The Breaking

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 NIV

Do you ever question why things happen to you? I think, especially, if we find similar things happen to us repeatedly we begin to wonder why.

I have noticed recently how it seems how things constantly are happening that change my plans. Someone else chooses for me, and it all is out of my control leaving me feel angry and frustrated.

I am a planner, sometimes down to the hour. I blame it on having been a teacher and always needing to have a lesson plan. A certain plan for every moment. So, I feel anxious when things are left unplanned. And I feel more anxious when things I have planned are randomly changed by someone else. This means I have to rearrange my entire schedule to accommodate the new plan. But it keeps happening, and I keep feeling anxious and frustrated.

Interesting. I just realized that the Lord is trying to get my attention. Now recently two days in a row in my time with the Lord, in two different studies, He has brought me head on with the verse printed at the beginning of this post. It seems that a part of my life’s recalibration will be about being broken and learning to surrender. Once again, I must willing to abandon control.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean explains what true brokenness means in this way:

“True brokenness means losing all faith in your own abilities, abandoning all dependence on human resources, and disavowing all outward pretensions of righteousness to cling to the Spirit of God as if to a lifeline.” (from He Restores My Soul: A Forty-Day Journey Toward Personal Renewal p. 27)

Definitely not an easy lesson. It screams trust and letting go and I am not good at either one. Even so, I know, God’s lessons are always for our good and His glory.

Just last year, the Lord showed me that trying to change someone so things can be accomplished in my way and timing is a recipe for frustration. Besides He has a better way! I was amazed at how the He worked in the midst of the situation when I released control to Him. He worked it all out in ways I could not begin to manipulate. So now, once again, I am seeing there is more He wants me to let go of.

The struggle is and has been for a long time about “my time.” I want to and have continued to try to control what I think is “my time.” I am realizing that I am working really hard to please others, to do the right thing, yet I continually come away frustrated and resentful. Those feelings come out of doing things that feel like obligations in order to people-please and having the doing of them use up “my time.” So then when I come to the end of my day, or my week, and I find that my personal to-do list is left unfinished it leaves me feeling upset. Angry, resentful, and frustrated! But His way is different, it is all about being reckless in love, not about me and my list and timing!

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go,  reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. “

John 12:24-25 MSG

When something is reckless, it is not necessarily planned out carefully. This “reckless love, ” He is calling me to live out, is all about being Spirit-led not planned out according to my timing. This means that the breaking is about breaking my will to control and have my way with “my time.” Surrender. And I have learned and continue to recognize the need in me at the bottom of all of this is still the need to earn love and hold tightly to it so as not to lose the love.

The problem is that my fists are clinging so tightly and I am trying to clutch the love I so desperately need but it seems that being reckless in love can only come out of trusting with reckless abandon. I cannot control it all. The Lord wants me to let go of control and trust Him with reckless abandon, and then in His gracious tender-heartedness He will provide the love I seem to so desperately need.

He has shown me this, and even so, I struggle with letting go, I continue to grab on and hold on to getting love in my way as if my life depends upon it. Like a little child I throw a tantrum when my life or plan is interrupted. I am obviously not there yet.

So, as I travel this journey to recalibrate life I can see that it is going to involve a breaking of self, a lot more trust, and more letting go than I had initially anticipated. Once again, I thought I had it a planned out, but God is showing me it is all about His timing and His plans. And, oh, His plans and timing are so very different from my own! My way is comfortable and safe, but it seems that will not be the road I will be travelling.

There is so much we must release to the Lord. Learning to trust is a life-long lesson, and often the breaking requires challenges that are very uncomfortable because we must learn to live by His ways. Thankfully, the Lord knows the path of brokenness and surrender, He has travelled it to the cross, and He is the One leading. So I can be confident in His wisdom and learn to follow, growing in trusting, even though the way produces fear in me as I slowly follow.

How about you? How is the Lord challenging you to change and grow? Are you with me learning on the path of brokenness and surrender?

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Abundance out of Brokenness

Is there abundance out of brokenness? Can you wrap your mind around that?

It is a bit mind-boggling to say the least. This concept is not typically what we think of when we think of being broken. Brokenness is usually equated with emptiness, despair, helplessness, hopelessness, feelings of overwhelm, grieving, and on and on. There doesn’t seem to be any light for a path to abundance.

