Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sharing our Brokenness

I just finished reading a book that challenged me a lot in how I live my life and how I see the people around me. Towards the end of his book God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World, Greg Paul writes,

"I am more likely to have Jesus revealed to me and through me in weakness than in strength, sinfulness than in purity, or doubt than perfect faithfulness." (pg. 109)

I had to think for a bit when I first read that, but as I thought more about it, I realized just how true it is.

As we share our stories with one another the parts that connect are frequently not the parts where we had it all together. The parts where we see and share how Jesus worked in our lives are often the times when we needed Him to step in to heal us, to perform a miracle in the midst of hopelessness, to carry us through a hard time. In short, the times where God stepped into the midst of our brokenness.

In the midst of our brokenness is when Jesus is found. It's where he often meets us most profoundly, because He understands our brokenness. Jesus Himself was brokenness. Greg Paul puts it like this in his book,

"The surprise of brokenness is not just that the Almighty allowed himself to be broken, and that he invites me to touch him there in that brokenness. It's also that my own brokenness - that hidden, ugly, twisted stuff that I expected would disqualify me forever from his friendship, and that, if it were known, would torpedo all my other relationships too - is precisely the place where he desires to touch me, and it is the place where I am most able to truly connect with other people. My brokenness, then, turns out to be a place of meeting." (pg. 110)

The last sentence of the quote really stuck with me: "My brokenness, then, turns out to be a place of meeting." It's when we share the real stories of our lives - the mess, the pain that God has redeemed - that we are able to really connect with each other.

As long as we're trying to look like we have it all together and the people around us are doing the same thing, we'll never really connect. We'll always have relationships that stay at the surface level, nothing going deep. But, we were created for relationships that go deep. And that going deep comes from sharing our brokenness.

I can't think of a way to sum this all up without once again returning to Greg Paul's words in God in the Alley, as he says it better than I could:

"When I admit my brokenness and enter into more intimate relationships with God and his people, I am less inclined to judge others' brokenness. Instead, I can dignify it, recognizing and mourning the deep pain and alienation that is the inevitable result of being sinful people living in a sinful world but rejoicing also that we together in this, and that God is with us, meeting us at the very point of our need. Essentially, this is simply the practice of confession, and confession is truly good for the soul. It releases me from the pressure of having to pretend to be other than I am. And that honestly forbids me from requiring very much of others.

"When I see that my brokenness, once acknowledged, becomes a place of meeting and an opportunity to dignify rather than dismiss or degrade others, I also discover that my heart soars with the great hope that all my brokenness is ultimately redeemable in other ways as well. What God doesn't finally burn away, he will turn into gold and silver and precious stones. He will perfect me, too, through his suffering. My suffering, my brokenness, will ultimately be much more than merely a series of painful experiences and personal failing to be survived; by the alchemy of grace, God will transmute it all into something of eternal value and beauty.

"Suffering without meaning is the path to despair. Suffering with meaning is the trail to glory. And Jesus is the pioneer on that trail. There's no place we can go that he hasn't already been." (pg. 110-111)

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