable presence.  Why?   Because if we openly acknowledged the tension we would have to change the game.  If we openly acknowledged it, we would be forced to confess that the trepidatious way in which we’ve been following Christ (and doing church) leaves something to be desired.  Then, once we got over the shock of admitting that we’ve been doing it all wrong, we’d have to get down to the hard work of re-discovering the real truth, because if something about our Christianity rings so false, how on earth can it be the truth?  I hate to be so blunt, but it can’t.

In the re-release of her book, Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker takes direct aim at that tension, telling the story of how God interrupted her “typical American life” to change her family’s direction from going to a church that existed mainly to serve the weekend attendees to being a church that primarily exists to serve “the least of these.”

Hatmaker first released Interrupted in 2009, though it was largely overshadowed by her 2012 book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (which has rocked the world of more than a few of you, I know).  Maybe Christians weren’t then ready to confront what Hatmaker sees as some cold, hard truths for Christians in America.  As she puts it in the introduction to the re-release of Interrupted,

“The very comforts the American dream and American Christianity hold out to us are the same ones we must abandon without looking back, daring to trust that a Savior who had no place to lay His head might have the slightest idea what he was talking about.”

Ouch.  Right?!  I’m not sure most of us, myself included, are ready to embrace the magnitude of that little gem.  And the tacit question that Hatmaker puts to us all is “Why not?”

Through her own story of transformation, Hatmaker keys into a moment of realization that resonated with me, as I assume it will with many of you as well, a moment in which the church at large and its current presentation of a “good, obedient life” is met by the question, “Is this all there is?”  For Hatmaker, the moment came when she realized that she was simply “blessing the blessed” and “serving the weekend attendees.”  She found that she and her family were a mirror image of American culture, “just a churched-up version.”  And then with one simple prayer, “God, raise up in me a Holy Passion”, everything changed.

Following God’s prompting, she and her family moved from a comfortable mega-church where her husband was on staff – to starting a church-plant which seeks to challenge the typical American church model as it strives to daily live out the basic tenets of Matthew 25:31-46, in which Jesus instructed his disciples to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the poor, befriend the prisoner, and care for the sick as if “the least of these” were Jesus Himself.

Hatmaker’s book could be easily dismissed as yet another iteration of the social gospel movement that began in the early 1900s and was generally characterized by the application of Christian principles to a wide array of social issues such as poverty and income inequality.   To do so misses the very important and relevant point of her story as it relates to the Christian experience in the American church today.  We are too concerned with our own comfort, and not nearly concerned enough about His kingdom.  The result, as Hatmaker puts it: “[W]e’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.”

God calls us to action, not to comfort, and Hatmaker shows us in Interrupted what that has looked like in her life, while at the same time challenging us to examine what that should look like in our own lives.  It seems like such an obvious message.  It left me convicted, wondering how I could be so oblivious to the obvious.

Ultimately, Hatmaker challenges our belief in Jesus with the question, but do you believe Jesus?  Do you believe what he said, what he did, what he died for?  Do you properly see yourself as a sinner in need of a savior, “the least of these” who Jesus died for? This perspective is vitally important, because once you are convinced that he died for you (not an ambiguous you, like “you the church”, but a painfully personal “you”), once you realize your true place as “the least of these”, then you will begin pouring out your time, energy and affection on those just like you – the very least.

Ours is a God known for his divine interruptions – it is a theme we can trace all throughout Scripture – from Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament, to Mary and Joseph, the twelve disciples and the apostle Paul in the New Testament.  Hatmaker’s account of how God interrupted her family’s nice little “churched-up” life in the suburbs of Austin, Texas was a welcomed reminder that God is still in the business of interrupting and left me asking, “God, interrupt me.”

 

*This book review was written as a part of a blog tour for Jen Hatmaker’s re-release of her book, “Interrupted”.  You can find out more by going to http://www.jenhatmaker.com.  As a part of that blog tour, I have a free copy of “Interrupted” to give away to one of you!  Leave a comment in the comments section below and I’ll arbitrarily pick a name to receive the book ;)  Make sure to leave your email address if I don’t already have it!

