I’ve been thinking a lot lately about brokenness. If you read my last post, you may have a sense of what I mean by that. Grief does many things to different people, but for me, the one word that best describes how I feel most of the time is broken. I’m not myself. I feel scattered, distracted, unsettled. I find it hard to remember things and the energy that I once depended on to get me through long, busy days is lacking in vibrancy and easily depleted.
Maybe you know how that feels?
Today I’ve had the lyrics to an old Steve Green song running through my mind.
Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on Thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee
It’s a beautiful song and a heartwarming story in Scripture. I remember being touched by the poetic idea of my life being spilled out for Jesus when I first heard it sung in church. But real brokenness isn’t always beautiful. It’s messy and complicated and uncomfortable. It makes you cry at inopportune moments and wonder if life will ever be the same again.
The Provision and the Problem
In The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp, she repeats a conversation she had with her husband, a farmer. On a day when she was feeling especially fragile, he spoke these words to her:
The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to I’ve us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all he glory. Never be afraid of being a broken thing.
But isn’t that just the problem? We accept pain will come to us all at some point. Life and death are inseparable. Love and grief are too. Success and failure. Abundance and loss. All sides of this same coin of existence. So why then is it so hard to admit that we’re hurting? That we don’t have it all together?
I think it’s because we are afraid. Afraid to be seen as weak. Of being judged for our messy emotions. Afraid people can’t be trusted to handle our fragile hearts carefully. Afraid of greater pain, deeper loss, wider shame.
So we stuff our feelings and every day we’re “fine” when on the inside we’re crying or raging or simply lost. We plaster a smile and save our tears for the shower so no one knows just how broken we really are.
The Broken Way
Ann offers another path. One of healing and communion. Of honest prayers and united hearts. She offers the broken way—leaning into the suffering of Christ and thereby entering into the suffering of His followers. And it all begins by admitting your own need.Our most meaningful purpose can be found exactly in our most painful brokenness. - Ann Voskamp, The… Click To Tweet
Before we can be honest with others, we must be honest with God and ourselves. Are you angry? Tell God why. Are you confused? Confess to Him that you don’t understand. And then give yourself grace. Take a nap. Write your feelings in a journal. Call a friend you know can handle someone ugly crying on the other end of the phone.
You don’t have to be afraid
Does this sound unChristian to you? Possibly selfish? I know I worry about being a burden to others or dragging them down into my pit of despair, but again, Ann offers another perspective. She says we don’t have to be afraid of our brokenness because in this sharing of hearts we find community. Friendship. Intimacy. Healing.
It's always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free. - Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way Click To Tweet
There is no fellowship for brokenhearted believers while protecting others from our own brokenness—because we are the fellowship of the broken…and fellowship happens in the brokenness. The miracle happens in the breaking.
So be aware…the next time you ask how I’m doing, I might just tell you. And the next time I see you faking a smile, I might just push a little back. Because we are all in this life together. We need each other…even though we might not want to admit it sometimes. And if you find yourself feeling fragile too, I encourage you to get The Broken Way. To quote dear Kathleen Kelly, “read it with a box of kleenex.” But do read it.