Brokenness

I have been pondering a quote from Gene Edwards in Celtic Daily Prayer for the last few days. It is about being broken. I took the word “broken” to mean being “useless,” like being broken down at the side of the road, or being broken off from the vine, like Jesus warns us not to be.

Edwards says that the broken man is not rebellious. He is at peace with his circumstances, not rebelling against what other people do to him and certainly not rebellious against what God has brought to him.

As a result of pondering this, I have been feeling more rebellious. I recognize that I have felt constrained by those who have adapted to my appalling circumstances to be as quiet as they are about what is appalling: gun proliferation, casinos, unbridled greed, the unjust justice system, horrible school leadership, rampant immorality, weak Christian leaders, my own laziness and lack of humble service, the list goes on. And I have been pondering what I have not dared to rebel against in what other people are teaching me through what they do or don’t do as my friend or comrade in covenant — when the price of their love is faithlessness, I need to rebel. I also realized that I really need to listen to what God is asking of me. I don’t think I am really listening unless something in me needs to change, which inevitably causes me to rebel, at least initially. I have been reminded of James 4:4 – “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

If something in us is not rebelling against the oppression of sin and death in the world, in our relationships, between us and God, we must be broken. If we are operating, we are struggling.

At least that is how I was reading Edwards quote until I went back to revisit it again. I think I actually may have read it the opposite way from what was intended!

Is it possible to know if there is true brokenness in a man? [sic – sorry women] I think so.
     Such a man is not in rebellion toward anything:
1) nothing in his circumstances,
2) nothing that has to do with what other people inflict upon him,
3) and certainly not anything that God chooses to lay within his life.
He is at peace in all three circumstances.

I think I have never really understood seeking “brokenness.” I suppose I understand the feeling of brokenness so innately that I don’t relate to being rebellious against God and needing to be broken. This may be a spiritual disadvantage, since it seems that so many people are having a perpetual negotiation with God about whether they want to be saved! One of our teams often offers a song during worship about “longing” for brokenness because they need it. Or maybe I don’t know this brokenness as well as I think I do, and I am hanging on to a lot of rebellion I need to get rid of!

What Edwards was really trying to say is that a person who has accepted his or her life from God and has chosen to trust the Lord in every circumstance no longer needs to fight what is going on as if they need to conquer it and control it. For a broken person, rebellion against the circumstances has lost its importance. Such rebellion no longer creates an identity or demonstrates value. Rebellion no longer means survival or shows power. A former rebel has inner peace, even if the world is raging in rebellion around her.

As it turns out I think my original and my more accurate interpretations are both right. In my case, I think the truth Edwards really meant to convey is the place to start. The love of Christ has broken our resistance. Resistance is futile. A life of trust is the only true option. To a large degree, I think I am experiencing the brokenness he prescribes; that’s where I met Jesus. But I hardly think a person can stay in a perpetual aspiration for brokenness.

If followers live in such peace with God, it means they will become a well-known rebels in the world. Jesus has peace in his circumstances — he is peace; but everyone knows he is a rebel. He was killed as one. Jesus is at peace in any social setting, but when he shows up in one, his peace upends them. Even when Jesus is absorbing what people inflict on him, it is to the end of utter transformation. And though he ultimately does whatever his Father asks, it is not without exasperation and struggle. The peace that comes with our brokenness is, by its nature, a rebellion against what is broken.

It is always a little shocking to find out you saw something completely different than what was intended. But then, maybe not.

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