brokenness and strength.

My church has been doing a series on kintsukuori, and after stalling a bit I rounded up some thoughts on brokenness. It was hard, you guys. I am not kidding when I say I don’t like to think of myself as broken. It would have been much easier for me to write about all the ways that God has healed Mike’s broken family relationships by bringing him such joy in Atticus.

But that wasn’t the assignment, to write about Mike. The assignment was to write about myself. In the end, I was happy with these thoughts on finding strength in broken places, which is kind of a companion to the one on authority from last week.

I resisted the idea of this series at first because I do not like to think of myself as broken. My resistance to being thought of as broken can probably be traced back to childhood, when I was taught, over and over, about my brokenness. We are all broken, extremely broken, broken by sin. I couldn’t get a handle on any of that, the idea that Jesus had to come to save me from God because I was impatient with my little brother sometimes.

I am selfish and I have been known to hold a grudge but the church seemed to think that those things should drive me to despair of myself and my own abilities. And instead of accepting my own brokenness, what fell apart was my relationship with God and the church.

I recognize now that this was a good breaking. These wrong ideas I had about God had to be pulled out of my soul, and I did that by taking responsibility for my own faith and my own story. I started showing up in my own life. Rather than passively listening, I began engaging with my long-held beliefs. I no longer saw God as a demeaning demanding force in the world but as the creative spark that drives all of our searching for truth and beauty. I found freedom to see myself as smart and capable and kind, and seeing myself that way helped me understand how people can be so different and yet still be beautiful.

As those harmful beliefs were broken away, I have considered those places that have healed and grown into something else to be scars. I have felt proud of those scars in a way, because those parts of me are strong, but I have never thought of them as lovely. Scar is such an ugly word, and scars are something I think of as disfiguring.

Alisa was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Of course it hasn’t left her physically unchanged – she has scars where the tumor was removed and where the port was inserted to make chemo easier. She was tattooed for her radiation treatments. She lost her hair and her fingernails are barely hanging on, both of which are less permanent but still traumatic. Her changes have made me think about the ways we carry our past experiences with us on our bodies. These days I have stretch marks and gray hair and wrinkles around my eyes to add to that scar on my eyebrow when my head hit that chair and the scar on my leg from where that dog bit me. We tend to look at the negative aspects of aging, but it seems more appropriate to say that I shouldn’t look the same as I did when I was 19. My life has changed and shaped me, and it’s okay for my body to demonstrate that truth.

My soul demonstrates that truth, too, with the scars that show where the broken places have healed. Not perfectly, not so you can’t tell, but healing nonetheless. God and I filled them in, creating a new thing together, something strong and smooth and whole. I see it when I no longer feel I have to have the answers, when I am content to let difficult things be what they are without explaining them away. I see it in a new generosity of spirit, when I am not so afraid of being forgotten. I see it in the grace of being able to say these words in this space today.

The things that have healed my wounds didn’t come from somewhere else, they were an extension of my own growth. This is the alchemy of the Lord: our stories, our scars, can be a beautiful thing that makes us whole again.

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(Thanks be to God.)

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