Tag Archives: brokenness

Graffiti Summer: Broken for Others

As we enter another week of Graffiti Summer Study & Do, we begin by following Moses’ journey from fleeing for his life to encountering the LORD at the burning bush. Here, Moses is called to go back and serve his people. He questions and doubts, but in Moses’ own brokenness, God equips him for the task of going back and leading his people. Alene talks more about this here.

DO Assignment: Serve as you see a need according to what God has laid on your heart.

graffiti summer broken for others

But this brokenness for others. It doesn’t just happen in a week. Oh, it can happen in a moment of the Holy Spirit’s choosing. But it grows and builds and develops and matures over time. A lifetime.

I’m not exactly sure of the first time I experienced being broken for others … though that one evening at the men’s shelter in downtown Baltimore the summer after 8th grade stands out as a moment where the brokenness ran deep and stuck.

But while I can identify several poignant moments and seasons of brokenness since then, they rarely come when I’m overly prepared or looking for them.

Sometimes they show up in the midst of serving others. Sometimes they interrupt my vacation.

But they always seem to occur when my eyes are fixed on HIM. Not when I’m seeking out those to serve, but rather when I’m looking to Him with a willingness to join Him where He’s already working and a readiness to say “yes” to whatever or whoever He brings.

So as I prayed over the assignment this week, asking the Lord to show me where I needed to serve and who I needed to be broken for, His answer in the quiet of that night when sleep just would not come shouldn’t have surprised me.

He gently reminded me that I was already entering into a “different” place of serving out of brokenness.

The Lord has laid on my heart an area to serve that I can’t share here yet. But it’s not something I can just decide to do one day and then go do it the next. It’s one of those areas that will take significant preparation. And since I’m very early in the process, there are still a lot of little things that must be done.

And while it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking I’m not actually doing anything because I can’t fully launch just yet, the Lord spoke encouragement to my heart that night that all of this preparation, all of these small tasks, are necessary. And yes, they do take time away from serving in other areas, but that’s okay. Because this is where He’s leading. At least for now.

Now, don’t hear me say this gives me a pass to not meet needs and serve others and get out of myself just because I’m preparing for something else. Not at all. But it does mean that I don’t have to try so hard and spend so much energy looking for the next place to serve.

Because He’s already given me a glimpse into that. I just have to be faithful in completing the steps of preparation and to trust Him as He leads to the final destination.

So this week, my DO assignment is to stop procrastinating (yes, just like Moses had to…) and send the next email and have the next phone conversation. To be faithful in preparing for this next assignment HE’S given.

What has He laid on YOUR heart?

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His Presence, His Arms, His Love

Some things really rock your world. Losing my little brother as a teenager was one of those things.

I always knew he had a heart problem. And I knew open heart surgery was a big deal. But I was young and never fully understood (or cared enough to recognize) the seriousness of his condition, so his death seemingly came out of nowhere.

Life as I knew it was interrupted and in many ways ceased to exist altogether. Normal was no longer a word with any meaning. Family was a term that needed redefining.

Everything needed redefining.

But eventually, I settled into a new rhythm. It took a long time to label it anything closely resembling normal, but the acuteness of the initial grief faded. Things that became different overnight eventually became less different. The deep ache that made it hard to move let up every once in a while, and then more often. And then quietly intertwining and invading without any fanfare, a new normal began to seep into the everyday.

It’s now been years since I’ve lived under the weight of just-get-through-one-moment-at-a-time fresh grief.

But some days…

His presence, His arms, His love

I didn’t expect simple things of no consequence to trigger such deep emotions. Grief can be so unexpected and beyond all rational explanation.

Ten years later, it can still break in with a vengeance and then fade just as soon as it swells.

Often completely unprepared for it, all I know to do is ride the wave of overwhelming emotions so deeply felt that I’m sometimes left knocked down and gasping for air. So I ride. I let it happen. I sit with the grief and allow myself to just be in that moment. To let the wave hit and break and crash and drift away. To experience the torrents of emotions as they come and then ease.

Yet even though it’s uncomfortable, even though it’s painful, there are few moments such as these where I sense a more immediate need and know a more intense desire to just sit with my Heavenly Father … in His presence, in His arms, in His love … allowing Him to speak truth over me and listening with a ready ear as my mind goes back there. To that night, to that hospital, to that hallway, to that room.

But at the end of the hallway, there’s the embrace I’ll never forget. The arms of strength that still give me permission to fearlessly collapse and release. The words that still echo in my heart. Not of empty promises or meaningless platitudes, but quiet whispers of love and grace and a sure promise of His presence.

Arms that weren’t letting go. Love that wasn’t going anywhere.

And in the arms of this Abba Father who so intricately orchestrates every detail of this life for His glory, who loves this child unconditionally, who sees the worthiness and righteousness of His perfect and blameless Son when He looks at this face, there is peace. there is calm. there is freedom.

Because even in the midst of the tears and ever confusing grief that ebbs and flows, His presence is strong, His arms are solid, His love is fierce, His embrace is secure.

Because in these moments He’s as close to tangible as I sometimes suspect He’ll ever be in this life.

Because I know this ever present Holy One knows, sees, and understands the deepest parts of my grief.

