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Broken in all the right places

By Gaylord A. Lemke

A tattered, dog-eared volume of Mother Goose nursery rhymes made its home on my childhood nightstand. I always felt badly for poor, unfortunate Humpty Dumpty. Recently, I found myself identifying with my old friend as a series of devastating events left my world in ruins. In the struggle to understand why this was happening to me, I faced a daily battle with hopelessness and a sense of abandonment by God.

This season of intense brokenness stripped away my false security and brought me face-to-face with the shallow nature of my faith. The journey has taken me from the valley of death to a renewed awareness of God’s constant presence and unique ability to put the pieces of our fractured existence back together.

Broken in all the wrong places

One day I tripped over my feet, fell headlong into a display case and shattered a prized vase given to my mother. I grabbed my tube of hobby cement and set to work restoring the treasure. I thought I had done a great job; later that week, when she was dusting, Mother held up the vase and screamed, “Where did all these cracks come from?”

There are people whose lives resemble my mother’s vase. At first glance, they seem to have it all together; however, upon closer inspection, the jagged edges of makeshift repairs loom large. Sometimes these walking wounded are identified by their pleas for pity. Touch a sore spot, and a flood of relentless emotion pours forth. Others are unresponsive stoics who are fortified against the threat of future wounds.

I relate to a third group. In general, we appear to be fairly well-adjusted people. However, press one of our hot buttons — those touchy little areas of unresolved hurt — and we erupt in a Jekyll and Hyde tirade that leaves the innocent party bewildered and wondering what they did wrong.

Broken in all the right places

Mother had another vase. It was finished in a glaze that produced superficial, hairline fissures in ornate patterns. I was fascinated by this object and marveled at its capacity to hold water in spite of obvious flaws.

Occasionally, we meet individuals who bear the marks of suffering, and yet grace and wisdom emanate from their lives like sweet perfume. Instead of sympathy, they evoke admiration. Sincerity replaces hardness and beckons others to embrace the path they have trod. What’s their secret? Consider this illustration.

I once saw a preacher empty a pitcher of water over a loaf of French bread. Nearly all the water ran off the bread and collected into a pan underneath. Just as the bread crust sheds water, so callous hearts impede the Holy Spirit’s penetration into our lives.

Breaking the loaf in his hands, the speaker exposed its doughy heart to our view. As he poured the water back over the bread, the thirsty mound absorbed it like a sponge. In allowing pain to overtake us, one of God’s purposes is to break apart the encrusted veneer so that His power can penetrate to our innermost being.

Holding the saturated loaf, the speaker began squeezing it until a milky mixture of water and bread poured forth. When we let God break us in all the right places, a unique blend of the natural immersed in the supernatural bubbles up from deep inside.

Jesus said, “If you are thirsty, come to Me! If you believe in Me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.” (See John 7:37,38.)

Moving from problem to promise

Adversity tests our faith. Do we really believe that God is in control? Do we recognize that, in ways often beyond our grasp, He causes everything to work together for our good? (See Romans 8:28.) Are we convinced that at just the right moment He will give us all the good things He has promised?

When we collide with the unfairness of life, questions such as “Why me?” “Why now?” or even “Why did God?” testify to our desperate need for answers. A lifelong mentor encouraged me to shift my focus from problem to promise by asking, “What now, God? What can I learn from this situation? What will You reveal about Your plan for my future?”

Moses lived with failure for 40 years before his burning bush assignment. We know little of this period in his life, but I’m certain that it was a season filled with gnawing questions. In Psalm 90, his passionate prayer displays a hard-earned confidence in God’s ability to redeem past setbacks for future blessing: “Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us see your miracles again; let our children see glorious things, the kind you used to do, and let the Lord our God favor us and give us success” (verses 15-17, The Living Bible).

When we surrender our trampled dreams to God, He tenderly gathers them in His everlasting arms where they are recreated and woven back into our lives. He draws us close and whispers, “Don’t worry. I am in control.”

A new beginning

In my situation, disbelief, anger and even bitterness replaced my initial shock. I tried to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with God, hoping I could somehow bargain my way back into familiar territory. I finally reached the point of acceptance, and realized life would be different — but life might also be better.

Disappointments can complicate recovery. The apostle Paul had good reason to regret his past. He had once persecuted early followers of Christ. Yet, his words reveal an individual who was anything but defeated: “I am still not all I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:13,14).

Without minimizing his shortcomings, Paul chose to concentrate on future triumph. At the end of his life, he was able to declare: “I have fought long and hard for my Lord, and through it all I have kept true to him. And now the time has come for me to stop fighting and rest. In heaven a crown is waiting for me which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And not just to me, but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again” (2 Timothy 4:7,8).

God’s definitive reply to brokenness will come in the form of a new heaven and earth, free from corruption. (See Revelation 21:1.) In the meantime, we can experience a foretaste of that ultimate restoration. However, there’s a catch: As long as we cling to the past, we will be unable to take hold of the future that God has prepared. Healing begins when we refuse to nurse or curse what has gone before, looking instead for the open window of opportunity that always follows the closed door in the midst of life’s heartaches. It may appear that God has forgotten us, but look up — He is preparing us for a new beginning with Him at the center.

Gaylord A. Lemke is an Assemblies of God minister living in Wauwatosa, Wis.

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