Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brokenness

I have in the last week been introduced to the video teaching ministry of Angela Thomas.  I like her.  She is funny but not silly; her stories are relevant and don't go on for twenty minutes; she doesn't act like she's got a seminary degree even though she actually does (I'm way impressed by that), and her segments are short, about 30 minutes long.  She's also a good- sized woman and admits to using Jenny Craig.

The segment that I listened to this morning (in a SS class) was on brokenness, and she used Ruth as the text.  She kept it general, referencing her own brokenness due to a divorce when she had four young children and apparently was ostracized in her teaching ministry.  That does not surprise me.  Regardless of how one thinks about divorce, there are those forced into it who don't want it, and they are treated very badly by churches, especially by women in the churches.  The married women act like the newly divorced woman is going to steal their husbands.  (Actually, this does happen, so some level of care is warranted, but that should not affect how women treat other women in private.)

I got to thinking about brokenness.  I remember my former pastor, Ben Haden, advising the congregation when he left to find a pastor who had been broken.  I had never thought about that, but it makes sense that someone would not have a heart for pastoring if they did not know real sorrow.  Of course, some people are so overwhelmed by their own brokenness that they are in no position to minister, but I don't see how someone without pain in their life could avoid judgmentalism.  I don't usually appreciate speakers who act as if they have been broken when they essentially just went through a rough patch, usually due to their own addiction to affluence or choices.

What breaks us?
Tragedy--deaths of close loved ones, grief
Devastating illness--cancer, ALS, Parkinsons
Long-term abuse
Victimization--rape, mugging, beating
Unexpected broken relationship--divorce, estranged children.
Grief over our own sins and bad decisions--criminal activity, imprisonment, bankruptcy

I imagine it would make a difference what the cause of the brokenness is.  So much of our brokenness is due to the sin of others, either a singular event or long-term.  We have family members who deny God's control over their lives, and they cause indirect and direct pain to us.  We pray for them for 10, 20, 30 or more years.  They do not repent of what enslaves them, and despite rehab, large sums of money being paid to "bail them out," their own theft of our resources, they go on in their behavior.  These people become our masters if we let them break us.  There is a difference between concern and control.  Sometimes these people should be freed to their own devices.  There is enough brokenness from what God wants to do in our lives to let other people cause undue brokenness.  I do not say this to minimize the pain these people bring--I know it well.  But how we respond would have to be different.

Then there is brokenness from watching other people suffer from undeserved occurrences.  There is the brokenness of children of divorce, of caregivers of very ill family members.   There is the brokenness of having possessions and safety taken away from one's life.  There is the brokenness of those with long-term conditions. In those unchosen brokenness situations, God can heal; he has brought them into our lives to cause us to heal and then to bring healing to others.  However, that is an easy thing for me to write.

It is one thing to admit to brokenness and another to identify oneself as broken.  Brokenness is meant to be fixed, not embraced and held on to indefinitely.  Angela Thomas said, "If I find a bitter woman, I find a woman who does not believe God."  Simple, but true.  I could be broken, and have been, but I do not think of myself that way now or on an everyday basis.  Lots of "breaking" things have happened to me, as with others, and maybe it will take a life time to own it all and see God working in it.  But I prefer to be whole than in pieces, not because of me, but because of grace.

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