beauty brokenness

Finding Blessing In Brokenness

There is not one person among us who is not broken in some way. We carry with us the scar of original sin, which weakens us in every aspect of our lives. It is true that some of us carry heavier burdens than others, but we can not judge another’s trials  for brokenness can be deeply hidden. For some, our brokenness is right there for everyone to see: a woman in a wheelchair or a veteran struggling to walk with a prosthetic leg. But, for others, the woundedness is hidden; the girl standing next to us in the checkout line is reeling from her parents’ announcement of divorce or the dad standing handing out snacks at his son’s soccer game is dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. We can look at every single person that we brush by daily and acknowledge: we all share in this brokenness.

One of the hardest thing that Christians must do is to find blessing in our brokenness. No, our reaction to brokenness is blame: “This would have never happened if he’d only agreed to counseling!” We get angry – at others and at God. We may feel shame: “I don’t want anyone to know my family’s issues; I’m so embarrassed.” So quietly, with great care, we tip-toe through our day – unable or unwilling to not only acknowledge the blessing in the brokenness.

Fr. Henri Nouwen is well-known for pondering questions such as, “How can I possibly find blessing in this mess? In the diagnosis? In this tattered relationship? In this time of loss?”

The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness from the shadows of the curse, and put it under the light of the blessing … The powers of the darkness around us are strong, and our wold find is it easier to manipulate self-rejecting people than self-accepting people. But when we keep listening attentively to the vice calling us the Beloved, it becomes possible to live our brokenness, not as a confirmation of our fear that we are worthless, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests  upon us … (Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World)

However devastating a situation we may be in, Christ walks with us. Our God is not a distant or far-off god, who  like a child bored with an old toy, has abandoned us. Our God is not a god who favors one person over another, Nor does God, like a beggar at a banquet, try to snatch a bit our happiness to keep for himself.

No: our God calls us Beloved: you. Me. That kid picking  his nose on the bus. The snooty waiter at the coffee shop. The mom struggling with a toddler and a grocery cart at the store. We are all Beloved. And it is this quality alone (this gift, this grace!) from God that allows us to drag our brokenness into light from darkness. We show it to everyone, and they allow us to see theirs. We acknowledge our sinfulness, the part we play in our brokenness and the brokenness of others. Then, our brokenness no longer frightens us or brings shame. Why? Because our brokenness – which has been known by God for all eternity – was carried on His back and nailed to that cross as He suffered and died or His Beloved. It was redeemed both in beauty and brokenness, and that redemption is ours by our heritage, by baptism and by living a life worthy of the Beloved Children of God.


“Forgiveness Is A Rough Thing”

Forgiveness is a rough thing. God forgives perfectly; His children do not. We hold grudges, mouth the right words, withhold our trust, and seek revenge. Of course, when we are wronged, we expect immediate forgiveness, but it’s still a rough thing.

Zookie McGee knows. He was sent to prison for nine years for a crime he did not do. And he was sent there be a dirty cop, Drew Collins. Yet, Zookie found it in himself to forgive Drew and the two are now friends. But it was a rough road.

The Detroit News told the story of “forgiveness and redemption” this week. Collins was a cop in Benton Harbor who found himself (along with his partner Bernard Hall) lured by the power, the money and he says, the attention.

The end came in 2008, when Collins’ supervisors, acting on a tip from Hall, found a cache of marijuana, cocaine and heroin in a lockbox under Collins’ desk, according to court records.

Collins confessed everything and worked with federal prosecutors to separate his good arrests from the bad ones.

When the FBI gave him a list of 200 drug-related cases and asked him to highlight the bad ones, he said it would be easier to mark the good ones because they were fewer.

“It just eroded into an all-out free-for-all,” said Collins. “I did some really stupid things.”

In a plea deal, Collins was sentenced to 37 months in a federal prison after pleading guilty to the same charge McGee had been convicted of — possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

But what of McGee? He still sat in prison, knowing he should be free. And he was released after serving four years of his sentence, nine days after Collins was incarcerated in the same prison.

Friends said that McGee, before his arrest, was a kind and soft-spoken man. But the false arrest and his imprisonment hardened him. His anger, by his own admission, was out of control and he swore revenge on Collins.

About two years after his release, he took  his young son to a festival in a Benton Harbor park. Collins was there as a volunteer.

McGee walked up to Collins and asked if he remembered him. Collins did and the two men shook hands.

McGee gripped Collins’ hand tightly and wouldn’t let go. All the anger he felt in prison came flooding back.

“His whole countenance changed,” said Collins. “I thought, this is about to get bad.”

McGee told Collins to tell his son why McGee had been missing from his life for four years.

Collins apologized profusely but McGee didn’t want to hear it. He grabbed his son and walked away.

Yet, McGee kept seeing Collins in town. Over and over again. Both men were involved in local churches by this time, and McGee had enrolled in a job training program sponsored by the churches. He was assigned a mentor.

It was Collins. The program director was unaware of the two men’s past.

Collins, who didn’t recognize McGee, explained he had been a police officer and that, if he had ever had any dealings with McGee and mistreated him, he was sorry.

McGee said they’ve already had this talk, referring to the meeting at the park.

When McGee said who he was, Collins began apologizing, but the smiling McGee cut him off.

“That’s already forgiven,” he said. “God has that.”

When joining the program, McGee had resolved to make changes in his life.

The two men now work together and travel, sharing their story of forgiveness and redemption. Clearly, they have figured their way through the rough thing that is forgiveness.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:36-37)

(Photo of Collins and McGee courtesy of Katy Batdorff/The Detroit News.)