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

Star Counter

Sometimes when my problems feel overwhelmingly big, I try to remember that there are much bigger things:

God’s love for me

God’s prevenient grace

God’s ability to carry my burden

God’s willingness to fix me

God’s creation around me

God’s warrior skills.

Living at the beach provides a constant reminder of how small we are. I stand at the edge of the ocean and watch its power. The waves follow one after the other, the sun sets, and the moon pulls the tide. I have nothing to do with that. Yet I live my life as though I am in control.

The ocean teaches me that it is a fool’s errand to think such things. The water moves on its own accord, set into motion by the God of creation. The beauty around me reminds me that every trial, every tragedy, every misstep, every betrayal, and every hardship we will ever know is smaller than the one who not only counts the stars, but KNOWS THEM BY NAME.

Psalm 147 (New King James Version)

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.

He counts the number of the stars;
He calls them all by name.

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power;
His understanding is infinite.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
He casts the wicked down to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises on the harp to our God,
Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who prepares rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.

What does that say to you today? If he knows the name of every star, surely he knows yours. And the name of your enemy. And the name of your battle. And the names of your family. Listen, he even knows your cat’s name.

If knowing the names of the stars matters to God, how much more do you matter to him? His understanding is infinite. He is mighty in power. In the smallness of our mess, God steps in and binds up wounds and heals the brokenhearted.

Whatever you’ve got today, know this: God’s got you. Whatever is defeating you, remember that God has already won your battle. Whatever is making you feel hopeless, turn to God, who created the universe and is your HOPE.

So sing praise in your darkness, and lift high the name of the Lord in your brokenness. Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Photo courtesy of NASA/Hubble Space Telescope