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All week long, I’ve felt like I should post about the situation in Ukraine. But what do you say when you are waiting for something horrible to happen? What do you say when it begins? When the photos start flashing across social media?

Two weeks ago, I was in a webinar with scholars from all over the world. I’m not a participant. I sit and listen while academics in Belgium, Malaysia, and Ukraine speak. This time, everyone wanted to know how things were in Kyiv. “We are waiting,” he replied.

Now I am wondering. Is he even still alive? Is he?

I don’t know.

Worrying about a single person is such a small thing in the face of so much chaos and grief. But my chest aches with it. I tear up when I think on it. I feel broken.

That’s the term the Stated Clerk of Presbytery used in his prayer this week. “We lift our broken hearts in fervent prayer for peace in Ukraine.” He also reminded us that we can’t ignore the people of Russia. Not everyone there supports the invasion. To protest in Russia is a true act of bravery.

Even as I started writing this, I wasn’t sure what to say. What instruction could I give?

Only this.

It is okay to feel uncertain, lost or confused. It makes sense if you feel numb or overwhelmed. We are, after all, a broken people – human and full of flaws.

Try to spend a bit of time today in the presence of God. How you do this will be up to you. Me? I try to spend time outside in the sun and the wind. If the thermometer is to be believed, it is 26 degrees before I chose that path. I may have to wait until this afternoon. But I can pick up my prayer beads. I can light a candle. I can breathe deeply. And I can turn to Him and hope to carry some of his light back into this battered and broken world, and with my strength renewed put his light to work.

–SueBE

We live in a broken world.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this is true.  As Ruth wrote in “Give the Past the Boot,” we continue to suffer from past events often because we keep replaying past mistakes and harms in our minds.  And in “Until,” Lori wrote about how hard it is to believe in either government or church. The world is definitely broken.

But you know what isn’t broken?  God.

God is whole.  Think about that for a moment.

God. Is. Whole.

It can be so hard to keep moving forward in this broken world.  It seems that no matter what we do, something is still wrong.  In the words of Mr. Incredible, “No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

But that’s the reality when you are broken people living in a broken world.  And some days that is really going to get you down. That’s why I didn’t post on Friday.

And I get the irony of today’s quote.  I really do.  But there’s also a beauty in it and I think that’s why the Diary of Anne Frank continues to be such a popular book.  Anne Frank was someone who saw the light and life in the world.  She knew it was broken.  But she also looked for that glimmer of light.

What can you do today? It doesn’t have to be big.  And it isn’t going to fix everything.  But it might be the thing that catches someone’s attention and turns them toward God, God the Whole, God our Light.

–SueBE

 

When God sent His Son as a small babe into the world, he did it with great intention.  Here was our savior.  Here was the grace that we needed to finally find God.   Approach the manger with the intention of an open heart.  You will find what you need to carry His Love into our broken world.

–SueBE

 

diversityToday I got a phone call from a friend.  It was that kind of a phone call.  Doesn’t matter how much you have to get done, you sit and listen.  You say a few things, and, then, you listen some more.

One of her grandchildren recently came out as transgendered. Liam’s teachers and classmates are cool with Liam being Liam, but it is causing a rift in the family. One aunt in particular is convinced this child will burn in Hell.  Anyone who supports Liam is also heading in that direction.

“As a Christian, what do you have to say?”

I had to think about it before I could answer in part because I wasn’t sure which part of the whole mess she wanted to discuss.  “If you mean the part about hell, one of my Sunday school teachers explained it like this, no matter where you end up, you’re going to be surprised by who else is there.  Besides, Presbyterians vote on a lot but I don’t think we get to vote on this. It’s up to God.”

“But she thinks that Liam is insulting the God who made him in His image.”

“You mean the God who made really light people, really dark people and everyone in between?  The God who made men and women?  That God?”

“Yes!”

“Look, I don’t get what Liam is going through.  I’ve never known what it felt like to feel wrong in my skin. I can imagine what it might feel like, I can listen, but I don’t know. But God made us all in infinite variety. And he puts up with our wearing clothes, coloring our hair and wearing jewelry.  That’s all pretty unnatural but I don’t think my green nail polish is going to be a deal breaker. God made Liam and God loves Liam.”

