She tapped my husband on the shoulder and quietly said, "Tell your wife I was broken today." The woman's words ring in my head like a song. I have been replaying those words repeatedly in my head, for several days. What a bold statement. One that required no thought, simply a reaction. A reaction to one who had just been stripped, in a matter of an hour.
Behind the walls of Century Regional Detention Center, the largest women's jail in the United States, lies a wealth of misery. Women broken by this world. Women who are cheats, liars, master manipulators, lost and unwilling to be found. And yet, in this hell, amongst the filth, lies small pockets of women whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Women who have truly been washed by the blood of Christ and who will one day, with pure hearts, will sup together at the Wedding Feast of God. Behind these unforgiving walls are women who find themselves in the midst of their own personal Hell by divine order. Women who have essentially found themselves in this place in order that they might come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Women who, by divine appointment, needed to be taken to their lowest, to be broken in order that Christ might lift them up.
"Tell your wife I was broken today," the woman said, as a result of learning about the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years in Mark 5, the paralytic who had been let down through the roof in Mark 2, and the shame and guilt the Prophet Ezra faced because of the very sins of his people, including both the religious and political leaders at that time, in Ezra 9. So ashamed Ezra said, "I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God; and I said, O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens." (Ezra 9:5-6)
Brokenness is necessary in the life of any man or woman who desires to know God in a most intimate way. It is necessary in the life of any man or woman that desires to be used of God in such a way that men would look at the life of a Believer such as this and marvel, saying "That could only be by the hand of the Living God."
A term that is virtually unknown in this day an age. A word that is despised and rejected by the masses. A word that denotes weakness and loss in the mind of the common man. A word that very few are willing to embrace because of the heaviness that comes with it. It is a state in which a common man finds Himself before a Holy God in a helpless state of affairs. A state in which the pride of life has been stripped from him only to find himself naked and unveiled before the Lord. Brokenness is a lonely state. It is one in which the loneliness and heaviness of having a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord will be revealed. And even in a dim light, this lonely state of existence will almost be too much to bear. We find this very state in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ sweat drops of blood from the anguish and brokenness He was experiencing, "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39) Brokenness is necessary for any man that desires for God to do the impossible in and through His life. Brokenness can only be present in the absence of pride. It can only manifest itself in the presence of a Holy God. Brokenness cannot exist apart from the working of the Holy Spirit. It can only occur in the heart of a man that, even for a small instance, realizes his state in the presence of the Almighty.
Oh, how we need to be broken! "How often we bewail and bemoan the sad fact of broken lives, but find later that only broken things are used by the Lord and that only after we are broken are we our very best for God." (Broken Things, M.R. Dehaan)
God has been speaking brokenness into my life as of late. At every turn I find myself being given the same message. I need to be broken before the Lord if I desire to move mountains. I am not sure what this means. But He has been speaking so clearly. He desires to take a praying man or woman and take them into the depths of brokenness in order to reveal Himself, to reveal His very heart. It causes me to wonder why it is that God, very God, the Living God whom I serve is so broken. Not in a sense of weakness or loss, but why it is He mourns to such a degree. The answer is simple.
The sin of man and the love of God.
The overwhelming love of our Creator causes an overwhelming brokenness over the Creation. Deep love cannot exist without deep sorrow and brokenness when the relationship has been marred by sin. True brokenness is not a state of being that manifests itself through emotion, rather it is an ongoing state in which man is taken to the brink of sorrow over the sin of man and is yet brought back to life when He finds Himself in the presence of the overwhelming love of God. Was it not that Christ had to be broken, almost beyond repair, in order to save sinful man? What then is it that is calling us to brokenness?
"Tell your wife I was broken today," the woman said. The words ring so clearly in my head, much like lyrics to a well known song. Quite a bold statement for a woman who lives behind concrete walls, only able to breathe recycled air, who day in and day out witnesses the severe consequences of sin in the life of fallen man. Quite a statement from one that you would have assumed had already been broken for some time due to her state of affairs. Quite a statement. I wonder if I will ever be able to make the same, in order that I might know God in a most intimate way. He has made it very clear, I must know Him in His suffering, as this is the very place where I will begin to understand the depth of His overwhelming love.
