I was painfully aware of my brokenness as a teenager. I was short, had acne, and had no idea whatsoever what to say to girls. Also, it didn’t help that the girl I liked was going out with a handsome, all-state football player. I looked like Woody Allen in contrast – I wanted to be a pole vaulter in track, but was so afraid of failure, I never even picked up a pole once. In fact, I just figured that failure was part of my identity. I thought, “Well, I guess I am just going to be that little guy that always fails.”
Yeah, it was a messed-up time of life.
And decades later, I still carry reminders of my brokenness around with me. I’m going on three weeks with a nagging sinus infection and two months with a broken thumb. I classify them as nuisances. The Cipro hasn’t knocked out the infection yet and I’ve got another month in this splint.
And I’m told these sorts of minor health things accumulate with time. Oh joy. As you get older, the aging process itself reminds you of your brokenness. I guess I should be feeling blessed. Thank God I’ve at least sorted out the identity issues.
Our children are a delight, but as we raised them, they had all manner of assorted calamities. We were perpetually in a posture of coping with a sense of inadequacy. Of course our youngest struggles with so much in life. We have an automatic affinity with the parents of other special needs kids because of the pain she goes through. We don’t have to look far to get in touch with our limitations around this house.
Paul called it a “thorn in the flesh.” It’s the limp you’ve been given and apparently it’s for a purpose. It reminds you that you’re needy. It keeps you depending on God. The Bible says “when we’re weak we’re made strong.” It’s the paradox that is as disconcerting as the thing in you that’s broken.
I find myself thinking, “Why do we need to be reminded of these things? Can’t we just learn them and be done with it?” I don’t know about you, but the answer is, apparently not. Something in us fights for independence. We scrape together little fortresses of self-reliance and find ways to navigate life without needing God or other people so much.
In many parts of Africa they live so close to the bone that a strong sense of community is essential. It’s the only social safety net they’ve got. When you run out of food, maybe your neighbor has some. Here in America we put up ever higher fences to separate ourselves. Our friends, the Williams, had neighbors who erected ridiculous 14 foot tall fences before the city made them tear them down.
We chafe and we struggle against the things in us that feel broken. Plastic surgery is a growth industry. Or look at all the money we spend on whiter teeth, a slimmer body, eyes that see better, and hair that doesn’t fall out or that at least doesn’t annoy us when we look in the mirror. We’re all deficient in ways that we try to cover up. And God seems to think that, insofar as it causes us to pray more and trust more, it’s a good thing.
Dependence is the lesson that no one wants to learn. I know that faith pleases God, but I really would rather not be reminded of my brokenness. I still type with this splint, but I have a hard time thanking God for it. What about you? Where are you broken and how do you see God in it?
Take comfort in the fact that we’re all messed up. We all not only fall short of the glory of God, most of us just struggle to get to the coffee pot in the morning. It’s part of being human and those who pretend otherwise have old age to look forward to.