Yet, Ann Voskamp says that brokenness is a “daring path to abundant life.” It is all about risk, Ann describes it as “vulnerable communion.” Sharing our brokenness, embracing our brokenness, giving away our broken pieces is the road to finding true abundance.

The abundant life is promised to the believer in John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.Jesus came so that we as believers may have abundant life. Satan, the devil comes to take it away, to bring death, and for the purpose of destruction. We are dead to God’s gift of abundant life before we come to know Christ. When we are “dead in our sins”, we are not even aware of that fact of our deadness.

But we have been called to hope in Christ. Praise God for His amazing grace. Jesus came and took our brokenness, He took away our sins, He took it all to the cross, He died for us. Jesus came to bind up and to heal (Psalm 147:3). He takes us in all of our brokenness, in our sin-sickness, in our hopelessness and fear, and leads us to abundance.

Oftentimes, people hear the words “abundant life” and think of riches, and money, wealth. When Jesus promises abundant life, He is promising satisfaction in Himself. We are satisfied in knowing Him, in His love, in the peace He brings, and in the comfort He gives.

We can take our own personal brokenness and share it with others, and in the humility of recognizing our need for Christ, and in the knowledge of our pain, we can point others to Christ. Instead of turning inward, instead of hiding, we can share how we know pain within, we can find a commonality of brokenness in our lives, and find hope in the one Who came to heal us, the one Who robes us in His righteousness. We are covered in Jesus righteousness, and in that there is hope, the hope is because of His unfailing mercy and grace for us.

We can give out of what we find in Jesus. We can live broken open and poured out as we live our lives in Christlikeness because of what Jesus has done for us. And as we pour out our lives into the lives of others, we again and again go back to the Lord to be filled and refilled. It is in our emptiness that we realize our need and desperation for the hope we can only find in Him.

We all are broken, broken by sin, broken by pain, broken by grief, and it is when we stop covering it up, hiding it away and let our woundedness be the opening where we let others in to love us and let our wounded places be pressed into the woundedness of Christ that we find abundance. We find abundance, meaning we find full satisfaction in Jesus and the richness that comes in knowing the love, acceptance, and belonging we can only have in true communion.

Are you on that path to abundance?

Are you finding satisfaction in Jesus in the midst of your personal brokenness?

Are you sharing your brokenness with others and sharing what you have found in the Lord with them as well?

We can find true abundance as we know our brokenness, share our brokenness, and know the Lord in all of it.

Brokenness

Brokenness. When you think of brokenness in your own life, in your own heart, what do you think of? What physical pain or life difficulties or emotional hurt come to mind?

I think one of the most important truths I came away with after reading The Broken Way is that there is hope in our brokennness. Now, as a believer I know Jesus is my hope in all situations for all of life. But as much as I know that to be true, as much as the Lord has proven Himself to me, when I am feeling so broken within I lose sight of that hope.

I realized, as I read The Broken Way, how much we as humans, and specifically me as an individual, take to hiding our brokenness from others. It is in hiding our brokenness that we separate ourselves. This keeps us feeling very alone and very divided.

I know when I went through a very deep depression years ago I only wanted to hide, to be alone. I locked myself in a room so I could write in my journal and cry for hours. I didn’t believe that anyone could understand what I was feeling. I shared my feelings with my counselor, and in my journal, and I told God what He needed to do. I knew He could help me if He would just answer my prayer. But He didn’t and I stayed stuck until I recognized my need to let Him be God. And even then I still stayed hidden.

There are so many things in life that crush us.

  • Shame can keep us locked away, feeling so bad that we think we could never be accepted.
  • Feeling misunderstood can make us pull into a shell.
  • Physical health ailments can make us hide because we feel too needy and as if we are a burden.
  • Grief can make us turn inward because we feel like no one can understand our pain. We feel like we can’t go on without that other person. Who could understand that? Who wants to be around someone so sad?

So we hide our tears and drown in our sadness. We want to hide our vulnerability, we don’t want to feel embarrassed. Some of us have been shamed for our tender emotions.

