How do we define brokenness?
The American Heritage Dictionary states:
v. Past participle of break.
adj. 1. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces; fractured: a broken arm; broken glass. 2. Sundered by divorce, separation, or desertion of a parent or parents: children from broken homes; a broken marriage. 3. Having been violated: a broken promise. 4. a. Incomplete: a broken set of books. b. Being in a state of disarray; disordered: troops fleeing in broken ranks. c. Intermittently stopping and starting; discontinuous: a broken cable transmission. d. Varying abruptly, as in pitch: broken sobs. e. Spoken with gaps and errors: broken English. f. Subdued totally; humbled: a broken spirit. g. Weakened and infirm: broken health. 5. a. Intermittently stopping and starting; discontinuous: a broken cable transmission. b. Varying abruptly, as in pitch: broken sobs. c. Spoken with gaps and errors: broken English. d. Subdued totally; humbled: a broken spirit. e. Weakened and infirm: broken health. 6. Topographically rough; uneven: broken terrain. 7. a. Subdued totally; humbled: a broken spirit. b. Weakened and infirm: broken health. 8. Crushed by grief: died of a broken heart. 9. Financially ruined; bankrupt. 10. Not functioning; out of order: a broken washing machine.
I find this ordering so fascinating. It’s fascinating to me that one word can mean so many things (if you look up break you have many, many more definitions). In 3 of the 10 definitions we see the use of “broken” to mean humbled or subdued… a “broken” spirit. But it’s very “Christianese” to say “Lord, please break me.” I wonder how many times we really wish that to happen. Because look again. NONE of those definitions are good or happy. Even when God “breaks” us, it’s going to come with discomfort and unpleasantness. I may expound on that later.
What makes me think so much about the idea of brokenness at this moment, however, is not that type of brokenness. I’m a bit too overwhelmed by physical brokenness at the moment to focus on spiritual brokenness.
After the events of October 17th, the only emotion I really had was of elation. I wasn’t BROKEN! For years I had thought I was. Despite the fact that doctors couldn’t find anything medically wrong with me, things just didn’t seem to “work”. Like definition 10… parts of me didn’t “function…” or didn’t function correctly. And after I found out they did, they could, I was elated.
But I realize that that was only a small part of feeling “fixed.” I might not be actually broken in a physical sense, but I still feel broken. So what’s wrong with me? Then I realize that that is the last, final definition… the least. And it stops me cold. When dictionaries rank their definitions, the do it by commonality of usage. And I realize the ranking works for me as well. I wish I had realized that before. A month ago, if you had asked me what my biggest fear is, I would have told you that it was that I’m broken. In a physical sense.
A month ago, I found out I’m not broken.
If you asked me today what scares me most? It’s the fear that I will always be broken. Because my brokenness supersedes my functionality as a female human being. My brokenness comes from being in a state of disarray. My brokenness comes from being incomplete. My brokenness comes from having been violated, in so many different ways. And my brokenness comes in being inherently fractured. How could I think fixing one would fix it all? And how can the dictionary so delineate the true meaning of brokenness? Because brokenness is a state of being that encompasses all of those qualities and characteristics. It is not a cut and dry idea to be so easily “broken” into nice neat definitions.
And so we go back to my original discussion where people ask God to break them… Again I ask, do you truly want to be broken? Because being broken isn’t easy, it never has been and never will be. And there’s a difference between believing God can heal the broken and believing God can heal you. There’s a difference between believing God is bigger than any brokenness and believing God is bigger than YOUR brokenness. And there’s a difference between believing God will be there in times of need and believing God will be there in Your times of need. It’s a subtle difference, but a powerful one.
And so I cling to what I know, not what I feel. And I cling to what I believe in the vast greatness of God and hope that He can also be small enough to provide for my smallness.
But even in that, I feel my grip slipping.