Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dirty Floors and Broken Ground; the Beauty in Upside Down Life


“Beauty is not in your formidableness, but your fragility.”
Ann Voskamp
The Broken Way

Upside down.
Every bit of the Bible is disorienting, seems downright backwards to logic and reason and everything we claim to know.  At times it seems just too simple to be something as valuable as it claims to be. Other times it seems too complicated.
But what else could a book claiming to be the Holy Word of the only God of the Universe be?
If humans have done everything to self-promote their own self-absorbed hearts since time began, wouldn’t life that is lived in an opposite way, in a servant-heart way, be considered upside down to these very same hearts?
This is what I think about as I read The Broken Way, A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, Ann Voskamp’s newest book.
Broken and abundant do not seem likely to be related, or found even in the same sentence (much less the same life story).
But according to the Gospel, and artfully told through Ann’s writing, it is not just possible but a promise.
And in our world today this is a timely message for our hearts to be reminded of.
So often as the intelligent and reasoning humans we are, we spend so much time trying to avoid the broken, trying to imagine, deny, spend or ignore it away.

What would happen if we embraced it then surrendered it to God instead?

And this isn’t some ‘woe is me’ kind of dirge and no one is saying we all are to live wallowing in or for the broken things, but for one simple minute can we look around an acknowledge that things are not as they should be? Can we stop the denial, stop acting that to be a successful human means we cannot grieve and cry out at the losses in my home and yours and the one across the street and across the ocean? There is a difference between crying out in unbelief and crying out in grief. “Lament is an outrage…that still trusts in God’s good outcome.” And quite honestly, isn’t it the grief, the empathy, the connection, that makes us human? What is happening to us if we start denying these emotions?

“Who doesn’t know what its like to smile thinly and say you’re fine when you’re not, when you’re almost faint with pain? There isn’t one of us not bearing the wounds from our own bloody battles.”

Yes.

Those piercing words were found right in the beginning of the book, only a mere 12 pages in.  

Soon after, on that very same page, 
”Not one thing in your life is more important than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”

And right then I knew that this book was going to connect in ways that my heart was yearning for.  In true Ann Voskamp style, her words cause my heart to come undone.

We are living in a world full of angst and war, death and sickness.
Millions are finding themselves homeless, moving across continents, across oceans-losing babies and tearing apart families in the process.
Our country, not some far off land but our very own country, is distracted and divided over politics.
The man behind me the other day, he boxed his steering wheel and screamed words through the crack in his window at the long line of traffic ahead of us.
There’s that mama around the corner praying for her sick girl, another mama grieving the one lost, the son angry at his dying mother, the daughter crying over a mother absent, that dad wondering about the job that might be gone tomorrow, a husband who left yesterday, the widower grieving the loss of his love, the woman bearing the shame of burdens she won’t dare to let go, the veteran who stands on the battlefield every night while he sleeps, the soldier who is facing his war right now.
Me, standing by the sink, dishes piled high and wondering about all the broken places in my own life and my own heart.

Even the mundane, the everyday (especially the mundane, the everyday?) can break us apart.

It might take only a minute to voice it, but it takes a lifetime of heart surrender to admit that things are not as they should be and no matter how much I #cantstopwontstop my way through them, I will never reach what I am seeking on my own, within myself.
Jesus won't heal the things I don’t offer up for healing.
The things I won't surrender to Him.
This isn’t popular in our culture today.
This isn’t popular in my own heart.
Weak isn’t what sells, unless it is the Strong profiting from the Weak, and the last thing I want to do is have my brokenness become someone else’s payday.
No actually, the last thing I want to do is start sending out bits of my heart in pixelated pieces just so someone who has their own broken pieces can tear me asunder; just so my broken becomes splintered and sharp.
Weak is embarrassing, it threatens my well being (or my façade of a well being, anyways), and it won’t get me on any fancy list (except, perhaps, a gossip one).
And when we start talking about the broken, about the hard things, the broken-hearted things, it can go one of two ways.
We can join together, you and I, and share about the journey we are on.
Or one of us can get silent, angry, or defensive, and tell the other to take this stuff to church or counseling, quit ruining the day with it, quit bringing down the mood.
Or maybe, maybe we don’t even start the conversation at all.
Who has time for this, anyways?