It is all so heavy and at times feels so hopeless. So, where does the hope come in? I can assure you, it does not come in by way of the hiding. Ann Voskamp helped me to realize more deeply the truth that the hope we all so desperately need in our brokenness comes in finding understanding, acceptance, and connection right there in the midst of our brokenness. And, all I can say is, that seems way too scary. It is scary because it means hope can only begin when we become willing to be vulnerable. Well, I am not good at being vulnerable in the midst of brokenness, but it seems that it truly is the only way to find hope.

It is the only way to find hope because it is in the sharing of brokenness that Jesus showed us the reality of hope in Him. Jesus came to this earth, Immanuel, God with us. He became man and lived life here on earth. He experienced life with all of the pain and hurts that we experience and more. He died on the cross to give those who believe in Him eternal life and to take away our sins. It is because He knows our pain and our neediness that we can find hope.

Our hope comes in taking the reality of our broken selves to Creator God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, and in desperate dependence, telling Him we need Him to help us.

When I was going through my depression, that is not what I did, instead I told Him what to do. I remained stuck in my depression, I call it my “wandering in the desert” time. The Lord kept bringing me to Jeremiah 2:13 showing me how I had forsaken Him and was looking for help elsewhere. I was looking for help in my counselor more than I was seeking the Lord for help. I knew the crux of my pain and I knew what I felt I needed to “fix” it, and I told God exactly what the perfect solution would be. It was when I finally repented and asked Him to help me out of my desperate state according to His will that He began the healing process.

His healing process led me to much deeper intimacy with Him and through that He showed me how He wanted to use my pain and healing in ministry. The path He led me on was a path of learning to be more vulnerable, of connecting in the reality of my brokenness, and of learning to accept love when I felt unlovable. He helped me to learn those things as I shared and ministered to women in my church and in friendships. I truly did find hope in my brokenness because the Lord used my brokenness to touch others with His love, and to satisfy the neediness of others hearts. I continue to feel used by Him in this.

So, you may be wondering why I said Ann’s book had such a profound effect on me. I guess, in some ways I wonder that too, but, what I am realizing is that, there is more brokenness deep inside. It is from there, in that broken place, that I find myself going back to my old “hiding” ways of self-protection.

So, in reading The Broken Way, I was brought face-to-face with my brokenness, and the reality of my self-protection in my self-sufficiency. The pain of it hit me hard. It is this realization of more brokenness in me that led me to see that I need to reach out to God in childlike dependence and tell Him of my need for Him right where I am now. You see, when we are distant from our brokenness, it is way too easy to return to that place of self-sufficiency, feeling like you don’t need anyone, and that you especially don’t need to be vulnerable.

I am living in the awareness of my brokenness and trying hard to be openly dependent on the Lord. I want very much to be transparent with my brokenness and my need for the Lord because I know there is healing in that and more than that, I know there is hope.

We are not the only ones in our families, in our group of friends, or in our church families who are broken, yet we often live as if we are. I know from past experience and now again in my current attempt at authenticity that:

  • There is hope in the love we find in connecting in the midst of our brokenness.
  • There is hope in the empathy we share.
  • There is hope in joining together in vulnerability.
  •  There is hope in seeing each other as more like us than different from us.

The healing comes in the hope we find in loving each other. There is healing in not running and hiding in fear of our brokenness, but rather acknowledging our dependence on the Lord and those He so lovingly put in our lives. (Just repeating that to myself helps me so much.)

The Broken Way led me to see my brokenness, my neediness, and although it brought tears and pain, it has shown me the way to hope in the midst of personal brokenness.

The Lord can use our individual brokenness to bring about hope through the bonds of love and connection, if and when we give it to Him fully depending on Him.

Take your brokenness to Him and let Him show you the way He has of growing you in it and through it, and then using you in amazing ways. He will satisfy your heart. He will give you new hope.

My Response to “The Broken Way”

This month my posts will be my personal response to Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. I have both read and listened to her book repeatedly. The Lord has used it to transform my heart and change some of the ways I have been thinking.

