These lyrics from a Jeremy Riddle song ministered to me so deeply last Sunday during communion at church. How beautifully and accurately Jeremy describes what happens to us when we meet Jesus at the cross. Not just the first time, but every time.
As the line “I’m sweetly broken” played out in the chorus again and again on Sunday, the Lord reminded me of some words I prayed seven years ago. Words I prayed over and over again in a very difficult season.
It started one day in a chapel setting, where I was taking communion with some fellow staff members at a church. The wafer-like bread turned over in my hand many times as I thought about how broken Jesus was on His way to the cross. On the cross. In the tomb.
I snapped the wafer in my fingers, and a prayer came from within. I knew it wasn’t me, but what God wanted me to pray.
Teach me to be broken like Jesus.
Who in the world prays a prayer like that? Not this girl. At least, not on my own. I didn’t even know what I was asking for, but I kept praying it. For weeks, for months. Every time I had communion, I broke the bread, and asked that the same would happen in me.
Time went on. My life changed very much in the season that followed. I went from a mom with her hand in everything (PTA president, church staff, ministry leader, etc.) to a homeschooling mom, free from all outside commitments except one, expecting a third child. Then it happened.
A few weeks ago, I shared a post about our miscarriage in 2008 and the despair that followed. The time surrounding that miscarriage included such spiritual highs and such desperate lows for me. I’d never had such clarity and certainty about hearing God, and yet I’d never been so devastated and disappointed by God. It was a spiritual crisis for me.
All the teaching and discipling I had received in my (then) twenty years as a Christian seemed to fail me in that crisis. The problem was that I learned everything through my filter of childhood abuse, and it had translated into a very performance-oriented life with God. As long as I could perform well, God was pleased, and I was blessed. However, the minute that things went contrary to my perception of well-being, I received those negative circumstances in my life as punishment for not being good enough.
The miscarriage was punishment. Our financial distress was also punishment. Dwindling opportunities to teach bible study felt the same. Separation from friends while I remained at home most days was another. My whole life was going in the exact opposite direction that I wanted it to– and it meant only one thing to me.
I could never measure up to God’s standard
and I might as well give up.
Part of that was truth. I could never measure up to God’s standard on my own. Yes, I knew the gospel story. Christ had died for my sins, to forgive me, to bring me into relationship with the Father. In Christ, I was a child of Heaven! A new creation! Clothed in His righteousness! But it didn’t translate that way on the inside of me.
I tried walking away…but I couldn’t. I thought about ending everything… but I couldn’t. I had tasted some of the goodness of God and just a lick of His grace. So, despite everything that had happened, despite the ash heap that I sat in…
I knew that God was real. And I had to try again.
I decided to throw out everything that I had learned thus far. None of my spiritual performance regimens or self-scrutinizing rituals had helped me in my crisis. I threw them out. Suddenly, scriptures that I had memorized and held to had become weapons against me. Because of my abuse filter and my cracked foundation, those verses proved that God didn’t love me. I couldn’t see clearly. Hear clearly. I couldn’t pray. Couldn’t read the Bible.
I was broken.
Though I despised my brokenness, I knew it was the only alternative. I told God that if He wanted me to follow Him, to be faithful, to serve Him, that HE would have to do it for me. HE would have to teach me. HE would have to rebuild me one step at a time.
He called me out of bed each morning to sit in His presence. And I sat. Eventually, He gave me the courage to read the Psalms. That is where I learned how much He loved me. Finally, I was able to talk to Him again. Really talk to Him and be myself. As I listened to Him speak back to me, I learned about His grace. His plans for me. His grief over what I had been through.
From there, we slowly went through one lesson at a time. One hurdle at a time. One skeleton from the closet at a time. One breakthrough at a time.
I think about that day in the chapel, when His prayer rose up within me. Had I known what it meant, I would have grabbed my stuff and run. Now I see how good He is. Now I see how I had used Christianity to try to repair my childhood brokenness. But because of my self-sufficient ways, I insisted on doing the repair and rebuilding myself. What I built was terribly flawed, and as I came to find out, it was not a foundation that could withstand the trials and tribulations of life.
He had to break me in order to rebuild me.
On this side of the process, I am full of gratitude. I’m not done, by any means, but I am on my way. And now, I can see the value in brokenness.
For me, the biggest part of brokenness was realizing that I couldn’t fix myself. That I couldn’t perform well enough to be accepted. But that is exactly what I needed to learn in order to be set free, in order to be rebuilt. I needed to let go. Stop performing and pleasing. I needed to surrender to the One that loved me and let Him do the work.
“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace…
Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:14,16
My broken one, My superficially healed one, I have you in My hand. Your foundation may be flawed, but you are still the joy of My heart. Walk with Me, won’t you? It is the good way. Open your heart to Me, yes? You will find rest for your soul; peace for your heart and mind. And finally, you will learn to trust Me with your whole heart. That is My heart’s desire.
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