Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Broken Beautiful

There is a song by Ellie Holcomb entitled 'The Broken Beautiful.' I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of the song itself (sorry, fans of Ellie).  As someone who has learned to embrace their melancholy, it's a little too bouncy and non-Sarah-McLachlan-ish for my taste.  However, I do love the lyrics:

You say that You'll turn my weeping into dancing
Remove my sadness and cover me with joy
You say your scars are the evidence of healing
That you can make the broken beautiful

That your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame and
You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
And make them beautiful

Over the past month or so, that phrase keeps returning to me: the broken beautiful.  Why is it so striking?  I'm not sure other than the simple truth that the day-to-day walking out of our lives often looks and feels just like brokenness and beauty all wrapped up together. There are hard seasons. There are joyful seasons.  There are some seasons, like the one in which a few of us find ourselves now, that are at the same time both so full of joy and gut-wrenchingly difficult that it is hard to separate the two. It seems this isn't the first time someone has felt this type of thing; if so, we wouldn't have bouncy songs about it. But what does it mean when we find ourselves trudging through the tough spots?

Sometimes it means that we need to make time to self-reflect.  In the deepest places of our hearts, that brokenness and beauty can reside side-by-side, an odd couple of sorts.  They each have things to teach us, but we have to stop and listen.  We have to stop the noise-both outside and inside-and really really listen. That may result in us having to change our priorities.  Maybe we have to ask hard questions.  Maybe we have to evaluate our 'How did I get here?'s and our 'Why can't I get it right?'s for the hundredth time. Perhaps we have to find the freedom to let go of all of those things and learn to just be.  To be content.  To be enough.  To realize that brokenness isn't a synonym for weakness but is instead a place for healing and strengthening to occur. 

In the Christian world, we have a lot of clich├ęs to handle these seasons.  They sound a bit like, "Choose joy!" and "God is in the details!" and so on, etc. Oh, what about, "Joy comes in the morning!" Are these things true?  Yes.  Can we choose joy in the midst of pain or difficulty?  Of course.  Does God care about the details?  I like to think so.  Will joy come when you open your eyes tomorrow morning?  Well, I'm not sure but here's hoping.  So while we're at it, let's make it a hashtag.  These are not false statements.  Sometimes, though, they become our cover-up for not allowing ourselves to examine the hard things.  They also can prevent us from being present with others in their seasons of brokenness.

I may not be able to see you choosing joy every day in the midst of your circumstances or witness you completely losing it in the middle of every waking hour... unless I choose to enter in with you. Likewise, you may not understand my moments of struggle or even my moments of celebration unless you choose to enter in with me.   So we watch each other's lives play out in our Facebook reels and assume we are all doing just fine.  It's far easier to watch from afar than it is to step into one another's pain or hurt or failure or ______ (fill in the blank as you will).  But that's the part that so often we miss: our broken places are no less holy than our healed places. 

When Jesus appeared to Thomas, it was His scars that He showed as proof of who He was.  An interesting thought to ponder: the Lord of heaven and earth did not need to have any scars after He was resurrected from the dead.  The power that gave Him life surely could have healed those marks on His body.  Those wounds were for us. They are the 'evidence of healing' that allow us to remember the brokenness.   They are the trenches where  miracles happen, and yet we need each other in the trenches. As Laura Story so aptly writes, "Our wounds need to be witnessed."

So where does the healing come into this process?  There are times when it happens all at once.  Most of the time, though, it happens as we journey through and come out on the other side.  Sometimes we emerge much stronger, wiser, and more resilient.  Other times we may find ourselves kinder, less demanding, and more at peace.  Whatever the end result, change will take place.  Just as the physical seasons span a few months and then give over to the next, these life seasons take their own spans of time.  Yet as more of the 'beauty' begins to take over, we cannot simply bury the broken.  It is a part of us now.  We don't cling to it and let it define us, but we allow it the chance to shape us.  It is part of our becoming.

Where, then, does this leave us? Can we trust God to 'remove our sadness and cover us with joy'?  Yes--a thousand times, yes.  But I do not believe that usually happens in a 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps in the name of Jesus' kind of way.  This method seems to put both God and ourselves in a box that I no longer think I like very much.  What if, instead of carrying around the shame and heaviness that result when that 'solution' doesn't quite work, we allow for another way?  A way that says God is merciful and gracious and meets us in every season.  A way that says if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will stop long enough to recognize our neighbor. A way that says, "I see you there, and I won't let you journey alone."  I'm not sure, but I think that way could turn quite a bit of weeping into dancing if we are willing to give it a try.