I wake up every day surrounded by broken pieces of a life I used to know. It isn’t a novelty. After four years, I am familiar with this unexpected life that greets me each day.
I am not alone. If you’re an adult, you know brokenness- maybe in yourself or in someone you love. I hope it isn’t the first thing you are aware of each day.
But it might be.
The reality is that childhood’s broken toys give way to an adult life where the stakes are higher. Broken things are the least of our worries. Instead, we encounter a world full of broken dreams, hearts, bodies, and relationships.
As I have recently wrestled with my own brokenness, the Lord showed me something beautiful and hopeful and transforming: my brokenness does not define me.
I will say it again, just for you: your brokenness does not define you.
Our brokenness can only have as much power over us as we give it.
It is a demanding tyrant. We can feel hopeless and helpless as we survey the pieces. There is no way back to the life we had before. It all seems impossible, or at least impossibly complicated. Depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-absorption all clamor to flood in.
Sadly, our brokenness can often distance us from the One who can help us. The One who loves us in the midst of our broken, ruined lives. The One whose body was broken so we could be made whole.
Nothing is beyond His ability to heal, restore, or transform. We see God’s love for us poignantly at work through Jesus’s life of ministry to broken people. Never did Jesus say someone’s brokenness exceeded His ability to help and heal. There were no lost causes.
God is bigger than whatever is broken in your life. When Jesus gave His life for ours, He covered all the brokenness this world could ever generate.
When He enters our lives, He trades us: beauty for the ashes, joy for the sorrow, praise for the despair. He tells us that He alone defines us. Our identity is as His deeply loved child.
Several years ago, shortly after John had died, my children went to a camp for kids who had lost a close family member. Many of the activities were designed to work them through different aspects of grief. One day they were each given a terra cotta pot and told to go outside and hurl it onto the pavement.
Shattered shards of pottery surrounded them. I watched them from a distance. It is how our lives felt: whole one minute, shattered the next.
They were given bags to carefully gather the pieces. Then, they were told to write on each piece something they loved about the person they had lost. Next, it was time to try to glue the pots back together. It was painstaking. Nothing fit right.
But, hours later they were done. The haphazard shapes didn’t resemble the previous pots. Yet, each pot was transformed when the lights were out because candles had been nestled within them.
In fact, they were beautiful. They shimmered forth more light than ever before because the cracks, the broken places, were the very spots where the light could shine.
It was a holy moment when the room was filled with their glow. Brokenness transformed.
As a widow, I can feel like I will always be broken and diminished by my loss. It is tempting to believe my life will always have less joy, less fullness, less purpose, less meaning, less peace. I can feel resigned to a second-rate, broken life and future.
But, it isn’t true, and I am beginning to deeply believe it. His grace and abundance is big enough for even this. For even you and your story. Our circumstances don’t exempt His promises.
They don’t get to have that much power.
Jesus Christ promises us true fullness of life. His love for us brings peace and hope and purpose and joy. He fills us with love to share and kindnesses to give and praises to proclaim and people to bless with the overflowing love He has given us.
Brokenness is not the end, nor the final word. Instead, in the gentle hands of God’s redemptive love, it can be the beginning of a new kind of beautiful.