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Reminders of our brokenness

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 va…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
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.

Comments (7)

  • Mr. Barnes,

    Thank you! I have much joy in reading your blogs! I thank God for you! I hope that one day I can be a man like you. I am humbled by reading your blogs, from the things that are yet undiscovered to me. Thanks again for your faithful blogs! I am blessed by them!

    In Christ,
    Ryan

  • Just this morning I asked the Lord, what is my cross? I was just reading the other day about this.
    There are several things in my life , health stuff, that I have brought to the Lord continually. I proclaim and declare the truth and reality of the Kingdom of God in my life and over my body.
    I know the word of God and ALL that Jesus did on the cross for me. Unless the Lord reveals that this is my cross I will continue to pursue health and wholeness in my body.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirt”… “We fast to stay hungry for the things of God not for favor, we already have favor” Heidi Baker
    “I stand in front of Jesus as a beggar man with a beggar cup, if He does not fill it I will have nothing” Lesley-Anne Leighton

    So I wait and trust that God has it under control, His. I pray and declare the truth of the Word over my life and body. I am hungry. Hungry for the things of God, hungry for healing and the truth of the Word, hungry for healing for others.

    I see God meet me in the brokenness, being desperate for healing. He is my all and everything I need.

    Recently He has reminded me of Joseph, how He waited on God through so many trials and years until finally in the Lord’s timing Joseph walked into his calling, his destiny. He waited on God despite and in the midst of his circumstances.

    So I wait and trust.

    Thanks Seth.

  • …and then there is the process that God puts you through… where you actually feel strong, look strong, act strong, but He moves you to an air of isolation to teach you that brokenness is not just physical. He is going after the hidden nastiness that no one knows about except you. Then we see what we have never seen. The horror of the reality. Oh, how He loves us… even in our illusioned posturing and internal darkness. We have much to learn about the false self. He is the perfect instructor.

  • Seth, A bit of a different “twist” here: The “things” that come upon us as we grow older reminds me of the short time we have here to make a difference.

    Just got home from 3 weeks in the slums of Manila in The Philippines. Being there always help me put things in proper perspective. My “brokeness” looks so different than their brokeness: I’m not hungry, not malnourished, I have an income. They don’t. My mouth is a bit sore from being at the dentist this morning. My friends in the slums have never been to a dentist!

    The brokeness in my life? My heart! Spending 3 weeks with the poor and broken tends to do that in us. My brokeness is nothing compared to the trafficked prostitutes in the Manila bars and the girls who are being rescued, loved and discipled.

    “Oh God, use our brokeness to change the world…”

  • i see my brokenness as my polishing stone..and I thank God for letting me see them that way so i no longer succumb to loneliness and bitterness…in my brokenness i feel strong and whole and i feel the greatness of His love and mercy! thank you Seth for sharing your wonderful writings to us..God bless you more!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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