There is a part of every one of us that feels broken. Sometimes, literally.
Other times… when we feel stuck or without passion, when we betray our own heart, or when our dreams are derailed by ridicule, or when we live only to “fit in,” and censor our own voice; we are broken.
Not long ago, I sat with a friend. His life had turned left. Call it what you will, it feels broken, nonetheless. And, I didn’t have words to make it right.
Whether we feel it or not, brokenness takes a toll.
And we begin to believe that broken is all that we are (the only label we attach and give credence to). And, we believe that empathy can be overwhelmed, compassion can seem helpless, suffering can be too much to comprehend, and the level of public quarrel too much to absorb. Mercy. And, we forget… Tender and fragile is okay. A place of exquisite beauty. There is nothing to fear or run from.
Which begs the question: So. What do we do with our brokenness?
Henri Nouwen suggests that we need to “embrace it.”
Yes. Because we are beloved of God, we can dare to embrace and befriend our own brokenness; and in befriending, to really look at it: “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, it is painful. And… I no longer need be afraid.”
Conceptually, I get it.
But how do I have to invite my brokenness into my life? Or, how do I embrace it (as Mary Oliver says, “row toward the embattlement”)?
We start here: No one of us is on this journey alone. Remembering that every one of us has been warmed by fires we did not build; and drunk from wells we did not dig.
And we listen to a different voice that invites us to tether our well-being here: “Do we know that within each one of us is the unspeakably beautiful beat of the Sacred? (Thank you John Philip Newell)
You see, “embracing” broken places allows us not to run, but to see an open space, a place for gestation and receptivity (what the Japanese call “hollowness to the divine”), where new things are hatching and being born, if only we do not panic. These are the times and places from which we can truly and wholeheartedly, give of ourselves.
Let’s give Henri Nouwen the last word, “The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse?” (Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center)
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”
This one thing is undeniable: We are, all of us, thirsty for kindness. Gentleness. Meekness. And compassion.
And, we’re brother and sister. “Who else could we be?”
However… let us not pretend. This is not easy. You know, the part that sees the precious, especially inside. Easy, is shutting down. Being overcome by weariness. Giving way to numbness. Or pretending not to see. And finding someone to blame.
Martin Buber (inspirational Jewish philosopher) cuts to the chase, “All real living is meeting.” Real life happens in the present, and in the Presence. When we see one another as precious. Knowing that we are all welcomed into God’s compassionate heart, no exceptions, no exclusion.
The word that brings us into the present and into the Presence is acceptance. Radical acceptance is the love we seek and the love we are. That love is, in fact, the life we seek. That love is the word of Presence.
In Presence, our heart comes to life. Where hope and joy and gratitude bubble up. Where we see what is life-giving—inclusion, empathy, kindness, mercy, gentleness, humanity, compassion.
I can hear Mr. Rogers saying, “Our word for today, is Presence. Can you say Presence?”
And I can hear voices saying, “Are you nuts? In this corrosive world you want to be that gullible?”
Well, yes, I do. Remembering the Irish proverb’s affirmation, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
Thursday — When brokenness is real—in our world and in our spirit—it is a good time to talk about Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese method of repairing broken porcelain, using gold to fill the cracks. (Also known as Kintsukuori, which translates “golden joinery.”)
The Kintsugi artisan uses gold (or other precious metal) mixed with epoxy to repair the broken piece. Okay, this really does my heart good; the gold now emphasizes, rather than hides, the breakage. Yes, the gold honors the beauty of imperfection, and now, that beauty spills.
It’s Marcel Proust’s reminder, “My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.” So, my value is not about where I should arrive (needing to pretend that the cracks do not exist or will be covered up), but honoring and living into the true value deep down. At our core.
We’re invited to a paradigm shift: Henri Nouwen’s guidance that we “embrace” our brokenness. The “precious scars” honoring my life. It is no surprise that I hear Leonard Cohen’s voice, “there is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in.”
Now, at home in my own skin; that “safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer,” Parker Palmer writes. “It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”
Yes. There is power in our redemptive story.
It’s been a full and draining week for so many people. But I take heart, and am grateful for the gift of Kintsugi.
And yes, the power and beauty in our redemptive story.
We live in a broken world… with broken bodies, broken relationships and broken spirits.
When we feel stuck or without passion, we are broken. When we betray our own heart, we are broken. When we live only to “fit in,” and censor our own voice, we are broken. When we are enamored by diversion and avoid our own company, we are broken. When we believe that we are only the sum total of our achievements, we are broken.
Sometimes we feel it. Sometimes we don’t. Even so, it takes a toll.
And my confession is this; in the end, all I was, was afraid. And not just afraid of God. Or eternal damnation. I was afraid of being found out. As a fake. I was afraid of facing the reality that my performance for appearance sake, and some hunt for perfection, were booby prizes.
What I needed, was the permission to simply be human.
I needed the permission to know that the Divine kiss of Grace kiss still works.
I needed the permission, to be, just Terry.
Or, as my friend Jinks invites, “What about if we don’t try not to panic, but rather recognize that God is in the panic saying ‘come here, Sweetheart?’”
Here’s the deal my friends: because we are beloved of God, we can dare to embrace and befriend our own brokenness; and in befriending, to really look at it: “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, it is painful. And… I no longer need be afraid.”
In my mind I’m back on my grandmother’s porch swing. Grace personified. In the flesh. There, I never had to deliberate or explain or worry regardless of the weight I carried. The swing–my grandmother’s presence–existed without conditions.
And I am here today, because the Divine kiss of Grace kiss still works.
“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.
It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life.
It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.
Sometime at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.
Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later.
Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much.
Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything.
Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.
If that happens to us, we experience grace.”
Prayer for our week…
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability —
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Photo… “Dear Terry, I told the sheep on the Isle of Iona (Scotland) about you. They send their blessings.” Tom and Katherine Mertzlufft