Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Brokenness: I Write My Way Out

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what you want for me.*

That praise and worship song was usually played with the lights of the sanctuary low, the guitar soft, eyes closed and hands raised. It was often accompanied by tears, salty drops catching in the corner of my mouth, tears of either pain, longing or shame. Either I was broken as I sang or I wasn't broken and I wanted to be. To be broken meant the Lord could work in me, change me, "take my heart and mold it, take my mind and transform it, take my will and conform it" to his. This was my desire.

This is the desire of so many evangelical Christians, and this was my desire my whole life, most specifically through my 20s. Certainly from college to 30, I set my mind hard on Christ, set my heart steadily on loving and serving him and set my will solidly to do whatever he asked of me. I did not always succeed though, so in those times of selfishness and sinfulness, I longed and pleaded for brokenness. 

And I usually found it. As it turns out, I spent at least a decade, a good third of my life, being broken. This was something I believed was good and right and pure. This is something the church, nay, the Bible, taught me.

A Sunday morning in brokenness meant I was truly finding God. I left those services for a Sunday afternoon of renewal, as if leaving those lowered lights into the sunshine was clarity and a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, powering through me to give me strength needed for the rest of the week. If I could live in a state of brokenness before the Lord, I would be living in the light, becoming more like Jesus, the most broken of us all. 

I spent most of my life in brokenness and wearing it as a heavenly and meek badge of honor. I lived most of my life seeking weakness, for it is in our weakness that he is strong. When I did not feel weak or broken, I was ashamed and cried out to God for it. I could only feel strength if it was Christ's strength in me, not my own. Nothing good could come of me, a depraved human being undeserving of Christ's love and sacrifice. I had nothing of myself to be proud of or to find strength in. Only the strength given to me by God could count as strength I could depend on. These principles were clear in Scripture, and I took them deeply to heart.

And I was happy. I truly felt happy. I was not a sad, pathetic, depressed woman moping around, feeling broken and weak. No, I was clothed in the robes of righteousness, I was empowered by the Holy Spirit, I was made whole by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross! When I did find myself in bouts of depression, I cried out for deliverance, begged for the Holy Spirit to make me whole again. I never believed Marilla's line that to be in the "depths of despair is to turn your back on God" (Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery). Rather it was an opportunity to rely on his strength and accept my weakness and turn something bad into something that would make me grow.  Growth is painful, I believed. The growing pains of becoming more like Christ and shedding my earthly flesh is uncomfortable but will be eternally worth it when I approach those pearly gates at the end of my time on this earth.

All of this was the mysterious paradox of Christianity. In our weakness we are made strong. When we empty ourselves, he fills us up.  There is no condemnation, even though we are evil in our innermost being and deserve eternal damnation. In our brokenness, we will be made whole. If we submit ourselves to Christ, we will be free. 

I've been separated from Christianity for about three years now. As the scales fall from my eyes and I dig deeper into who I am, I am finding that a lifetime of brokenness has, well, broken me.

A lifetime of trying to be weak has made me now despise any sign of weakness.

The way I made my religion the sole focus and purpose of my life, with all other things bowing down to it, was not, as I had always believed, a healthy way to live. It was damaging.

Striving so hard for brokenness did not lead to health; it led to illness.

Believing so strongly that I was worthless and my only worth was found in a spiritual being was not salvation; it was destruction.

I am only just beginning to discover my own worth and my own strength. I am only just starting my journey towards healing and wholeness out of brokenness.

And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.**

I only know how to take this journey through writing.  My words may hurt, sting, offend, break hearts. They may stir the longing in many to correct my understanding, to tell me I went about my faith all wrong, but I didn't. If in your church you sing that brokenness is what you long for, then you know all of this is true. If you have read Scripture, you know that we are considered unworthy, sinful, evil in our hearts, and the only way to find salvation is to submit everything we are and have to God. We are to completely discard our flesh and live in the spirit. We are not of us this world, just living in it. Following the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength is what is required of us. 

It's taken me years to realize just how much it required of me. It required too much. For too long I surrendered "all of my ambitions, hopes and plans...all I am and ever hope to be"*** to a belief system.  So I write my way out.

Running on empty, there was nothing left in me but doubt
I picked up a pen
And I wrote my way out.****

It won't be all I write about this year, but there is a lot of psychological, emotional and mental unpacking I plan on doing this year. For the first time in my life, I am looking at myself and my own needs and desires to figure out the right way to handle them. I am discovering that having my own ambitions, hopes and plans, finding strength in myself, sometimes putting my needs first, and trusting that I am good in my innermost being is actually a healthy way of seeing myself. And the only way I know how to uncover these truths is through the written word.  So as 2017 unfolds, I plan to write my way out of a broken and damaged spirit. I apologize in advance to anyone who may be hurt or offended. And I reach out now to anyone struggling with the same issues. I believe we can be made whole.

* "Take My Life" - Micah Stampley
** "Hurricane" - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

*** "All For Jesus" - Robin Mark
**** "Wrote My Way Out" - Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc, The Hamilton Mixtape


  1. Have you read The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim? I am rereading it now and it reminds me of you. If you haven't read it, I think you'd like it. Knowing you, you probably discovered it long ago.

    Although I've sung that song, I've never sung "Brokenness." Holiness, faithfulness, righteousness -- but I'd never heard of a verse about brokenness. You seem to have had a masochistic upbringing in the faith, perhaps in reaction to the "health, wealth and prosperity" heresy. Me, I like to focus on the joy. Jesus said he came so we could have joy to the full. I figure he was serious about that.

    I tend more towards Calvinism than some frameworks for interpreting Christianity, but Calvinism is also flawed, in its propensity to self-hatred and its view of all humanity as worthless, disgusting worms. God created humankind in His own image. That's some image to be patterned after, to reflect. There has to be some fundamental goodness buried in each of us as a result of that original creative design -- in desperate need of redemption and restoration, yes, but beautiful and valuable -- in fact, so valuable that God would go to unfathomable self-sacrificial lengths to make redemption and restoration possible.

    John Piper's book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, was very instrumental in forming my Christian worldview. It was such a relief to read about how the Bible shows us that God is, in fact, happy, full of joy, confident of His perfect abilities to restore and renew all creation in the proper time, and desirous of sharing His perfect joy with humanity because (as Piper says again and again): God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It's all about removing the blinders of evil so we can see an eternal perspective of hope and joy, light and life, and learn to sate our desires on the goodness of the Lord. God wants us to be satisfied, joyful, fulfilled -- and He yearns for us to trust Him to give us every good gift.

    (That is not what The Enchanted April is about though. Well, not really, and certainly not purposefully.)

    1. I've never read The Enchanted April. I will look it up. I have read Desiring God though. I remember feeling the same way you describe, relieved that God wanted us to be happy. Truly while I was in the faith, I felt happy. I felt free. It's only in looking back that I was free within strict confines. Like living in a box - a big, beautiful happy box, with plenty of room for wandering around and decorating the walls with lovely things - but ultimately still a box.

      ... I need to explore that box idea further...

      As always, I love and appreciate your thoughtful responses. You are so lovely. Thank you for being my online friend. :)

    2. Please read The Enchanted April and tell me what you think. Man, I'd love to be in a book club with you. I've never been able to find a book club.

  2. I can relate to much of what you are saying here. It's scary finding this new "way" without the shackles of the illusion.


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