For Those On Whom Brokenness Is Not Wasted

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

 

He doesn’t looking both ways when he crosses the street.

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He runs out scared onto Poplar Avenue, our busiest thoroughfare, and turns back confused, back and forth scurrying, between car dodging, not knowing. How can a stray dog be expected to understand the comings-and-goings of life in the fast lane or vacuous people operating large machinery or the simple fact that things move too quickly around here?

He is hit and I am witness.

The offending car stops abrupt, driver distraught. I never saw him, he came from out of nowhere are the words we wail after the deed is done, and they are true. We seem to never see it coming. Dog and driver are both injured, both wobble weak onto the hot summer street – one broken leg, one broken heart.

Time slows after injury, after tragedy – even city traffic seems to respect the moment. The pup tries to stand after his brief encounter, but only once. Unable to walk, he scoots and drags himself to find ironic shelter under the very vehicle that broke him; he lies to rest in the shady spot under her car.

Good people get to work, as good people will. Cars pull over and out of the way, one man directs traffic while another stoops to calm and rescue the pup. So many people stop to help that it becomes problematic; my car is motioned out of the way and down a side street.   It is not my day to be rescuer; today I am but observer.

I do not know the truthful ending of this story, so I will tell the proper one instead, the better one.

The dog lives.

He is taken to the vet where his leg is carefully set, and now only a tiny limp remains to remind us all to watch more carefully as we bulldoze our way through this life. The woman who hit him now adopts him and he is homeless no more, a stray properly rescued, loved and cared for by the very one who injured him most.  The essence of grace.

His leg heals and so does her heart, a beautiful conclusion.

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I live with and love two dogs, Joe and Andy. I must insist upon this ending, the better story.

 

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I am a great fan of irony. The fact that the English language has two words with precisely the same pronunciation but the exact opposite meaning intrigues me. (I can think about these sorts of things too much, I fear.)

Consider the words raze and raise ~ identical in sound, opposite in meaning.

The Amish community will raise a barn this afternoon. Or will they raze it? Unless one sees the word in print or has a solid grasp of the context of the sentence, one cannot know whether the Amish are building a barn this afternoon or tearing one down.

Could it be the same is often true with us, we regular folk living our regular lives? We want to raise each other up and be raised up by others, we want to encourage and support and exhort, and sometimes we do – we raise another up in purity and compassion, seeking nothing for ourselves, only the good of another.  But too often in our petty fear and selfish insecurity and natural discontent, these sins that so easily beset us, we tear people down in futile attempts to raise ourselves up in the eyes of others and, of course, in our own eyes.  I will gossip and impugn you, lie about you and ignore you, or even shoot you in your own church in the subconscious and ugly hope that tearing you down will somehow raise me up.

I sometimes raze to raise ~ do you do this?  While I adore this wordplay, the truth of it aches.  And the kingdom of God suffers.  Mankind suffers.

 

The story of the wounded pup exemplifies this irony.  In the better story, the woman who razes the dog also raises him.   There is hope.

The better story looks different from person to person, but mine is oddly like the pup’s.

I too was hit by a car once. Collision head-on, in the rain, the other driver passing on a hill, full speed ahead in the wrong lane, his headlights shining bright in my unsuspecting eyes.

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Broken, wounded, torn ~ I was razed completely.

The process of falling and standing again is sometimes long; mine was.   Femur and liver and gall bladder ~ surgeries three, like weird sisters. We want you to sit up in the chair today, can you try?  Breathe, don’t forget to breathe.

I eventually move from bed to chair, one day I am introduced to a walker and then a pair of crutches, I even spend a few days with a cane. It is oh-so-many months before I plant two feet hard onto terra firma and take a first confident step.

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Head-on collisions are figurative as well as literal.  You are thinking of yours, I’ll bet.

Like those who stopped to help the pup and those who stood beside me to help me walk again, there is a sympathetic community of the broken that surrounds when one is razed, literally and figuratively.   https://rolltheboulder.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/the-community-of-the-broken/

This community is comprised of other broken folk who can be honest and remember their own pain, they can see and feel in your moment the time of their own weakness.  It is called empathy and there are those who practice it. Those who have tasted the bitter pill of hopelessness and can remember its acrid pungence – these are folk on whom brokenness has not been wasted.

Find those, for they will carry you.  And they are out there, I promise – just look for the open hands and quiet, calm hearts.  Come to my church ~ we are a band of honest, broken folk who have not forgotten what that feels like.  And it is magnificently beautiful.

Pray without ceasing, be honest about your pain, and then do not be surprised when empathy knocks and brings a lemon cake to your door. And good listening ears – empathy always listens more than it speaks.

Some folk fall and do not get back up; sometimes that is the story. But sometimes, often actually, the fallen rise again. The community of other broken folk brings them crutches and kindness and patience and pie.  This community stops for the hurt pups on the side of the road and actually cares for them, taking them to get their legs mended and bringing them water.  And human compassion.  And hope.

 

People raze others to raise themselves.  We see in all around and far too frequently ~ this very week a white supremist shot nine congregants in their own house of worship.  We feel this despair and know something must be done about this.

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But do not lose heart, beloved ones; not everyone lives this way, not all people carry hate and guns. Compassion can be taught and people can forgive, even the very man who murdered their family.  Unthinkable, unbelievable even.   And yet… http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/06/dylann-roof-manifesto-forgiveness/396428/

They are our example.  They embrace the Example, and so can we.

He Who was razed, raised.  He lives.  He is raised from the dead.   He Who razes, raises.  Though he slay me, though I fall hard and feel like dying, yet will I trust in Him, says Job-the-destitute.  Says me. The unexpected by-product of all this falling and standing, falling and standing, falling and standing can be empathy.  I will stand alongside you as long as it takes and you will stand by me.

