This is part three of a four part series.
As we are able to claim our blessedness, we can then, "face our own and others' brokenness with open eyes." Henri Nouwen ends his chapter on blessedness with these words. The next chapter is on the third word that Nouwen found useful in identifying the movements of the Spirit in our lives. That word is broken.
"Broken" is a term that most of us in the church don't like to hear or think about. We do love hearing about the "broken body of Christ," because it speaks to us of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We love to hear about the power of sin being broken, even though we sometimes live as if we were still under its sway. What we don't like to think about is the idea that we have been, are, and will be broken. But, it is true.
We live in a broken world. All anyone needs to do is look around them or watch the evening news. The creation is broken. It is being restored, but it is still broken. Take a look at the folks around us. They are broken people, and much of the heartache and misery in the world is caused by broken people breaking other people. No one escapes being broken. Nouwen puts it this way,
"Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well."
I think Nouwen is correct when he states that, just as we claim our chosenness and blessedness, we must claim our brokenness. We must own up the fact that we have been hurt in the past, may be hurt in the present, and will be hurt in the future. That's part of the job description. After owning up to our brokenness, we then can respond to it. We do that in two ways, by befriending it and by bringing it under the blessing.
Our first response to our brokenness is to befriend it. That seems counterintuitive to us. Our first, and sometimes only response is usually to run away, to avoid that which is causing us pain and convince ourselves that if we ignore it it will go away. The problem with that approach is that it doesn't bring healing. I believe that our tendency to run from pain is a contributing factor to some of the mental health problems in society, and to many, if not most of our relationship problems. We are afraid of pain, of heartbreak, of suffering. If we do find the courage to embrace our pain we then find that we have started down the road of healing. Nouwen writes,
"The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it."
Everything in our lives, good or bad, joyful or painful, can be part of the path we take to being fully human. This is a hard concept to grasp. We can easily see how the good in our lives brings us to glory, but it's another thing entirely to see our suffering in the same light.
The second response to suffering is to put it under the blessing. Like the first century disciples who asked Jesus if the man's blindness was a result of his sin or his parents', we usually look at suffering as an indication that we're bad people. There are many voices out there that tell us that if we just do things the right way, or if we are really God's child, then we won't have to suffer. I wonder what the apostle Paul, or the Christians being martyred for their faith today would say to that. Suffering does not necessarily mean that we are bad people. It does not mean that the negative voices in our lives are right. We must listen the voice that calls us beloved children, the voice of our Father. Our brokenness does not cause God to love us any less, it does not cause him to see us in a negative light.
As we live in our blessedness and take our brokenness there and put it in the proper perspective, we find that the burden becomes lighter and the way becomes clearer. We can then see the suffering as a means of purifying us. Ask a grape vine if pruning is something it enjoys. If the vine could feel and talk, it would tell you that pruning is painful. I mean, how would you like to have a limb hacked off? The vine would also tell you that the suffering of pruning is worth it because it produces the abundant harvest of grapes that allows us to share wine with our friends. Sometimes there are things in our lives that need to be pruned away. While it is a painful process, it is also an indication that our Abba loves us, and is forming us into the people he wants us to be.
As the bread in the Communion, we are taken in order to be blessed. We are blessed so that we can be broken. As the bread cannot be distributed unless it is broken, so with us. We are broken so that we might be given.
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