 

 

On Ten Years of Marriage

Ten years ago this week, I married my quasi-high school sweetheart (there’s a long story that goes with that title). We had a smallish wedding on a tight budget, but I was never the kind of girl to be too concerned about the number of guests or number of dollars I’d be allotted for my wedding.  Honestly, I found all the planning and choices to be overwhelming and stressful. Invitations, flowers, bridal parties, wedding cake, grooms cake (we have to get two cakes?!), out of town guests, hotel reservations, photographer, videographer – it was all a bit too complicated for me. I wanted to be married without actually having to get married, but I had some sort of understanding that the wedding itself (and all the busy-ness that went along with it) was a necessary part of the experience.

When it came right down to the details of the day, I loved my dress, but had no great care for finding the perfect dress. The cake was delicious (but aren’t most cakes delicious, just by their very nature?) My bouquet was beautiful, but I honestly don’t even remember the type of flowers I held. The wedding itself was a bigger event to our loved ones than it was to Chris and I. More than anything, I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable and undeserving of all the attention that was doted on me on my “big day”. In the grand scheme of things, my husband and I would face much bigger days together than the day we wed.

The birth of our first child, now that was a big day.

The first big, BIG (I’m talking huge) fight we had (about 6 years in for us) where I believed, if even for just a fraction of one second, that it would be easier to just walk away – that was a much bigger day, too.

The day we walked into Texas Children’s Hospital with our second-born for an appointment with a pediatric oncologist, another big day.

Yep, in the grand-scheme of “big days”, those days made our wedding day look like a cake walk.

If the apex of our life as husband and wife actually fell on the day we were married, then the story would have ended as quickly as it had begun. Chris and I understood this going into it. For us, the wedding itself never actually carried the weight of significance that the day-to-day toil of pursing the heart of the person we married that day did.

The wedding was an event. Every day after has been our life.

And life has a way of happening, doesn’t it? No matter what significance or insignificance you place upon it, life has a way of pulling you along.

So it goes that an entire life is filled with single days. Those days are built on hours, those hours are built upon minutes, and those minutes are built upon seconds. And it is in those tiny increments of time that real life occurs. It is in those tiny increments of time that you make the little choices that lead to either life or death in the context of a marriage. You see, life isn’t about big choices, but about small ones. And you make a million small choices each day. Each choice builds upon the next and within each choice lies the decision (whether conscious or unconscious) to either pursue the man I married or push him away. And listen, I’ve done my fair share of both.

I’ve ran hard and fast after this man’s heart and I’ve turned away and pushed away and pulled away. I’ve idolized this man and I’ve demonized this man. I’ve held him near and I’ve held my ground.

People will tell you that marriage is about all sorts things – about love, about commitment, faithfulness, dedication, compromise – what have you. And all of that may be true in part, but when I step back to look at what I’ve come to know about marriage in the (admittedly meager) time that I’ve been a part of it, I would say that marriage is about pursuit. A relentless pursuit of the person you committed your life to “for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Not merely an existence alongside this other, but an intentional pursuit of this person in spite of what you may find. And that’s the key, that no matter what you may find, you keep pursuing the true heart of this person.

Why?

Because that is what God does for us.

God recklessly pursues us in spite of all the broken mess which that pursuit reveals.

If there’s one thing marriage will do for certain it is to reveal your brokenness.  Since the day we walked down the aisle, there’s not one insecurity, fear or failure that this man of mine hasn’t uncovered in me.  The story of our marriage has been one of God revealing to us the truth about who we are (in regards to ourselves and in regards to each other).  And after 10 years, I hazard to say, that just about everything has been revealed. That’s a tough pill to swallow for girl who’s been dead-set on perfection her whole life. (Ah, yes, the little lie of perfection dies hard and fast in the type of environment that marriage provides.) And although we may have lost the illusion of perfection that we once carried, Chris and I have found something far more beautiful and genuine in it’s place – we have found security. Security is found when another person knows the truth of your brokenness, but loves you anyway. This is what God offers us, and in our marriage, this is what we offer each other – an abiding love rooted in the security of knowing the truth about each other and loving each other anyway.

