The statement of identity for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada is: “We are the Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”
Recently my two-year old son has started noticing when things are broken. If it is a toy he will come to me with a sad face and his expressive pout and his altered disappointed voice and say, “look mommy…it b’woken.” And usually it is something I can fix, so I do and he is grateful and with a smile in his voice says, “Tank oou, Mommy!” But for some reason, when his food gets broken, for example if the pop tart or cookie he is eating begins to crumble, or worse breaks in half, he becomes very upset and begins to throw a fit. So in George Bailey fashion I hide from him the food for a moment while I try to put it back together and make him believe it is fixed. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but all the same, brokenness is something we begin to notice at a very young age. And from a young age we expect that brokenness can and will be fixed.
Eventually we realize that some brokenness can be fixed and some can be healed and some can be recycled or re-purposed but some brokenness creates garbage. And to stretch the metaphor a little more, garbage that is not discarded begins to clutter up our lives. People who don’t throw away their literal garbage in our culture are referred to as hoarders. And I believe there are psychological disorders associated with the extremes of this behavior. Then there are many in our culture who just don’t have the time or the energy to keep everything neat and tidy all the time. Still if the garbage begins to pile (or the dishes or the laundry) it begins to smell and fester until it is treated.
I wonder sometimes if those who are fascinated by watching those specials on ‘hoarders’ are intrigued by them because of their own nature to hoard their own brokenness with in their lives. It may not show on the outside, but in the ways we isolate ourselves in our pain and in times of need. It may show in our need to be in control erroneously giving the sense of security that no brokenness will happen if we control what is around us. It may show in our relationships when we begin pushing away people who love us and want to help. It may show in our clingy, neediness that we have lost control of when being with people. It may show in the cracks in our lives where we have no control…brokenness, we all have it, but how do we deal with it?
As a minister, I do not claim to have all the answers, and I don’t think that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has the answers or claims to have the answers either. In fact, I’m not sure that all brokenness can be fixed, healed, recycled, or re-purposed, even through God for whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). But here is what I believe…
While in our quest for faith God does not wave a magic wand and make our pain or our crisis or our challenges and handicaps (I use this word in the most literal sense) disappear just because we pray for it, I have seen people heal right before my eyes. I’m not talking about bones mending and bleeding stopping, but I mean, I have seen people find hope in the good news that through the brokenness of Christ’s body God promises healing and wholeness. I have seen people who had decided they had no reason to live find meaning and love and purpose through relationships with-in the church. I have seen a preemie baby born two months early (8-9 weeks) after prayer and anointing begin to thrive. Now at 10 months he is already pulling up and trying to walk and you would never know he was premature when you look at him. I personally have felt anxiety melt away, I have found hope in my own vocation and purpose, and I have made room for forgiveness where there was no room because of God’s grace and calling in my life. I believe God is the promise of hope through God’s abundant gifts of grace giving me room to hold on to my garbage until I can let it go, meanwhile cheering me on to let it go again and again.
You see, some of our brokenness is not meant to be fixed or healed or recycled or re-purposed, it is meant to be thrown away. For example, consider the micro-managers who take all the joy out of your work and calling. The pain they cause is about them and not about you and you need to give it back (not by being mean or micro-managing them, but by letting it go). Or consider the words that are used to bully you and touch those most tender parts of your heart and that make you crazy. You gotta let that roll off like water off a duck’s back and as Will Smith says, “Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.” And meanwhile, some of our brokenness is not really brokenness, it’s just life.
Sometimes we have to make a distinction between life and brokenness. Some of what is heartbreaking about the American Dream is that it is promoted as something we all live, and most of us don’t. Is that brokenness, or is that just life?
In this season of Advent as the church prepares for the wonder of one of our favorite seasons, the magic of God’s power to change the whole world through the birth of a tiny baby, I would encourage you to consider your brokenness, and don’t measure it, just consider it. Then hear these words,
“After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” (Matthew 14:35-36)
Let go of your garbage, name what is not brokenness, and bring what is broken to God, for in this season of all seasons, hope can be a beginning.