Saturday, January 4, 2014


This is a response to a post in a friend's blog, which I could just not leave alone today.

At a recent gathering of evangelical Christians, we sang a song in which one verse focused on God’s desire that we be broken. I say, “We sang,” but I didn’t sing that line. It didn’t make sense. Doesn’t make sense. Why would God want me to be broken?
Am I broken? The lyricist probably intended something like humility. But broken goes farther than that. It’s not just the wrong metaphor. It’s also harmful. It suggests that there’s something wrong with the human condition. And by association, it suggests that there’s something wrong with God.            -

I have learned a lot about brokenness in the past several years.  For me, the songs we sing about brokenness are the most powerful and are my deepest prayers.  What those songs meant to me when I was younger mean something different to me now.  There are many definitions for the verb "to break," and therefore, many ways to be broken.  Brokenness is not a bad thing.

I'm not sure I understand how you came to the conclusion that flaws in the human condition suggest something wrong with God.  While I do believe that we are made in the image of God, we are not God.  In our free will we have all sinned and fallen short.  Not already having been made perfect, pressing on toward the goal to win the prize…in my opinion, brokenness is essential, not for salvation but it is part of the process of sanctification.

It does seem absurd to break something like a bone, especially if it is functioning, but it is not unheard of.  I have known people who have had jaws broken by oral surgeons, not necessarily because they wouldn't work otherwise, but because they could work better.  The doctor doesn't leave it broken though…it's part of the transformation process.

In my former marriage, my spirit was broken by my husband's infidelity.  Packing up the rooms I had prepared for the children I would never meet broke me further.  I was hurt badly.  Then, the shame of my divorce, the distance some people put between me and them, and depression made it worse.  This brokenness did not come from God and it is not something to be longed for.  However, it was a catalyst for some of the brokenness that I needed.  God could have hardened my heart, like Pharaoh's…it would have hurt less.  But, my heart came out more fragile.  In areas where I would have responded with pride or arrogance, I became more compassionate, more empathetic, more forgiving.  The song that says "break my heart for what breaks yours" is this type of brokenness.

Another type of breaking that we need is from bad habits, addictions, sin--the things that put a wedge between us and God.  Things that destroy us.  While not all the worship songs use the word "broken," themes of refining or pruning are part of the painful yet necessary process of which breaking is also a part.

Finally, there is another definition that means "to train to obey" as in "breaking-in a horse" or "housebreaking a dog."  I like to think of it with shoes.  There is nothing wrong with a new pair of shoes.  You love them, you chose them, you have a purpose for them.  But you still need to break them in.  To mold them to the contours of your feet so they are better able to function.  Without breaking, the shoes are not entirely useless, but they aren't as good as they could be.  They could be so much better.

With this understanding of brokenness, this is my prayer:

God, Brokenness is what I long for.  Brokenness is what I need.  Brokenness is what I believe you want for me.  Take my heart and form it.  Take my mind and transform it.  Take my life and conform it to yours.  Not my will, but yours be done.  Amen.

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