“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” -Psalm 51:17 (NLT)
Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a broken bone. I have, however, fractured one. On the frozen hills of Cuba, NY on a sledding field trip with my second grade class during a student teaching placement. I’ll let you imagine the details rather than describing them because, chances are, they’ll make me out to seem stronger and more heroic than I am in real life. In any case, it hurt. A LOT.
“Broken” has negative connotations, doesn’t it?
It signifies that something is wrong; incomplete; not in its natural order. Oh, and painful. (I can vouch for that one.)
Have you ever felt broken? Maybe physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?
We’re scared even to admit it out loud sometimes because it infers that we’re weak. And Lord knows, to be weak in today’s culture means you’ll be eaten alive. It’s uncomfortable even to look at something the world sees as broken. Broken items are shuffled to the clearance bin, split ends are cut off, crooked teeth are remedied with braces, broken bones are re-set and casted. We immediately work to set the ugly parts right.
So then, what do we do with this idea that God requires a broken spirit?
We shudder. That sounds painful.
We scoff. Hmph, to think, that my spirit is one that could be broken.
We justify. Yeah, well, He didn’t really say *that*…
I know because I’ve spent so much of my life painting over the ugly parts. My mind set itself on worrying about doing “the right thing” more than listening for–and to–God’s voice. I feel like I’m just now beginning to recognize His whispers amidst the voices that shudder, scoff, and justify. And in those whispers is freedom.
Recently, a dear friend pointed out that our brokenness is evidence of our need for God. We like sin; and inevitably choose it above God again and again. But we’re left emptier and emptier as a result. Until, very painfully and desperately, we reach the end of ourselves. We’ve tried everything. Nothing can cure this deep ache. We can’t do it. We’re left stunned, frustrated and confused at our inability to fit these broken pieces together.
Here’s the thing: God knew we couldn’t. That’s why He sent His Son: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV, emphasis added).
It’s not until we realize it that we remember God. Who He Is. What He promises. And head bowed, pride dropped, we take Him up on it.
In that moment I imagine God scoops us up with arms that have long-been extended, smiling with relief that we’ve spared ourselves any ounce of additional pain before realizing, admitting and turning in our need for Him.
We see brokenness as a terrible thing. And as long as we’re operating on the standards of the world, I suppose it is.
Letting go of the Pinterest-worthy dream of the perfect job, perfect family, perfect car, perfect house… it can be painful. After investing so much time, money and energy on these life-long dreams, we’re hesitant to abandon the work we’ve invested. Additionally, we’re told it’s crazy to drop the pursuit. My heart has broken for the sake of a dream that I held to for nearly my lifetime. But can I tell you something? As I let it go of my terms (each day, still, one finger at a time), I’m discovering the only true peace I’ve ever known. It’s kind of like trying to take off in an air balloon while still holding onto everything you own. The more baggage you have will only weigh you down. But the minute you let it go–all of it–you are breathing freedom and wondering why it took you so long to choose it. As the saying goes, God can heal a broken heart but He needs all of the pieces.
Undoubtedly, brokenness involves pain. Plenty of it. But it’s important to brave the temporary pain for the sake of an eternity spared. In terms of the only Standard worth holding to, it’s not only necessary; but beautiful.
Because it’s then–and only then–that God can use us. And we can, in turn, discover what meaning even means.