To all of the Liam’s out there, understand that God loves you. I may not understand your journey, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to condemn you for it. I’ll listen as you tell me about it and I hope that you’ll listen when I speak. After all, as Lori put it in her post, your brokenness isn’t my brokenness, but mine isn’t yours either.  If we can accept that reality, we just might be able to help each other along.

–SueBE

Kids have not had a banner week, what with falling into gorilla enclosures and wrecking $15,000 LEGO statues and all. I have not formed an opinion on these events. I shouldn’t — I’m not a parent. I have no idea how tough it is to wrangle a small human being with a mind of its own. In fact, I’m not fit to judge anyone. I don’t know their lives: I’m not bipolar. I’m not an adoptee. I did not come from an abusive home. I’m not transgender. By the same token, you can’t possibly understand me, having not lived a life with the exact same contours, colored by the same emotions, experienced by a brain with its own unique wiring. No one can.

We are each alone in our brokenness. That fact tends to put up walls. More and more often, we see people wallowing in their aloneness, letting that aloneness define them. Why reach out to others when they can’t possibly understand? What is there to do but to trumpet my unique aloneness to the world?

There are constructive ways to deal with our aloneness. Several, in fact. One is to realize that, although our specific brand of aloneness is particular to our lives, we are all — every last one of us — broken and in need of healing. We actually have that in common. Maybe your “broken” differs from mine, but we can still reach out to one another in our common brokenness. I can’t understand yours and you can’t understand mine, but we can both understand how it feels to be sad, lonely, afraid, messed up. We are alone…but in a very crowded room. One touch is all it takes to bridge the gap.

Second, no matter how offbeat your type of aloneness is, there is someone who understands it. And you don’t need to go looking for a support group to find them. God understands every kind of brokenness there is, every kind of sinfulness, every kind of loneliness. Nothing is too foreign, too sensational, or too strange. I can’t promise instantaneous cures to your every injury, but I can promise that there is a listening ear out there who truly, deeply gets you. And, again, the chasm isn’t nearly as deep as you think it is. Open your mouth (or mind) and let it out.

Just as Emily Dickinson once opined that she was a nobody and asked if you, the reader, were a nobody too, let me be a literary catalyst: Hello, I’m broken. I’m a mess. I feel alone. How about you? Are you broken, too?

And if so, can’t we be broken together?

A [choose one: a) genie b) fairy c) angel d) pink unicorn] suddenly appears right in front of you and asks, “If you could be anything, what would you be?” I imagine most people would choose a word like “rich” or “powerful,” or more specific words like “a pro football player” or “a rock star.” Who on earth would pick a word like “holy”?

Holiness gets a bum rap, mostly because few of us understand it. Holiness doesn’t separate a person from others; it draws people together. Holiness doesn’t demand complete self-abandonment. Holiness empowers total self-integration. To be holy is to be whole.

Imagine being wholly yourself — using all of your gifts to their fullest extent, allowing your personality to fully bloom, pursuing your passions utterly. That’s all part of being holy. Holy people aren’t partial people; they are the complete package. They know themselves, yet push themselves to always be more. When you meet a holy person — and so few of us do — you know it.

But holy people also embrace their holey-ness, that is, their brokenness. They know where they are lacking in physical and spiritual gifts. What they can work on, they do. But what cannot be changed, what is innately “holey” in them, they know to nurture. They love themselves, warts and all, as God loves them…and they extend the same love to other “holey” people. And let’s face it — we’re all holey.

If you’d asked me, back when I was a kid, what being holy looked like, you would have got a rather bland picture: Someone looking terribly serious, saintly and silent. I no longer think that. To be truly holy, one must constantly reach for action verbs — words like share, give, work, labor, protect, bless, and love. In other words, holiness is hard work. That may be the reason so few of us bother with it.

I am blessed to know a few truly holy people. They are the kind of people you want to be around. They seem at peace. They are attuned to others but don’t neglect themselves. People naturally gravitate toward them. And with good reason. Holy people are remembered, even centuries after their lives, not because they were dull do-gooders, but because they were vibrantly alive — vibrantly themselves.

Holiness is worth pursuing. Tell that to the next pink unicorn you meet.

brokennessSometimes something bad can lead to something good.  Today, my son lost his ID and house key on the way home from school.  Not quite a map with a key attached but too close for comfort.  He and his father are currently swapping out the locks.  The lock for the garage will finally match the lock for the front and back doors.

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