Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time and used a lot of words writing about things like wilderness, pain, suffering, brokenness, and heartbreak. Over the past several weeks of Lent, my church has been doing a series on the wilderness, talking specifically about the Israelites' 40 years in the wilderness before they were led into the Promised Land. For obvious reasons, I have loved this - I have learned so much about what it means to be there, why we have to stay there, and how to deal with myself there as well as walk with other people when they're there.
A lot of what I have learned about pain in the last year, I truly believe, has made me a better counselor, a more empathetic friend, and a kinder person in general. I think that God has been showing me that one of my gifts is openness, acceptance and appreciation of brokenness, and genuine empathy, and for that I am thankful. Even beyond that, I have written more in the past year than I probably have in my whole life, and that is due in large part to the topic at hand. I have come to know writing as a gift, and for that I am also thankful.
I think you will not be surprised to hear me say that I find brokenness to be one of, if not the most beautiful part(s) of a person. When I am let into that part of a friend, a client, or a person at the Well, I consider that an honor. Hearing people's stories, the places they have come from, always always always makes me love them more. It is inexorable. I think this is why I like Lent so much. I find the juxtaposition of Lent and Easter to be absolutely poetic. I love really thinking about the meaning of Lent - how it leads into the desperate sorrow of Good Friday - and how we end here, today. With Easter. With hope. If we truly experience Lent, we come to long for Easter. By going through it even today, I find myself waking on Easter morning to a world that feels new. Hopeful.
This is the part I can't let myself forget and the part I think Jesus has been trying to remind me of all week. (Do you not hate that, when you are dead set to think one thing and then everything for like an entire week points to another thing until you're finally kind of like, "ALRIGHT FINE I GET IT!"? I really, really do.) In church this morning as my pastor spoke about the resurrection, this very clear thought entered my brain.
Yes. The wilderness is beautiful in its broken, desperate way. But the thing of it is, broken (the wilderness) is only beautiful against a backdrop of hope (Easter).
Maybe that is not profound to you, but it really kicked me in the shins this morning. Because brokenness is just brokenness without the promise of wholeness on the other side. As JJ Heller sings, "but if you are never broken, you will never be made whole." The Cross, the death of Christ, is beautiful. It is also necessary. But without the resurrection, it's just suffering. It's just pain. It's just another sad story.
What is written below I wrote last year, on this blog, about Easter. Writing the words in bold was, in its way, very much a plea. It was a prayer. It was hope that things were bigger and more than what they looked like at the time. It's been a year of pain and sadness and grief and ugly, gross wilderness. And as I was reminded this morning, just because it's April 4, 2010 does not mean that we are immediately transported from the wilderness. But even in the wilderness there is hope of a Promised Land, and the hope that Easter promises is available even after the holiday is over. Our story is not complete without the empty tomb.
Because broken is nothing without hope.
"On Holy Saturday, which is a day when hope is thought to be dead, we grieve the death of Christ. But we hold out for Sunday, for Easter - with hope and anticipation - because, praise God, death isn't the end of the story. In Christ, it never is."
I think broken is overwhelmingly beautiful. But this? The old hymn says it for me. I scarce can take it in.