Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beautifully Broken

There is s big movement in the world right now.  It’s in churches, it’s in popular psychology, it’s even being incorporated into the business plans of large corporations.  The movement is called “wellness.”  We hear a lot about the health of “Body, Mind and Spirit”.  We hear a lot about living a “balanced life.”  Frankly, the whole thing is becoming kind of cliche'.

I was wondering what the Bible has to say about “wellness”.  So I went to my concordance and couldn’t find any references under “Wellness” or “Wholeness.”

So I went to my own experience.  Do I know anyone who is wholly well?  Body, Mind, Spirit well?  I’m not – I’ll be the first to admit.  It seems I touch on each of those aspects of wellness one at a time.  I’ll run for a few months – I’ll do devotions faithfully for a few months – I’ll read all of the latest academia for a few months.  I’ll tend to my relationships really well in fits and starts.  But none of it lasts.  I can’t keep up.

Not having any experience, then, with whole person wellness, I went back to the Bible.   And again, I didn’t find anything on that topic.  What I did find, however was a lot about brokenness:  BROKEN COVENANTS, BROKEN HEARTS, BROKEN BODIES, BROKEN BREAD, BROKEN BONES.

I had a half-brother who was quadripalegic and brain-damaged as a result of a car accident.  Bobby was 22 years old and a senior at West-Point Academy when he was on his way home from a spring break ski trip in Colorado.  A head-on collision changed his life forever.  Out of the four cadets who were in the car, Bobby was the only one who survived.  He was asleep when the accident happened, and went flying through the windshield of the car.  This all happened before I was born.

When I knew Bobby, his life was one day at a time.  He could walk with a lot of assistance – but mostly he was confined to a wheelchair.  He could talk – but only one word at a time.  And he could feed himself – but every meal was a struggle because the food would often get stuck in his throat – leading to long coughing fits.

I learned a lot from Bobby.  Among the things that I learned are the fact that when you can’t talk very well and your motions are limited – people actually get excited when you say a bad word, or when you show them your middle finger.

I learned that when you have no short-term memory, every meal can be steak and lobster.  I learned that when you look or act different, people stare at you.  Probably not because they think you are weird – but because they feel sorry for you.  Either way – it doesn’t feel good to always have people staring at you.

 Bobby lived in a care facility called, “Opportunity Village” in Clear Lake, IA.  Every Christmas and summer, Bobby would come home to visit for a month at a time.  During those months, I can remember that everyone’s emotions were all over the place.  In one instant, we would be laughing hysterically at some funny look that Bobby gave us, and in the next instant we would be rushing to his side to help with a coughing fit…..which always reminded us that his life was impossibly difficult.

One minute, we would be excited because we were going to a baseball game (that was Bobby’s favorite thing to do when he came home).  And the next minute we would be rushing to the hospital because the steps were too challenging for Bobby and his caretaker and he took a bad fall.

Bobby died in his sleep when he was 54.

At Bobby’s funeral, we read these words from Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

When this scipture was read, I could just picture Bobby running around heaven with my dad and their dog, Jack.  In my mind’s eye, he was leaping for joy and running so fast he was almost flying. 

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Bobby was that wholeness and wellness come in all sorts of forms.  Bobby was broken – but at the same time – he was the most WHOLE person I’ve ever met.  He was whole because he understood in a way that I never will, the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  He understood, with faith like a child -  that Jesus was BROKEN for him – and that his wholeness came from God and God alone.

We are broken – all of us – and it is only by Grace that we are made whole.  I think the only way we can really be “well” and “whole”– is by admitting to one another and to God that we are Broken.  It is only in our brokenness and vulnerability that we can be poured out for God in the world.  We should ask ourselves – not – “Are we ENOUGH?  Do we exercise enough?  Do we read enough – pray enough? Serve enough?”  Instead, the question should be - How can our communities of healing and hope live as people of the cross – Broken, Blessed, and given to the world?  In this way – we are the Body of Christ…...Beautifully broken.

I leave you with these word from 2 Corinthians – Paul is pleading for the “thorn” to be removed from his side:

Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power* is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.