Broken to be a Blessing

A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer. He was wondering if there really is a God, and if God really hears his prayers. All of a sudden he said out loud, “Lord, give me a blessing.” Suddenly the sky clouded above his head, and in a booming voice the Lord said, “Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will give you a blessing.” The man said, “Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over anytime I want to.” 

The Lord said, “Your request is very materialistic. Think of the logistics of that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of another blessing, a blessing you think would honor and glorify me.” 

The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, “Lord, I wish that I could understand my teenagers. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they shut themselves up in their rooms, and what they mean when they say ”nothing!” and ”whatever!”

After a few minutes God said, “You want two or four lanes on that bridge?”

In his book Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen invites us to consider how God can use our brokenness to bless others…in other words, to consider that we broken people are somehow “blessed to be a blessing.”

It is a total change of mind-set to be able to take our broken places and lay them at the foot of the cross and say to God, “Here. Use this.” In simple terms, we chose to become “wounded healers” who allow God to take our hurts and connect with someone who has the same wounds and would be comforted because of our experience.

Take a look at this interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene just days before his death:

Mark 14 (The Message)

3 Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. 4 Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? 5 This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

6 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. 7 You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. 9 I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.

I love the image of the broken vase of perfume being poured over our Lord by a very broken woman. In this last act of kindness that Jesus would ever experience on earth, she released the fragrance of her offering, and the witness of it permeated the house.

God invites us to allow our brokenness to be a blessing to others. He can use our honesty and vulnerability about our broken past to be an act of kindness to someone who is struggling with the same thing.

Consider the beauty of a stained glass window. What is it made of? Broken glass. But in the hands of a Master, the broken pieces are put together in a way that brings beauty and grandeur to a sanctuary. The light shines through and the colors become brilliant.

So it is with you. Let the light of Christ shine though your brokenness so that his beauty and glory will be seen by all who see you.

Broken Beauty by Colin Snider

Befriending Your Brokenness

Last week I told my congregation a story that came out of India. There once was a water bearer who had two large water pots in which he carried water from the river to his master every day. One of the pots was perfect. The other one had a crack in it. The perfect pot always arrived at the master’s quarters perfectly full. The cracked pot was always half empty. Embarrassed and ashamed, the cracked pot said to his carrier one day, “Why don’t you get rid of me? I never arrive at the master’s quarters more than half full.”

”Ah,” replied the water bearer, ”you don’t know the full story. Look beside the road where I carry you each day. There are flowers growing that I pick for the master’s table. The flowers only bloom on your side of the road. It is your cracked pot that waters them.”

Isn’t that an inspiring story for all of the cracked pots reading this today???

Scripture: Psalm 147: 2-5 (NRSV)

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.

This beautiful Psalm speaks of brokenness. It reminds us that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Brokenness is everywhere. All around us are people dealing with broken hearts, broken bodies, broken dreams, broken relationships, broken thoughts, broken jobs, broken social lives, broken promises, broken minds….brokenness has been part of who we are since Adam and Eve broke the covenant with God in the garden.

In his wonderful book The Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen suggests that we befriend our brokenness by embracing it, acknowledging it, and owning up to it. This is far preferable to running away from it. The first step to healing is not a step away from the pain of brokenness, but a step toward it. Attempting to avoid, repress, or escape the pain is like cutting off a limb that could be re-attached if it only had proper attention.

Nouwen asserts that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we desire, but instead it can become the means to it. But he cautions that we can’t do it alone. We need someone to stand with us in the brokenness, to remind us that there is peace beyond the anguish, life beyond death, and love beyond fear.

Are you broken? What is the source of your anguish? Where is God calling you to lay down your broken pieces and let him make something beautiful out of them?

As you make your way through it, find a friend. Ask for help. Go to a therapist, a church, a clergy person, a trusted family member, and get someone to come alongside of you. Nouwen is right. If we befriend our brokenness with someone who has befriended us, we will find hope at the end of the journey together.

God will use your brokenness to bring forth beautiful flowers, if you let him. Everyone and everything can be repaired, and you will find meaning and value in the hands of the Master. You are the Beloved!

Broken Shell Planter by Jan Wilson