As I sit with Him, as He draws me near, as He holds me close, He grieves with me. We cry together. He is faithful to His promise. He is the God of all comfort and He is close to the brokenhearted.

And though it doesn’t make it easy, though the grief still runs deep and the loss will not simply be written off, there is hope in the midst. This world is not the end, this life is not all there is, and this earth is not my home. Because in the arms of this Father, through the sacrifice of His Son, there is the assurance of eternity in His presence without the earthly pain and grief. An eternal reality that far surpasses this momentary one.

I still find rest in His sovereignty and His goodness.

Grief doesn’t change that.

Yes, grief is hard and makes my humanity painfully obvious. But the Father’s promise to be close, to bear the load with me and for me is unchanging.

And in the sitting with Him through it, as He draws me near and holds me close, in the wake and the aftermath of the moments of poignant grief, the release and collapse into His presence, His arms, His love is strangely sweet.

“…and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

{Day 2} It All Started with a Western Caribbean Cruise…

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

It all started with a Western Caribbean cruise in February. You know, the one I said I would write about, but never did. Yeah. That one. At the Coxen Hole port on Roatan Island, Honduras, to be exact.

Beyond the beautiful beaches (and oh my, beautiful is an understatement!), as we wandered into the local community near the port on a mission to find a Bojangles (that we never did locate…), it was in the faces of curious children, in the glances of store owners, in the laundry hanging on clotheslines, in the street traffic, in the everyday reality of local culture … poverty, brokenness, and need.

But not just a practical need (though there was that, too) … it was a need for hope, it was a need for truth, it was a need for a Savior.

And as I left that port to get back on the ship, I began to feel the weight of conviction, of confusion, and of my own brokenness.

What could I do to meet such a vast, extensive need?

How could anything I have to offer ever be adequate?

And why did the Lord interrupt my vacation for crying out loud?!

But the prompting of the Holy Spirit was there. And it demanded a response.

For When I am Weak…

“…For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)

I know I don’t usually post at all on Saturday mornings, much less a devo thought, but this message is so important and so freeing that I just didn’t want to sit on it. I desperately needed this reminder. Maybe you do, too. So before you launch into that mindless novel at the pool, or head to that summer cookout, or start on that yardwork, or begin that week of vacation, take a moment to pause, to reflect, and to rest at the feet of Jesus. He loves us so well.

After completing week three of the “Grace for the Good Girl” book club hosted by Emily Freeman on her blog, which basically wraps up the section describing the many masks we good girls tend to hide behind … such as the masks of strength and responsibility, of a good performance, and even of spiritual disciplines … the one theme that stood out above all else was this:

weakness.

If I’m being honest, I tend to think of weakness as a bad thing. Not so much if other people admit to weakness. It’s ok if someone else shares a flaw or a struggle or has a need for help or support. But me? Well, that crosses the proverbial line. After all, I am perfectly capable of handling my own problems, answering my own questions, talking myself into a better attitude, and dealing with my own mess.

“Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility is a lonely place to live. That mask portrays to the world around us that we have it all together, that we can handle the mess, that we don’t need people. Or worse, that we don’t need God.” – Emily Freeman (p. 85)

Yes, I often wear this mask of responsibility – the one that demands I must have it all together at. all. times. – quite well. Even worse, I wear it proudly as if it’s somehow a badge of honor … all the while failing to recognize the straight up pride in that very sentiment!

“The truth is, admitting weakness is the very doorway the Lord uses to lead the tired good girl to a place of rest.” – Emily Freeman (p. 85)

I know that statement is true. The Lord does use weakness to lead us to rest in Him. I have even acknowledged weakness here before and spoken of the necessary choice to return to Him in complete surrender. A choice that must be made over and over again. Because this walk with the Lord, it’s everyday, it’s every moment.

Yet as the discussion in a subsequent chapter shifted to the parable of the prodigal son, as I continued to consider this good girl tendency of hiding behind strength and responsibility, I couldn’t help but think about the burden of guilt that I so often carry around as of late. Guilt because of missed deadlines (however soft those deadlines may be…), guilt because I haven’t done enough or been enough, guilt because the facade of having it all together fades, guilt because I have a need. It’s been a struggle, it’s been a weakness.

But then in the middle of the chapter, I came to this quote by Brennan Manning from his book “Reflections for Ragamuffins”:

“There is more power in sharing our weaknesses than our strengths. The forgiveness of God is gratuitous and unconditional liberation from the domination of guilt. The sinful and repentant prodigal son experienced an intimacy and joy with his Father in his brokenness that his sinless self-righteous brother would never know.” (p. 103)

brokenness.

And all of a sudden that weakness is wrapped in brokenness, and in that brokenness, there is hope. Because Jesus wants that brokenness. And in exchange, He offers to lift the burden, the weakness, and replace it with intimacy and joy.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

– Psalm 51:17 (ESV)

Yes, this guilt … sometimes legitimate, sometimes false … leaves me broken and weak. But when I stop there, when I allow that guilt to rule instead of taking it to Jesus Christ and laying it at His feet in humble abandon, I miss out on the acceptance and peace and rest that He has already so freely offered.

“The beautiful redemptive truth is, I am free to identify with the Father, the one who offered unconditional love and acceptance to both sons. I don’t have to figure out the mess. I do have to trust in the One who can.” – Emily Freeman (p. 106)

—–

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)