Those of you who have been reading since the beginning of this blog know that, as of April 2016, I am a breast cancer survivor. After surgery and a few weeks beyond radiation, I had envisioned continuing the march of life pretty much the same as before, albeit a bit more grateful for each day post cancer. As a rule, not much slows me down – chronic pain, migraines, cancer – I have a life to live and believe me, I’m not getting any younger!
Then there’s this…although I was told by the radiology doc that I may have some rib pain for a while after radiation, it shouldn’t ‘last long’. Well, 5 months have gone by and I’m wondering what long means to him. Just askin’. My rib pain that wasn’t going to last long awakens me at night because I used to like to sleep on that side; and, in fact, I still do, but my ribs don’t appreciate it anymore. So, they aggravate me until I awaken enough to turn over. I don’t remember the last time I slept the whole night through.
Sometimes, with all of my ailments, both spiritual and physical, I feel broken.
Broken is something I have shied away from for most of my life. In fact, my very first memory as a young child of something broken was an ashtray that I dropped and watched shatter at my feet on our basement floor. I am told that I attempted to eat it, which I don’t remember, but what I DO remember are the shards of glass scattered around my toes, glistening like crushed ice, (which may explain why I tried to eat it!)
Growing up, broken meant wrong or bad in my world, inside and outside our home and the church. It was something of which we did not speak, but definitely something (someone) that was avoided when possible. People who ‘blatantly’ sinned – such as being caught in extra-marital affairs, being pregnant before marriage, you know, the “big sin” – were often socially shunned, but made for juicy gossip…for prayer purposes, of course!
My mom was wounded and broken, but we didn’t talk about it in our home. Truth is, we didn’t talk about a lot of things, but especially about that until many years later, and then only after I had degrees in Christian counseling and spirituality, which enabled me to better understand her brokenness for what it was. But the conversation was awkward and defensive because she, the child of a deeply damaged man, could not bring herself to admit her own brokenness…it would be like admitting she was like him, the man who had traumatized her.
As Ann Voskamp asked often in her book, The Broken Way, “How do you live with your one broken heart?
How, indeed. Not easily, or comfortably…seldom willingly.
And yet, Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, (Isa. 53:5). He was broken for us on the cross so that we could one day be whole. In fact, that is what the picture painted by the Lord’s Supper each time, each place it is practiced – the bread broken and the wine poured out for us, so that we may have new life.
I wonder, then, why I am embarrassed, ashamed of my brokenness…I wonder why the church, where our brothers and sisters gather, is so seldom the place where I, or we, take our broken pieces to be mended and put back together. I’m thinking Jesus may have wanted His church to be the first place for His kids to run holding all our broken pieces.
But instead, over time, I’ve grown to be quite the master at putting on the “Hi, how are you, I’m good” face just as easily in church as in the market place. Some years ago, it grew too painful to be transparent with my pain and brokenness with church folks. I see others doing the “I’m good” thing, too, so I’ve felt right at home. The thing is, though, I’m feeling convicted about it, maybe squirming some, too. A couple of books I’ve been reading, plus a new Christmas song by Pentatonix have nailed me on this idea of accepting and owning being broken. The entire song, ‘Hallelujah’, is a song about broken people in Scripture and in life. The last two lines of one verse says:
And love is not a vict’ry march, It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
Reflecting on the men of the Bible whom we consider giants of faith, I am reminded anew that they were all, yes, ALL broken at some point in their journey with God. I’ve already mentioned that Jesus was broken for us. Where, I wonder, do I get the idea that I shouldn’t be? That I should be able to waltz through this Christian life and grow into maturity without the gift of brokenness? Where do most Christians learn that we should hide our wounds from each other or be ashamed of them rather than sharing and learning from them together? It’s such a corrosive lie to live by.
Do you know what hallelujah means? We say it often around church.
It means: a shout of joy, praise, or gratitude. In Hebrew it means, “praise ye Yahweh.”
The next time I am acutely aware of my own brokenness, I pray for the strength and faith to cry out a “broken Hallelujah,” a shout of joy and gratitude for my pain and woundedness, and praise to Yahweh.
Can you? I hope we can walk this road together.