“How do we live with our one broken heart?”

According to the Gospel, and then vulnerably told through Ann’s writing, it’s relationship, communion and heart-surrender that are required. The relationship that Christ offers, not the Christian bumper sticker and the volunteer schedule booked, but the willingness to be real, to be authentic, to be available. 
This surrender is healing. 
It is life changing.
It is simple but it is not easy.
This means being honest with ourselves, with God and with other believers about our good, our bad, and our broken places. Not only on Sundays, on everyday.  She says, 
“you begin to break your brokenness when you break down with your brokenness-when you hand it over to the One broken for you.”

Surrender.

And then, as our heart rests safely in God’s hands, we can begin to love others with the love given to us. Living life in community with others, being willing to be inconvenienced or interrupted for another’s heart, another’s life. This is love.
Love is Patient. 
Love is kind. 
Love is…….Love is all about outward actions towards another, about God’s outward actions towards us. 
Ann writes, “outloving is the only medicine that healed anything.”
So often (everyday?) the hard grittiness of life isn’t welcome at work, at the gym, in the coffee shop, at home and even at church. No wonder we all are a bit splintered, banging our frustrations out on a steering wheel, or even on the hearts of others.
I also find on her pages,
  “when the Church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ.”
Yes.
This divide causes even more brokenness.
And so does the divide that can happen under our own roof.
“Theology is an exercise in futility unless it’s exercised under our roof, unless it is exercised with our hands and our feet.”
Again, yes.
 ( a quick look back at page 13 and Ann writes this,
 “when you somehow pass your brokenness onto your own people, why does it hurt in a way physical pain never could?”)

The tears fell hard at these words.

 Ann beautifully describes how brokenness has always been a way for growth to come, for life to grow, for abundance to break forth. “Brokenness can make abundance,” Ann says and isn’t this the Gospel truth staring right back at me?
And she reminds us that , 
“the real Jesus turns to our questions of why-why this brokenness, why this darkness?-and says, ”You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’ . ”

And she follows that later with, 
“I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting-forgetting God is enough, forgetting what He gives is good enough, forgetting there’s always more than enough and that we can live into an intimate communion.”

I read her book with notebook and pen in hand, scribbling furiously notes and words that hit my heart. By the time I was finished, I had probably copied a good percentage of the book. There is so much heart on every page, and I believe it will be a catalyst for many to acknowledge their own hard things, their own broken places and then hearts and lives can be changed through Christ’s Redeeming Love.

“Until you see the depths of brokenness in you, you can’t know the depths of Christ’s love for you.” writes Ann.


We are living in a world full of angst and war, death and sickness.
A world where floors never stay clean and the ground must break before life can break forth.
There is so much going on from North to South, East to West.
It can easily be heart numbing, all the breaking going on.
But if we remember that there is One Who promises to make everything new again, if we remember that it was in Jesus’ own breaking that we became whole, Holy even. If we remember,  and not forget, that “there’s a brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light.” 
Then we can take Ann’s advice, 
“It’s not that your heart isn’t going to break; it’s how you let the brokenness be made into abundance afterward.”




Author’s note: I was selected to be part of the Launch Team for The Broken Way. As part of the team I received a free copy of the book. I’ve used a considerable number of direct quotes from her book.  I am not exaggerating when I say there are valuable insights and heart-filling words on every.single.page.  Read her book, you won’t be disappointed. There is so much more between those two covers than I can ever cover here in one post. 


 Verses to Stir your Heart 

Revelation 21:15❤Isaiah 53:4-5❤Isaiah 61:1-8
Matthew 5:1-12(The Message)❤1 Peter 1:16