Last week I recognized a recurring theme. Within 24 hours I had three encounters with brokenness, death and rebirth. I started reading Ann Voskamp’s new book The Broken Way – clearly the title implies the exploration of brokenness, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. Within the first few chapters she acknowledges that miracle show up in our brokenness, in the “not enoughs” of life. Though it’s not what we wanted, it’s important to give thanks even for the “not enough.”
Later on I was listening to Rob Bell’s podcast – an interview with John Philip Newell about his book The Rebirthing of God. In discussing birth (and later, rebirth), he shares how uncomfortable and unwanted things often come before the birth. And, once it’s begun, there’s no turning back.
Finally, each morning I’m reading a short piece from Shauna Niequist from her book Savor. She wrote about Christianity (and life) – how all of it is about death and rebirth. We can only understand the pain of death when we’ve experienced it ourselves. Then, we are able to weave our story into the pieces of others’ stories. Together we can experience a rebirth.
These were just the three images that came up in 24 hours – the theme didn’t stop. It’s still popping up everywhere. I’m sure those images were present before too, but I’m allowing myself to be open to them now – to recognize them and pay attention.
The irony isn’t lost on me – how these images are full of birth language, full of motherly actions, full of new life. It seems a bit unfair, if you ask me. Why must these themes be present to me now?
Because I’m open to them. Because I’m not running away.
Brokenness requires an opening. Seeds can’t grow into plants unless they allow themselves to break open. Mothers can’t see the face of their child unless they allow their bodies to stretch and break. Chicks can’t grow strong wings and fend for themselves unless they take a huge risk and break open the shell. I like this image in particular – a beak breaking through the shell. A hatching – something the chick must do for life to continue.
Being open to the brokenness requires trust and risk and bravery. It’s easy to avoid it – to stay closed off. Netflix and alcohol and social media and mindless games and new projects at work and and and… we find so many ways to avoid our brokenness. But, the avoidance just makes it last longer. If I break my foot and ignore that it’s broken and keep walking on it, I’ll make it worse. The healing will take longer, the pain will be more intense. However, if I accept the brokenness – if I take time to rest and heal, my foot will heal faster. Avoiding it just makes things worse in the long run.
I’m the queen of avoidance. I hate confrontation. I prefer email over in-person conversations. I like other people to fix the problem for me. But, I find when I just go all in – when I have the tough conversation or acknowledge my hurt – it’s like ripping off a bandage. Yes, it hurt, but also it’s over now.
Unfortunately, ripping off a bandage is a fairly quick process. This, however, this brokenness that I’m diving head first into – it’s not so quick. The pain may not be as apparent, but it’s still present. The ache and the longing aren’t as fresh, but they aren’t any less real. I occasionally avoid it – every now and then I just need a break. Working through this pain takes a lot of energy and awareness. Acknowledging themes and images, being aware of my feelings, being present to my pain and joy – well, it wears me out. But, I’m trusting that through this work something new will be born in me.
What is God birthing in me? Why are all these images and themes coming up now? What new life will come from my brokenness, from the death I’ve experienced in the loss of a dream?
I don’t know, but I’m open to discovering slowly day-by-day what may come from it. I’m open to where God is leading me. I’m open to new ideas and new directions and new connections. I’m open to new friendships and new opportunities. My life feels open – there’s a lot of space right now. Space to move slowly and intentionally. Space to be authentic and whole. Yes, I’m broken and I’m whole.
When I consent to the brokenness in my life, I am able to meet God in that precious, intimate place – the place where God has been waiting for me, a place both broken and whole, a place only for me.