It was a colleague of mine who taught me of a different way to think about brokenness. His was an experience of the particular sort of viciousness that can easily take root in the church. He knew the church was an emotional system, and he was fully aware that we, the people who comprise the church, do not always reflect the Christ whom we serve.
The people in that particular church were ruthless. In their quest to be both in power and to be right, he was just cannon fodder. Ultimately, his ministry was terminally damaged, and he decided that God would never call people to this kind of abuse.
As we talked, he began to share what he had learned about brokenness. He then shared the greatest insight: “Jeff, I hope you grow to understand the difference between being broken apart and broken open. I couldn’t stop what was happening in the church, but I finally awoke to the fact that I did have a choice as to how I faced it. It could either annihilate me or it could reveal something within me that was good and beautiful.”
I would come to experience my own brokenness. Brokenness became a theme for my ministry, and ultimately, it became, as I have written elsewhere, the foundational theme of my doctoral work. When we experience brokenness, we have a choice as to how we will encounter the brokenness. Will it be our undoing? Or will it reveal something good and beautiful within us?
As we take our first steps into Lent, we do so with an awareness of just how much brokenness surrounds us. We have lived a year with the COVID-19 pandemic. We have now spent days contending with rolling blackouts, sub-zero temperatures accompanying days of ice and snow, and mounting frustration at our state leaders who cannot adequately answer for our lack of preparedness.
We enter this Lent so fully aware of how racism and white privilege continue to define our politics at all levels of government … how racism and white privilege is lived out in systemic ways even in the life of the church.
We come to Lent experiencing a brokenness unlike we have experienced before.
What I have learned here, however, is that we are called to sit with our brokenness. Embrace the brokenness. Let it bring us to that liminal space where we intuit that there is something just beyond the brokenness, but we know that the way to wholeness does not permit us to deny or dilute the brokenness.
Today, it is ours to ponder. And with my friend, maybe the best question for us to ask is: “Will it be that which breaks us apart or will it be that which breaks us open?”
Lord, we come to you as one who knows us inside and out. You know the beauty that exists in each of us. May we embrace our brokenness in a way that reveals that beauty and goodness to us. Amen.