Sometimes it’s not fear of pain that holds us back from taking an honest look at ourselves in the quest for intimacy with God. Maybe you have an advanced degree in pain already. Maybe there is something much greater at stake than feeling a little more pain. Sometimes what is at stake is our very existence—an ability to get through this day, let alone tomorrow or the day after. Maybe I have negotiated an uneasy peace with myself, and taking an honest look inward sounds a lot like opening Pandora’s Box. Facts and feelings will fly out and there will be no way to stuff them safely back inside. Or worse, maybe I strongly suspect I can’t live with the person I find under any terms whatsoever.
It’s a great paradox, seemingly nonsensical on its surface, but several traditions recognize a spark of blessing lurking in brokenness. Twelve Step addiction recovery seekers talk about “rock bottom” as being the only ground on which an addict can take the first step to recovery—admitting powerlessness over certain things. Jews have an expression, “There is no vessel as whole as a broken heart.” Christian scripture offers verse after verse on the theme of dying to self and being raised to new life in Christ.
To be clear, I am not saying brokenness or rock bottom is a good thing. No one wants to see it come to that for ourselves or for a friend. There’s no good in glorifying or overdramatizing feeling this low. I am not advocating that you press the pedal to the metal and hurl yourself towards it like Thelma and Louise.
What I am saying is that a lot of people have found themselves in a place of brokenness, and they have hope to offer those whose journey takes them through that place. Sometimes it is the most effective way to break free from stubborn attachments or “bondage to self.” Sometimes it gives us an impetus to take ourselves out of life’s center and to put God there instead. Sometimes we need that spark of blessing more than we need to avoid brokenness. Although all our survival instincts rebel against it, the truth remains: brokenness saves us from ourselves.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
Join the conversation and give courage to your fellow travelers. What spark of blessing did you find in your journey through brokenness?
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.