brokenness · Spirituality

Broken

Brokenness seems to be all around.

I have friends who have recently dealt with the gut-wrenching losses of children, spouses, and parents. Others are struggling with addiction and alienation in their families. Some have found themselves floundering in their professions and questioning the foundations on which their lives were built.

Here at our house, we have been dealing with Keith’s broken arm for the last few months. He fell at the beginning of July and broke his right arm near his shoulder. The first few weeks were rough for him as he dealt with severe pain and the inability to do much with his right side.  His arm was in a sling, and he often had a hard time getting comfortable. But with time and physical therapy, he has slowly improved. Just a few weeks after the fall, the broken bones had already healed by 80%. He will be graduating from physical therapy next week!

We have been amazed at the body’s ability to regenerate bone tissue and knit itself back together. But even with the progress Keith has made, he still has pain and his arm may not be the same as it was before.

Keith working hard at his physical therapy.

When our hearts are broken, they don’t always knit back together in the same way either. Those tender spots may still keep us up at night.

Some brokenness comes from a sudden blow, like when Keith fell. The sudden death of a loved one, a spouse asking for a divorce, our supervisor telling us we no longer have a job —these shocks hit us so hard that we are sent reeling and feel that we will never recover.

Other types of breaks come about gradually. Several years ago, I was training for a marathon and putting in long hours of running each week. One day I was be-bopping down the school hallway in my flat shoes when I felt a twinge in the top of my foot. By the time I got back to the media center, I could barely walk. I had a stress fracture in my foot, caused from too much pounding on the pavement.

Stress fractures happen when we increase the amount or intensity of an activity too quickly. If we slowly add miles or weights, our bodies can adapt. But when we push too hard or keep going when our bodies tell us we are overdoing it, the bones snap, forcing us to slow down.

The same happens in our emotional and spiritual life. We go ninety miles an hour at work, don’t get enough sleep or exercise, family members get sick, the toilet starts leaking, and the dog throws up. Hanging over all of this is the cloud of Covid fear and before we know it, we reach our limit and snap, like the little bone in my foot. Our souls can only take so much pounding.

Healing broken souls requires the same process as healing broken bones. We need time, rest, and loving care. We may need to see a doctor or talk to someone about what hurts. We need to eat healthy food, get fresh air, and let someone else be in charge for a while.

We also need to reflect on how we got to our broken place. What is God trying to teach us? I learned to listen to my body when it is telling me to walk and not run. Keith made changes so that he is less likely to stumble and fall again.

Times of brokenness are when we learn about God. Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, says that for us to grow, we must struggle through times of failure and loss in the first part of our lives: “Normally, a job, fortune or reputation has to be lost, a death has to be suffered, a house has to be flooded, or a disease has to be endured.” When we come out on the other side of these struggles, we are ready to truly live.

In order to hear God more clearly, we have to be broken so that He can put us back together. It sounds painful, but the good news is that He promises to be with us through the struggle.

What changes do you need to make to take the pressure off and hear God’s voice?