Broken . . . to Whole
It was not an ordinary day. I attended a funeral—10:30 AM. Three hours later I was on the pew of a different church for a wedding. At the latter event, I stepped into the sanctuary in high anticipation. It was another of those events when I had the privilege of watching and listening to our daughter, artist of some of the world’s sweetest violin notes—and yes, you would know that Papa thinks she is one of the world’s sweetest young ladies—because she is!—and her fingers and bow bring alive the mellow sounds of the Harwood! I took in the experience and observed others wafted by the sweet melodies into the ethos of romance!
In the funeral the minister forthrightly acknowledged this a “day of tears”, a welcome to family and those close to the deceased, to express what is natural at that time—grief.
In the wedding, the groom and the bride read their letters of love as they looked to the journey ahead. Their emotions were expressed with depth of feeling, a kind of “I cannot withhold from you what lies deep in my heart” sense, in an ethos of anticipation. Several watching and listening were processing tears, different here, of course, than tears of grief. The wedding included a time of worship for all; it was clear the bride and groom planned the celebration to be Christ honoring. They desired a life of Christ-centered wholeness.
This day brought further thoughts to some of my recent contemplations on brokenness and wholeness. In the funeral was the realization that the life here remembered had transferred to a different realm. No longer was husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather here; no more interacting with him—not on “this side.” Thus, grief—the brokenness of loss. Memorial services accentuate the consciousness, however, that those who have authentically come into relationship with Christ have come into the relationship of everlasting wholeness.
I’ve pondered ways we use the word broken.
Our major connotation is negative—something gone wrong. We often associate brokenness with pain, physical illness (including and certainly terminal illness), and physical brokenness by accident, grief from death, oppression, humiliation, failure, unwise or wrong choices, destruction (self or other imposed). When the brokenness is deep, when there is not a fix, or at least no simple means of recovery, and certainly when it is brokenness regarding deep issues in lives, members of families, churches, communities—even a nation—the accompanying emotions for those who truly care run deep.
There’s another type of brokenness.
This one, well it’s a necessary brokenness if we would attain God’s life in the inner being, and His empowerment for life’s journey. As we relate to our Creator-Redeemer, there’s the brokenness of contrition. When it’s authentic, it is the result of the work of God’s “grace that goes before” (prevenient grace) that leads to our entry across the threshold into His salvation—His forgiving (justifying), making alive (regenerating), and familial (adopting) grace. Contrition is the result of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work. Only through His work do we come to this experience, and thus He provides our only means by which we may attain God’s spiritual life and favor. Only through this work of the Spirit do we actually see sin for what it truly is in the sight of a holy God.
We may think of this brokenness as “negative” in that it rises out of remorse and true sorrow for sin. Those who have come through this conviction-contrition phase acknowledge it is not a desirable experience everyday! But the new day to which it leads, the abundant life to which it connects, makes it a part of the recollection of the tremendous value of God’s leading hand in our lives. Thus, we may note that the brokenness of contrition is more than “positive” because of what it brings.
The brokenness of contrition brings the Father’s favor.
The Psalmist wrote of the “sacrifices” that catch God’s attention: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Ps 51:17). The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Ps. 34:18, NKJV). The prophet Isaiah wrote . . . to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isa 66:2). Also, For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, and also the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa. 57:15).
Profound respect for the holy Father, for His Word, and an authentic humility are components of contrition.
Broken to Whole–He Does It!
It’s a memory. It remains, and will, through all my life.
My father pastored an evangelical church in a small town in the Midwest. Bill, a member during my father’s tenure there, was known in his prior life, including by his own testimony, as one who spent much of his family’s grocery money on drink. He was known to severely abuse his wife. Life was about himself, his own gratification. Alcohol transported him to a realm beyond his troubles. “The town drunk”—that was his identity for years of his adult life.
People prayed for Bill. The pastor who preceded my father not only prayed for him, but, with sincere interest in him and his family, and certainly their spiritual well-being, visited with and engaged Bill in conversations. The Holy Spirit faithfully did His convicting work.
Bill worked at a water heater manufacturing facility. One day, in response to the Spirit’s faithful call, he knelt behind a water heater, poured out his soul, confessed his sins to the Savior. He became a new ‘creation’ in Christ, who healed him of his addiction, enabling him to give up the alcohol!
The change was apparent to all who knew Bill. He turned from his sin to live out his new life in Christ. Several years after his dramatic conversion, having pursued a consistent walk with his Master, Bill was walking down a street of that town. A grocer saw him through the window of his store and, looking at a customer, said, “If I ever get religion, I want the kind Old Bill got!”
I recall Bill’s testimony numerous times in church. His heart would become so full of grace-filled gratitude, his countenance would light up as tears welled in his eyes. He couldn’t contain his joy! He would rise from the pew to again praise the One who brought him from darkness to light, from brokenness to wholeness! There’s only One who can accomplish this!
The Christ-centered life–wholeness in place of brokenness.
For the journey. And the confidence for facing the life beyond.
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 Scripture quotations in this post are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.