"I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering"
Broken beyond repair
Fearful and alone
You spend every waking moment doing,
That you may not be done away with
You deaden the pain of silence by increasing the noise
They say that silence is deafening
How very true this is
It exposes the pain of life,
The fear, the loneliness, the guilt, and the shame
Fall asleep to voices of unknown individuals who you’ve never met
And yet you find comfort in their very voices because they numb the pain
You’re not alone they say
And yet you feel completely lost amidst the crowds,
Friends and acquaintances,
Long lost lovers and companions gone awry,
Why is it then, that the pain of loneliness does not subside?
You want more and yet you’ll settle for less
Strangely, misery has become your comfort
Unsettling anxiousness your closest friend
You’ve learned to survive amongst the chaos
And Chaos is where you will continue to live
There’s more to life she says
You peer in and see there is validity to her words
And yet you find more comfort outside of the more to life
Because you have learned to find comfort in the pain
You can be made alive
And not just breathe
You can be set free
And not just bleed
You can find peace amidst the battle
And not just survive
You’ve been given the choice she says
And yet, my heart bleeds with anguish for your very life
You have chosen chaos,
The wider road,
Death over life.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Perseverance is such a trifle term these days. Most of us have no understanding of the term. We use it haphazardly to speak of that which makes us uncomfortable. According to the Google Dictionary perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. We see the ultimate demonstration of perseverance on Christ's road to the cross. In His 33 years of residing on earth He remained steadfast, unmovable. Even when the hour had come, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when His closest and most intimate companions forsook Him and in the heaviness of the hour He spoke:
32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Mark 14:32-41)
Even at the most needed of all hours, when the Son of God confessed to His dearest companions, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death", even then, He was forsaken and yet still willing to persevere. "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death," Philippians 2:8 says, "even death on a cross." Perseverance, God-given perseverance, requires humility and obedience. A giving up of yourself, even unto death.
I have wanted to, for sometime, write a short ode to my sister Heidi. Over the past 5 years I have watched her battle through difficult pregnancies, surgeries, cancer, radiation, and her middle child spend the first 3 months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with a 50% chance to live, but what reality displayed was a much smaller percentage. All that she has persevered through she has done so quietly. Without complaining, without belittling, without cursing the name of God. In quiet endurance she has and continues to persevere "A fool gives full vent to his spirit," Proverbs 29:11 says, "but a wise man quietly holds it back."
I often wonder what it is that sets men apart from others. Those that have become the humblest of servants and yet know God in such a way that I will never be able to understand. I have been a witness to these great men and women of God and yet still to this day it humbles me. Ten years ago I saw my mom, a mighty woman of God, slowly lose her life to Lou Gehrig's disease. Never a complaint, never a lament, but always a quiet prayer uttered with the little life she had in her. I have seen my husband endure Lymphatic Cancer and hours upon hours of chemotherapy and he too never once uttered a word of disdain, a grown, or complaint. And there also sits my sister Heidi, even after 5 years she still battles cancer to this day. How foolish I have been to think that battles were ever created to be loud,tumultuous events. I have learned from the cross, from the very words of Jesus, from the lives of these dear saints that have graced my presence that battles were meant to be fought in the quietness of the hour. Battles were meant to be fought on our knees and often times than none, on our faces.
Heidi and I have grown apart over the past few years. I have thought about the reason why. What it is it that has caused the distance? My only thought, in reading the Scriptures, is that she is at a different place than I because she is living in the midst of James 1:2-4, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." She has learned only to be still in the eye of the storm. A quietness that I nor any other human being will ever be able to understand or relate to unless you too have been given the ability to pass into the eye of the storm, the only place amidst the chaos that everything quietly stills itself. The place where you meet God face to face in the storm. The Psalmist David wrote of the eye of the storm so eloquently, and although this Psalm is so often read at funerals it was in all actuality written for those that are alive, for those battling the storms of life:
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I have come to the realization that God has placed these dear saints, my mom, my husband, my sister in my midst to teach me by example how to be still. The reason why I find it difficult to relate is because I have never been afforded the opportunity to endure such great trial that I would know God in a different way. Nonetheless, instead of growing apathetic towards the distance that has occurred it is my upward calling to learn from it. To sit quietly by and watch these dear saints interact with the Living God, learning as Christ so exhorted His disciples to "Keep watch and pray." Time is short to lose out on the lessons I have been called to learn from those that have learned Christ-like perseverance. This is an ode to my sister Heidi, an ode to that which God has done in your life. May He reci
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Burn the ships! We're not going back! Leaving an eternal mark on this world, one calle at a time.