Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Broken and Shaped


Mark Buchanan wrote a book called "Your God is too Safe". It is one of my favourites and since my arm has been giving me trouble recently, I took a break from painting the living room and curled up with this book for the evening. The words that made me sit up straight, grab a pen, underline like crazy and fold the edge of the page over so I could clearly find it later was this:

"Brokenness—a broken heart, a broken spirit—molds our character closer to the character of God than anything else. To experience defeat, disappointment, loss—the raw ingredients of brokenness—moves us closer to being like God than victory and gain and fulfillment ever can."

My energy has been up lately. I'm very thankful. I'm probably at about three weeks now of feeling good and able to handle more than usual (which explains the living room painting project). I've only napped a few times and my brain feels fresh and clear. I'm able to handle more stress, more conversations, more activities with less recovery time needed. Nothing has changed regarding my medication or anything. I just feel better and I'm not sure why. In the past 24 years of living with Endometriosis, thyroid, arthritis and various other things, my longest stretch of trouble free, pain-free, nothing new happening has only been a few months. So, as you can imagine, I feel a bit suspicious AND I feel hope! What if this is my new normal? What if I can do more in one day on a regular basis? What if? What if? What if?

This book however, reminded me of the other question . . . what for?

The sweetest times in my life so far have been the times of my deepest suffering. (Not the actual pain itself, no, that would just be weird.) But the closeness of Jesus, the unconditional love and grace He gives, the sense of being stamped and approved just as I am, broken, weak, unable to "do" anything for Him, and yet still so deeply loved and cared for. The sorting out of things that God did during those times, helping me see what was really important, clarity of focus, helping me discard what was unnecessarily weighing me down, and the freedom—to love and be loved by God and others. Suffering brought me to ask the deeper questions: What's my purpose? Can I be content without knowing why I have pain? Is God trustworthy? What does it mean to follow Him, be a Christian? What really matters? When you only have so much energy, it's crucial to know where it should go. 

Brokenness must be something we stay close to. We must not fear it in others or in ourselves. We must not sanitize our lives of it in order to feel better. Loss, disappointment, pain and frustration  must be part of our language and the landscape that we walk on. If, we choose to only relate to others and speak in terms of winning, pleasing ourselves, ease and contentment and safety, we miss out on being shaped by God into his likeness! 

This makes me both uncomfortable and relieved.

Uncomfortable, because I know that with renewed energy and less pain, I'm tempted to want to avoid pain, my own and others and the world's. And relieved, because I know that the fulfilment and purpose that God gives is deeper, better and more satisfying than cheap ease. I've experienced it, I've tasted it and it's true.

So, what then? I think, I'll count it a little reminder-gift from God that my arm was sore from painting and I "had" to read for awhile. I'll take it as a nudge to enjoy my new found freedom but not lose sight of what really matters. To surrender my energy and time and health (or sickness and pain) to Him for His glory and purposes. (Thank you, Lord.) 

"The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God." Psalm 51:17 (NLT)