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I want to live like this.  Join me in living like this.  We can change the world; community like this can change the world.  It can.

The poet Rumi is right in saying “the wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Let us embrace the wound and thus embrace the light.  Let us not be ones on whom brokenness is wasted.

 

 

 

 

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The Community of the Broken

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The girl in the elevator at Memphis’ new Bass Pro Shop said to be sure to get the fudge, it’s famous!, but not today because we are out of fudge today. So I am standing in line at the fudge store to buy my father some sugared-pecans and a Diet Coke instead when a cool hand gently touches my warm one in recognition. I turn to look into eyes I do not know, an older gentleman with a lovely silver-haired woman by his side, but somehow his touch is completely familiar.

It is a touch I have felt all my life.

“We have something in common,” he says before he introduces himself.

“Indeed we do.”

The kindly gentleman takes my three-fingered hand into his own fingerless palm and pats it warmly with his other hand, his “good hand,” an overly intimate gesture in almost every other circumstance, movement far too fast and familiar for strangers.  But we are not strangers.

We belong to the same community.

We stand together in the fudge-less fudge line and talk of background (he’s from England) and education (I’m a teacher) and spouses (ours stand beside us smiling and nodding knowingly at each other – between them they have watched these interactions, these immediate friendships bloom year after year).  We talk well past the time everyone else is ready to go.

My pecans and soda arrive as does his popcorn and coffee, so it is time for me to step out of line and take my father to see the rods and reels. My new friend and his wife are going to the boats.

“It was so nice to meet you,” I say. “Always is.”

“You are beautiful,” he says, patting my hand one last time.

“You are too.”

We wave our little hands at each other in parting solidarity. Our spouses grin and wink, all of us having been on this stage before.

 

I was born into the community of the broken, a unique place of loveliness in the universe. Humility dwells there, as does compassion and kindness; empathy is birthed in the fertile ground of this company. This is an enviable lot in which to toss one’s hat.

It is easy to be a part of the community of the broken; one must only admit her brokenness. Something slightly easier to do when you are born that way, I think. I was born with a limb difference – only three fingers on a short left arm. Symbrachydactyly is its proper name.

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So my brokenness is physical, visible.

The great and unexpected blessing in the visibility of one’s brokenness is that there is no denying it, no hiding;  it’s out there for all the world to see. Other broken-folk, like my new-best-friend in the fudge line, can see my brokenness and come forth with theirs, if they choose.   On crutches and in wheelchairs, limb-differed and limbless, the mentally-challenged and the sick, I can see your brokenness and you can see mine.

And the Lord said, It is good.

Here I am, world, as I am. Take it or leave it is the battle cry of the broken ~ a beautiful, liberating anthem.

So when a member of this community approaches me in line and takes my little hand into his, it’s a touch with which I am familiar, something much more than mere compassion. It is the humble touch of understanding. Our love is deep before we ever even speak.

He gets me.

 

It’s harder, I’ve found, with invisible brokenness. No one can see our hidden things, and we’ve all been experts at hiding since the dawn of man.

Adam, where are you?

This broken community is harder to find because of its invisibility.

Sadnesses and failures, despair and distrust, wounds ancient and un-mended comprise the universal fabric of human brokenness, and yet we all camouflage and deny and pretend it isn’t happening to us ~ we hide our hurt behind the odd, heavy cloaks of smiles and lies and, in the worst case scenarios, we try to protect our own hidden broken places by exposing the brokenness in others. 

Judgment and prejudice and petty gossip and intentional cruelty are perfect garments to cower behind.  For pointing out the ills in others just may buy one a little bit more time and space to dig her own hiding holes a little bit deeper.  Whew.

 

When I was a teenager, I didn’t like walking on the beach in the summer. The beach ~ where pretty girls strut and fret their hours walking to and fro, with good-looking guys following an acceptable distance behind, everyone hoping. I didn’t mind the walking when my right arm was beachside and my little arm was oceanside, but when we turned to walk back, it was harder.  You know this feeling.

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It is the fragility of exposure.  A very hard place.

The community of the broken can help to heal this place.  Honest brokenness strengthens the fragile and emboldens the weak.  Gentle, healing grace is where the broken are made whole again. 
Please be gentle.

Christ’s brother James tells us to confess our sin [broken places] and to pray for one another, so that we may be healed.  I’ll tell you mine and you can tell me yours because it’s all the same brokenness ~ we all need the healing.

The beautiful community of the broken is made up of people with gracious eyes and ears, who see and hear our stories of pain and loss and respond not with judgment but with empathy and understanding deep.  Folk who take your hand ~ physically, emotionally, spiritually ~ and say, “I acknowledge your loss and sadness and pain because I acknowledge my own.”

We are the same, all cut from the same tragically-flawed but intricately-designed human cloth.

These are the people who walk hand-in-hand with you down the beach and, rather than trying to hide their stuff, they get t-shirts instead. Ten fingers are overrated her shirt proudly confesses.  No hiding here.

What would your t-shirt say?

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This is the beginning of healing ~ the confession of broken places.  This is a better way of living ~ praying for each other so that we all may be healed.

I happily and humbly join and rejoin the throngs of the broken.  You?

 

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I see my fudge-line friend again before I leave Bass Pro. He’s holding an ice cream cone in his good hand and waving maniacally with his little hand. I wave back with my little hand and shout across duck-laden ponds, “It was so great to meet you. Have a safe trip!”

“You too, dearest,” his British accents wafts lightly over the country music. “So much love to you.”  He means it.

I receive this healing.