It’s hard to live broken in a disposable world. When things break we throw them away. We love shiny and new. When you grow up broken it’s particularly hard. We like to believe in the myth of a carefree childhood, and anyone that challenges that myth – like a broken little girl – becomes the enemy. We ignore her, silence her, jolly her along or simply disbelieve her. And if she can’t tuck her brokenness respectably away, we attack.
I have been broken for as long as I can remember. I have always been conscious of my brokenness. I wore it like a scarlet letter. So ashamed. So afraid. Constantly trying to make up for the immovable stain of failure.
I was told so many times that school days are the best days. I nearly gave up there and then. If this is the best it gets, then I can’t face a lifetime.
As a child I knew I was different, and although I didn’t understand how or why I understood that it was unspeakable. Children aren’t supposed to be sad or afraid. Except that millions of them are. What I didn’t know then is that sad and afraid is normal. Sad and afraid is how it feels to live in a broken world. It’s just that people don’t like it, so they hide their own and ignore each others. That is privilege – to be able to hide your broken. When bombs are dropping or tummies are empty, when a parent disappears or a bedroom becomes a crime scene; suddenly there isn’t a hole deep enough to bury your broken.
For some of us it oozes out, it weeps. For others it explodes or shatters. Some starve, others binge; some cry, others rage; some anesthetise, others harm. We all find a way to survive it. Except the ones who don’t.
Surviving will always leave it’s mark, like the wounds of Christ they persist beyond death and resurrection. The gore and the glory. I used to dislike the term Survivor, I found it cloying and unreal, until someone pointed out that we’re called Survivors because not everyone does.
I survived … I am surviving. Because it doesn’t end. It doesn’t end when the abuse ends or when the danger passes. Suffering, Sin, Death … they leave their mark. And it’s not passive, it’s not a stain or a shadow, it’s a wounding; an infecting.
I have been asked many times and in many ways, Why can’t you leave the past in the past? Don’t let your future be defined by your past. It can only keep hurting you if you let it. How long has it been??? But it’s not the past, it’s the now. It’s always. You don’t move on from a mortal injury.
I lived for years with a sword in my side, twisting and digging with every move I made. Ignoring it, hiding it, wishing it away … did nothing to remove it or limit the pain. Then I found the courage to pull out the weapon, and I thought I’d finally be able to heal. Time heals all wounds after all.
But I kept bleeding. Infection had set in and swept through every part of my being. I had no idea how dangerously ill I was. I did my best to imitate Fixed, and hoped that Time would in fact heal all my wounds.
I tried to hide my scarlet letter under a veil of respectability, but I just couldn’t do it. I knew. Everyone knew. We all pretended not to. Shame and inadequacy dogged me. I wanted my triumph song. I tried to sing it but the words and the tune didn’t match. It was a lie. I failed again.
I was a failure and everyone could see it. Some people’s disdain was overt, most though disguised it, even from themselves. Ignore the depth of pain, give simple answers to complicated questions. Read a book. Read the Bible. Make a plan. Fix it. Walk away.
I was so ashamed to wear my brokenness, sadness and fear, but it was only when I wore it, red and livid and large, that I began to see that life and joy were possible amidst the pain. Living the reality of my pain is terrifying and painful. It is everything I feared it would be, everything I think I can’t survive when I numb and escape and deny. And some days, some weeks … some years even … I think I won’t keep surviving, that it will destroy me just like I thought it would. But when the sun breaks through it is warm and beautiful. Real joy is so much better than pretending. A moment of true bliss is worth more than a lifetime of empty pretence.
As myself and my peers came of age, so many around me thought they had life figured out. They thought they knew sadness and fear, and they hadn’t let it beat them. They emerged into adulthood full of expectation that they would win this thing called life. Meanwhile I was learning to accept my brokenness, to see Christ in it and to believe that it wasn’t failure – that my weakness was my strength. I faltered – and still do – I still live with a deep belief that I am doing it wrong. Many have agreed with me over the years. In the end all I could offer was, This Is The Only Way I Know How.
God planted a seed in my heart when he made it. I thought it had died but he was protecting it all along. It was growing, slowly and unseen, but it was the seed of a faith that I was Worthy.
As I took each step along the path of The Only Way I Know, he has been able to grow that seed in earnest. Sometimes I still can’t see it, and I often wander off the path and neglect it, but it is hardy. It’s roots are deep, they reach through my flesh, through my spirit and into His. It grows through the gaps of my woundings, it clings to the scars.
I am learning to sing a new song. A Worthy song, a Redemption Song, a Waiting song, a Lament. I don’t sing it alone. It is not my song, but His. He wrote it all for me and He is teaching it to me a note at a time.
Now that time has passed, and privilege and pride can no longer protect those great conquerors, I find that I have a little more company in the land of broken. I want to comfort them. I want to be the one that says I Know, I’m Here, I Understand. I want to offer them what they didn’t offer me, but my heart feels hard. Bitterness, hurt and rage sweep over me.
Why didn’t I get to be shocked by pain in my 30’s. Why did I have to learn to grieve as I learned to speak. Where was my chance to be naive.
I was wounded and afraid and alone, and instead of loving me, they heaped shame on me. They told me lies about God and myself and compounded my pain with their own cowardice and pride. Now they are discovering things I have known all my life and they want my tears. They want me to say, How Wise … How Deep. I cannot do it, not today. I need my tears for me today.
Behind my anger there are deep wells of hurt and confusion. Depths I hadn’t known were there, depths that feel hopeless and unfathomable, that threaten to swallow me up. But ‘there is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.’ The Light will shine in this darkness too; it will not be overcome.
As old wounds open and bleed again I am reminded that I am not Fixed, I am Surviving. I know that this time, like every time before, God will attend to my wounds. He will glorify them. He will nurture that flower called Worthy. I don’t despair any more when the pain comes. I do know though, that it really will hurt, it will be exhausting and it will be costly. I know that I will again feel sad and afraid. It will be just as bad as I fear. But this is Redemption. This is Glory … and there will be Joy.
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
I resent that I had to start learning these things when I was so young and so ill equipped. It feels so very unfair that I was robbed of a childhood – that carefree innocence. It hurts me deeply that God didn’t give me that. But in truth what I had was a headstart. My being has formed around a knowledge of what it is to suffer, to be powerless and to long for Heaven. I understood the tragedy and the horror of sin before I knew the words. While that will always be sad, God has also made my faith strong. Like a tree that grows on a hill, I have been made to bend with the winds of life. I still look and feel weak and vulnerable. I still bear the scars of the fiercest storms, and will certainly gain many more. It doesn’t make it ok, but it keeps me surviving, it keeps me growing, it is my hope. And when the Sun breaks through I bathe in its warmth and light.
God is pouring his love into me. He calls me Worthy, Chosen, Precious Child. He calls me Mine. Healing doesn’t look like I thought it would. Redemption doesn’t end and neither do God’s love and grace. We aren’t problems to be fixed to Him, or projects to be completed. We are precious children, beloved friends. He weeps with us and delights in us. He is so much more.
The truth is I was no more broken than the rest.