Monday, March 12, 2012

BROKEN

~I Invite You to Listen to This Song Before Reading Below~



Broken or brokenness is an interesting concept. 
It has two distinct aspects that are really intertwined and I hope to explain these in this week's blog. 
Stick with me on this one.

Not far from my home there is an adoption center for wild horses. When someone adopts a wild horse, if they plan to ride it, it has to be broken. The military has a process called "Boot Camp", it's primary purpose is to break and rebuild new recruits. In the new "politically correct" version of boot camp, they have removed "break" from the vocabulary. However, both of these instances accomplish the same objective. They remove a previous behavior, or group of behaviors, and replace it/them with new behaviors. For the horse, it learns to channel its energy and power to be controlled by the owner, (sorry P.E.T.A.). In the military,  it instills the need to work as a team or a unit. Isn't it interesting that the Army recently changed the recruiting ads to "An Army of One"?

As Americans, we have a problem with the this aspect of brokenness. We live in a culture that has become more and more selfish. We disguise this selfishness into "rugged individualism". Burger King says, "Have It Your Way." We want everything on our terms, built around a construct of our own selfish mold. If our needs aren't being met, we quit. We quit relationships, marriages, families, jobs, organizations, schools and whatever else does not meet our needs. The new motto for our culture should be "My Way or the Highway". 

This idea has caused us to view everything in our lives with an underlying, "What's in it for me?"  attitude. When we are faced with the teachings of Jesus, our culture is in diametric opposition to his world view. In Matthew 5, he says, "Blessed are the meek...". This word meek - praus can also be translated as humble, gentile, open and receptive. Interestingly enough, the etymology of this word is associated with a horse that is under control - broken. The concept of dying to yourself is consistent throughout the New Testament. Jesus does not ask us to be selfish materialistic consumers trying to live in the upper echelons of society. He actually calls us to be selfless and to serve society. Paul sums up this attitude in Philippians 2, again from The Message a translation by Eugene Petersen: 

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ,
if his love has made a difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you,
if you have a heart, if you CARE -- then do me a favor:
Agree with each other,
love each other,
be deep-spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front,
Don't sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourselves aside, and help others get ahead.
Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God but did not think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity
and took the status of a slave, became human!
Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process.
He didn't claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and 
then died a selfless, obedient death
-- and the worst kind of death at that -- a crucifixion"
(Philippians 2: 1-8)

That is the first kind of brokenness. It is a brokenness from our selfish, American -- What's in it for me? -- attitude. The second type of brokenness has probably been felt by more of us than the previous.

I have spoken a great deal about the brokenness I have endured in my life. It is a shattering of what you believed, hoped and dreamed about your life. Everything is torn away from you and your life is laid bare. You see no way out. You can't trust anyone. You come to the realization that the deck life has dealt you, is stacked against you. Maybe a relationship has evaporated before your eyes. Maybe a group of people you trusted has betrayed your trust. Maybe death has come and took away a person you loved, and all you hear are pious platitudes. People have shared their stories with me. They have been stories of such intense pain, I wonder how they survived.

What I have learned through my life is surviving the second aspect of brokenness is dependent of the first aspect. Much of the time I spent in brokenness was spent in self pity. Instead of "What's in it for me?" it became, "Why is this happening to me?". The commonality in those two statements is "me". Yes, I have been in pain, I have experienced the end of relationships, I have experienced death of a loved one -- BUT, NEWS FLASH!--so has everyone else on this planet. My mistake in dealing with my brokenness was continuing to focus on MY brokenness. Even with all of the lip service to sacrifice and selflessness, I was still egocentric. I was still thinking about only me. My way out was to surrender to my pain and realize it was another step in my life. We are molded and perfected through the difficulties was are enduring. What I have found is that if I attempt to help others, my issues fade in comparison.

I in no way want to diminish the pain and hurt you may be experiencing, but if you will look past yourself, you may find healing.  

Peace,
~Al