 I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

Broke Down

Broke down, cracked and shattered
Left in pieces like it never even mattered
Broke down, torn and frayed, ain’t nothin’ left you could give away                                               There’s no turnin’ round, it’s broke down
“Broke Down” By Slaide Cleaves

I love sad songs. I like seriously love them. This is one of the things about me that endlessly annoys my husband. The slower, the sappier, the sadder the song, the louder I want the volume turned up. And I don’t want to just listen to the sad song. Oh no, no, no – that would be far too kind to my fellow car-riders, I want to sing the sad song. Loud. I want to throw my head back and croon. Wail. Wallow around in the woe of the singer/song-writer right along with them. There’s just something about a really good sad song that rings true to me. Not to be overly dramatic or anything (because that would be sooo unlike me), but there’s an underlying brokenness to the world that these songs pick up on, you know? An ache…a loss that lies beneath the surface of life that keeps us yearning for a more perfect world. And maybe that’s why these songs strike such a chord with me, because they remind me that as long as I’m here, things are going to be broken. Perhaps that sounds morose to you (my husband would agree), but that’s a truth that I need to be tethered to.  The truth is, things are broken.

This is a biblical principal – that we’re broken by nature. It is the state of our being.  David wrote, “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” Psalm 51:5

Although events, circumstances and hardships in life may break you down even further, you’ve been broken from the beginning.  Perhaps this is something you haven’t thought about, don’t want to hear, or don’t believe to be true, but I don’t have to look at myself in the metaphorical mirror very long until the cold, hard truth of the fact that I’m broken becomes abundantly clear.

We inherited our broken state of being from our first parents. In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it and he declared that it was all very good. Adam and Eve walked unhindered in the presence of the Lord until the day came that they believed the lies of Satan instead of the truth of God. As a result of their belief in that lie, they began looking for things outside of the Lord to satisfy and sustain them.  As soon as that happened the relationship between God and man became fractured. And with that one break, everything else became broken.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

In Genesis 2:24  there’s an incredibly significant verse about the state of Adam and Eve right before the fall.  There, the text tells us that – the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

They walked around freely, baring all because they had not yet any shame to bear.

They were not ashamed because they had nothing to hide.  They had no insecurities, no secrets, no regrets.   They were not yet broken.  One of the instant consequences of the fall was that they became ashamed of their nakedness

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of The Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 and he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself

All of a sudden Adam and Eve were riddled with insecurities, fears and doubts. And that’s how you and I walk around today – riddled with the secrets we keep, the regrets we carry, the fears that worry us, the doubts that haunt us and the insecurities that follow us. We’re broken.

The irony of our broken nature is that despite our own broken state of being, we despise broken things. If something doesn’t work right or fit us any more, if something has grown a bit worn and weary around the edges – then out it goes. Any thing we don’t need any longer, we simply throw away (I am the queen of this). Although that may have no eternal significance when it comes to “things”, this mentality tends to extend to how we view people as well. Much like our things, we prefer our people to be in good, working order. We tend to steer clear of messy people with too many issues, problems and complications.

There is a constant pressure to have it all together, to triumphantly rise above your struggles, to fit in (but just enough), to exude the impression that you possess a degree of perfection that you don’t actually have. Experience trains us to hide the fact that we’re broken.

But unlike people, God doesn’t ask us to hide the fact that we’re broken. God sees much value in broken things. In fact, he’s drawn to the broken.

The only truly Perfect One meets us in the exact place where we are broken.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Isaiah 57:15 “I dwell in the high and holy place,and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit…”

Why is it that our Holy God so deeply treasures the broken? Because being broken provides us with the opportunity to experience brokenness. Read that last sentence again and take it in slowly.

If broken is the state of our being, then brokenness is the process in which you become aware of your state of being broken.  In other words, brokenness is a continual awareness of the separation that exists between you and God if not for Christ, and that awareness binds you to Him.

So it might sound a little odd, but the only remedy for a broken person is brokenness.

Brokenness reveals a heart that has been changed by the truth of who God is.

In Genesis 32, we read the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  Jacob was a man known for his ability to manipulate people and situations to get what he wanted when he wanted it.  In his pride and arrogance, Jacob wrestled against his fellow man and God, who graciously broke him in order that he might see the truth.  Once Jacob was broken, God blessed him.  Jacob said, ” I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been delivered.”  Don’t miss this:  The very sight of God was Jacob’s blessing.  After receiving this sight, Jacob walked in brokenness the rest of his life (quite literally if you read the story).

Upon seeing the truth of who God is, comes a realization of who we are. Every time someone in the bible truly beheld the Lord they were broken.  (See Jeremiah 23:9, Isaiah 6:1-5, and Acts 9 for more examples of that.)

The longer that we follow Christ, the more aware of our brokenness we will become, so I expect I will become only more and more broken until he makes me new – which thankfully, he intends to do.

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”