Broken Connections

Does our brokenness make it harder or easier to love one another? To love God? In some ways, I think it makes it easier. Brokeness unites us in ways that joy cannot. Much pain is universal while many joys are unique. And often joy leads to jealousy and arrogance while brokenness leads to compassion and humility. Millions of people find God and community only after pain drives them to their knees. So perhaps instead of running away from our brokenness, we should accept and even embrace it.

I speak on this topic with some small bit of authority. In my first marriage, I was whole. I thought I was in the perfect marriage with the perfect family. I acted like I was, and it separated me from other people who were struggling. Maybe they thought I couldn’t relate. They were probably right. More shamefully, maybe they thought I would judge. I probably did. Sadly, the fortunate among us often assume our luck is earned and deserved rather than seasonal. But as the Bible says, there is a time for all things (Ecclesiastes) and the sun shines on both the just and the unjust (Proverbs). In other words, we often don’t deserve the good things in our life any more than we deserve the bad things. But for some reason, we find the first idea outrageous while fully embracing the second.

The point is that pain is the great equalizer. In pain, no one is any better or any worse than anyone else. We are all needy creations of God. During my divorce, I became more connected to my neighbors than I had ever been. The pain opened my heart to the world. In my need, I reached out to people and they responded in an openness I had not before experienced. My pain humbled me. It made me real, more accessible, less judgmental. I am somehow a better person for it, closer to the person God created me to be.

Pain can also bring us closer to God. I remarried and then suffered another kind of loss. This new pain threatened my faith in a way my divorce had not. But ultimately, it too has been transformative. If my divorce brought me closer to my neighbor, this new pain is working to bring me closer to God, although it is a work in progress. My faith before was a simpler one. God the Father was all-powerful and in control. He was a fighter on the side of the just. Now I feel closer to Jesus, to whom I felt no connection before. Jesus is my broken God who died on a cross because humanity itself is so broken. Somehow his wounds do heal me. His brokenness and betrayal are my own, and in that God I find peace. Jesus understands. And the story of his resurrection brings me hope. Whatever pain I experience, there is hope for something more, for a transformation that brings a different reality—a reality closer to God’s original intention for creation.

And so the brokenness of Jesus, and my own brokenness, and the brokenness of the world, usher in that new reality. In some strange way, they bring God’s kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Brokeness acts in ways that the world’s ephemeral joy cannot. The pain unites us as one. It turns our eyes to heaven. It drops us to our knees. In humility, we hold hands and hope for something more. All the while, it threatens to overwhelm us. But if we can hang on, maybe, just maybe, we can accept it enough to transform us. And we will give thanks for the suffering as we give thanks for the joy. And in our common grief, we will finally see the image of God, and self, in the other. And we will not judge, but love.

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