Each post this month will center around a word or concept that I have found key to this books message. Here is a quick preview of what you can expect . The key concepts for my posts will be:

  1. Brokenness.  Ann’s transparency about her brokenness brought me to tears. She was vulnerable and open about the pain she has dealt with in her life. She helped me to see brokenness in a new way. It has been in a way that has had deep importance in my relationship with the Lord and in my response to life. She revealed to me a path that can fills our hearts with hope in the midst of brokenness. It is changing how I interact with others. Brokenness often paralyzes us in traps of fear and aloneness but Jesus draws us into communion, intimacy, and love. We can travel through these beautiful paths together in our brokenness because of Jesus, just writing those words makes me excited to learn more, how about you?
  2. Givenness. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)   Givenness is about surrender and sacrifice. The Lord “gave” so that we as believers could have eternal life. Ann shared a lot about living a given life. Two questions came to mind frequently as I read her book. How can I live a surrendered and sacrificial life? How can I learn to live generously and be open-handed? I want to share some personal insights about givenness. Living given truly is living in Christ-likeness.
  3. Joy. Ann explains in her book that the joy in our hearts depends on the depth of our thankfulness. I am realizing how in order to feel gratitude in my heart it begins with learning to be fully present, fully aware of the Lord, and of how He blesses me. Moment-by-moment I need to be alert to Him. Only when I recognize His blessings can I respond with thanksgiving. And it is in the depths of gratitude filling my heart where I will find joy bubbling over into my life. I want to explore the path leading to joy. I frequently find that what I expect to bring me joy does not do so. The Lord knows what satisfies our hearts and it is so different from what we may be seeking.
  4. Love. We are all desperately in need of knowing we are loved and we all express that need so differently. Ann shares that everything we do and say is a call to be loved. She says we are asking, “Will you love me?” It is funny how you may recognize that feeling or need in yourself, but never really think that anyone else could feel so needy. I realize that I knew/know my cry for love in my life, but I didn’t generalize the reality of this neediness for love to others around me or to people as a whole. Reading about this has caused me to look at people, in general, in a different way. And it somehow changes my response to them. It is in recognizing this truth that my love for others grows in so many ways. It is vital to my life as a Christ-follower, but how will it change me? And how could recognizing this fact change you and your response to others?
  5. Time- A “Pocket of Possibility.God gave us time and each day is filled with opportunities. Some opportunities come in the form of interruptions. The Broken Way helped me to look at time in a different light. I am seeing the importance of considering why the Lord places certain people in my life and what opportunities I have for touching them with His love. I want to dig deeper into my need to abandon selfishness and open up with availability to God’s interruptions. I want to discover how to use the pockets of time I so often determine as mine, not selfishly, but for Him. Do you have these same struggles? Let’s take some of our precious God-given time to look at how God looks at time, interruptions, and what He wants for us.
  6. Grace. Grace, God’s grace is everything to us as believers. The Lord knew that the human race was prone to sin and continues to be. He knew our need for Jesus. His Word tells us our need to repent. We as Christians know this, but what role does it play in your life? Ann made me realize the correlation between my need for repentance and how that gives space for God’s grace in daily life. Ann’s discussion of this in her book ripped my heart open. It made me ask myself some hard questions. How significant does sin have to be in order for it to cause me to repent? And how does that correlate with what part grace has in my life?  The Broken Way made me really think about my sinfulness, my need for grace, and the importance of repentance on a day-to-day basis. What does this mean for me in the course of a day? And, what needs to change in my life? What role does repentance have in your life and where do you find grace in your days? I think that making this real will help us feel the Lord’s love for us more. His grace shows the extravagance of His love. Who wants to miss out on knowing that?
  7. Abundance. How does it all fit together? How can we, the broken, come to know and live out of the abundance the Lord offers us? That is the million dollar question. I want to examine that. What does abundance mean for us as Christians? And how do we find it?
  8. Finally, I want to look at Communion– such a beautiful word, a beautiful picture of union with Him. Our broken hearts and lives shared in amazing intimacy. It is what we all need, what we all crave. It is why Jesus came to earth. What does communion mean for us, the body of Christ, and what are we missing that is so vital? What did Jesus mean for us to have, that we so often overlook? These are some of the questions I want to explore.

There is so much here to digest. I want to take it in and learn to live it out. I hope you will join me as I try to find the path to living this broken life for the Lord’s glory, because it is all about Him.