“…and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”- 1 Corinthians 11:24
I have broken three things within the past week: a coffee mug, a wipe warmer container, and this ornament. The coffee mug was shattered; and I immediately threw it away. The wipe warmer has been broken off and on, and so we are still using it, even though it’s not in its original condition. This ornament, however, we are sitting in a safe place and we are going to attempt to fix the broken pieces. Why? Because it is from our first year of marriage and has special meaning. Although it is not hanging shiny on the tree at the moment, the plan is to glue the pieces back together so it appears whole again. The problem is, no matter how sticky or magical this glue is, the ornament will never be the same. Broken forever.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”- Psalm 51:17
Throughout the Old Testament, sacrifice after sacrifice was made in order to try and be clean before God. Bulls, goats, calves, all given in a feeble attempt to be whole again. But, just like the ornament, at the end of the day, these sacrifices were just temporary offers for a permanent problem. You see, we needed something more. We needed much more than glue or an animal could offer; we needed an eternal answer. Jesus.
“For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”- Hebrews 10:14
Him. No more temporary fixes for our sins. A final, forever sacrifice made that exchanged our soiled record for His, once and for all. But, let’s not forget the brokenness that had to occur for this to happen; His body broken for us.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”- Vance Havner
Sharing the messed up pieces of ourselves can be uncomfortable. As I shared over the weekend, I have my share of junk. And, it didn’t stop at 16. Even today, I struggle to let Christ reign in my moments. This is just plain part of being human. But, because of Christ and what He did for us, we can be sure of two things: first off, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God makes the broken things beautiful. Beauty out of ashes. Triumph over death through death. Secondly, because of what God did for us on that cross, we can find freedom in letting others in on our messes, with confidence that God is not finished with us. We don’t have to hide. The One who created us sees us fully, and He loves us.
The truth is, we live in a world of appearances; yet, reality lies beyond the appearance itself. When we are broken, the true fragrance of who we are seeps out and we are left standing in the truth of who we are. Without Christ, we would be left in our messes. But Love. Love chose to take on our junk in order to bring us out of it. He didn’t run from the grossness of our humanity. By embracing us, He embraced all that we were and He has called us to do the same with those around us. Only God has the power to replace the stench, the brokenness that is now apparent but had always been there, and give us Himself in its place. The face that we have the ability to be so broken proves the fragile nature of who we all are. But in Christ, we have been given the liberty to use all these things for good. When we are broken, we discover, sometimes for the first time, what is inside of us. And without Jesus, that would be terrifying. But God in His wisdom knows that only in breaking us can we break free of that within us in order to be filled by something else- God Himself. To be broken would feel weak until we remember who is putting the pieces back together; and that He is alive within us and promises to work on our behalf. But, to share our stories, we must first accept them. We must own them as the story being written for us. To share it, we can no longer run from it or cover it up when company comes over. This is where true community begins: when we learn to wrap our arms around one another in love, no matter what junk is being put on the table. Because, in the midst of all that mess, Jesus’s victory still reigns true. He is much, much bigger than any mistake or any struggle that you or I could ever walk through. Yes, it pains Him to watch us choose death instead of life. His way is always best, and true peace is always found in walking in the direction He has called us to walk. But, rest assured, there is no where you could go that His love cannot reach. Friends, He wraps up our brokenness in His grace if yet we would have the faith to let Him. He takes us just the way we are and loves us. How beautiful is that?
About a month ago, ¾ of our family caught the stomach bug. The beginning of a very long 48 hours started at a restaurant nearby, in which one of our daughters vomited more than I thought was humanly possible. It was all over her, all over the car seat, and obvious to those sitting around us. We left the restaurant, got home, and attempted to clean both her and the seat itself. In that moment, I realized something: I could care less what others thought at the pizza place; I wasn’t concerned with getting her germs on me. She was helpless to help herself, and I just wanted to make her clean again. I mentioned this to Hugh, how God sees us in our mess but doesn’t just leave us there, and he said this to me, “Yes. And you know what? I think I might even love her more in these moments.” A father’s heart. Our Father’s heart toward us. This is how He deals with His children; and it’s how He has asked us to deal with one another. Friends, He desires us to meet each other in the midst of the mess. We are all so very broken without Christ. My junk may look different than yours, but it is all the same. There is freedom in being able to air it all out, knowing that God Himself already overcame it at the cross. Yes, we are all broken; but He is making beauty from each and every one of our ashes.
This Christmas season, I want to encourage each of us to celebrate Jesus’s birthday by celebrating the things that He has done. Let’s rejoice with one another, let’s mourn with one another, and above all, let’s love one another, brokenness and all. Only He has the power to pick up the pieces of our bruised and wounded lives and make us whole. Let’s place those broken pieces in His hands, knowing that they are safe with Him.