"My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise."
a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise."
Psalm 51:17 (NIV)
Recently, I have had a few conversations with friends about difficult and broken relationships. With a chuckle and a smile, I shared my new twist on an old quote with one of them. I said, "We need that 'charity that covers a multitude of sins' with ALL people SOME of the time, and SOME people ALL of the time (1 Peter 4:8)! One friend and I talked at length about forgiveness and restoration, and what is involved for that to truly transpire. We shared personal instances where reconciliation had occurred, and times when, "the severing of ties," was necessary. Prior to this discussion, God had fittingly brought a new thought to my mind on the exact topic: the idea that, it takes utter brokenness to fix utter brokenness. Relationship problems can be vastly different. But regardless of the particular struggle, it takes genuine brokenness within the hearts of the people involved before God (and they) can begin to properly repair and restore it. If it is only cracked but left in disrepair, it will eventually break. If it is partially broken, and one person is holding on to the missing pieces, God cannot repair it. He has to have every piece--or, in essence, He has to have the undefiled, unfettered willingness by those involved for true repair and restoration to occur.
Within that willingness and utter brokenness, there are two essentials that God has to ultimately have from both parties (not just one person):
#1. God has to have honest acknowledgement by both sides that the situation IS broken and needs/warrants repair. This would be the, "truth" and, "repentance" part (vs. the following: someone ignoring that a problem or, "crack," has occurred; someone saying the problem belongs solely to the other person; someone whitewashing that he/she had anything to do with the creation of the problem). This is where the people involved, "get real," and face the facts of the situation without dodging truth and responsibility (or each other). This is where people genuinely share offenses by going to the other person and speaking the truth in love, as we are told to do in God's Word when a relationship issue occurs (Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 18:15).
#2. God has to have humble hearts that are willing to work to change or fix the problem. This is the part where both parties treat each other with dignity and mutual respect. This is where both parties actually care about the needs of the other person more than their own (or at least, as much as their own). When I think about the, "burnt bridges" I've suffered in my life (relationships that ended due to the inability for reconciliation to occur), in every case, I was honestly willing to do #1 above and admit MY PART (to admit the problem happened, and verbalize, show, and feel honest remorse for the things I had said or done that helped to cause the problem or had caused them pain--i.e., all the broken pieces I created). But I was also willing to work to FIX my part in the issue in order to reconcile and begin to restore the relationship and the trust. However, the other parties involved would not do one or both of those things. They could quickly and easily agree that I had done some things wrong, but they would not agree that offense, pain, and responsibility in the crack or broken pieces had also been reciprocal. In essence, they either would not acknowledge the brokenness in the first place, or they flat refused to share any blame for it. They preferred to view it as my issue--not theirs or anything they might have done. Perhaps they wanted to hold on to my pieces and could not truly forgive me (or essentially, they did not really want to reconcile). Or, maybe they wanted to hold on to their pieces, justifying their part or lying in the matter in order to rid themselves of guilt and the responsibility of fixing anything. They were not only non-repentant, but they were also not going to do anything to fix the issue to restore the trust. Sometimes people really hold on to those pieces, and then all you are left with is a somewhat repaired situation that is going to end-up broken again. But the repair work cannot be a one-sided attempt--it's a broken vessel with one person not giving up their pieces. People many times do not want to admit they have wronged another, even if it was not done, "on purpose." So they sure don't want the responsibility of fixing anything (especially if they believe or justify that they have not done anything wrong in the first place)! For some folks, it takes too much brokenness to work selflessly to change or fix wrongs they have committed against others. It is just too much work...and it is hard work. It demands too much humility to realize you owe somebody something (and, "I'm sorry," is just for starters). Forgiveness is also hard work. It requires you to see yourself as the person you really are--a sinner who is also in need of forgiveness. Though problems in relationships can vary greatly, it boils down to one thing: Are you willing to be broken?! I have sadly decided that many people are not. Utter brokenness is a wondrous irony--it actually only comes forth from courageous, strong people with humble, soft hearts. If you find people in life who are willing to be broken, hold onto them for dear life. Shelter their hearts and guard the relationship--it is a treasure unknown to many.
With the idea of, "utter brokenness fixing utter brokenness," God also gave me much peace with a picture of broken pieces laying on a table and one person clinging to theirs--I guess I am a visual learner. I can read a thousand times that forgiveness is demanded by God but reconciliation is not (and all the reasons for that). But I still find myself thinking, "What should I have done differently?" and, "Was this all my fault?" and, "Should I have pursued harder to reconcile with this person?" It took that visual picture for me to let go of the painful, entrapping thoughts of the broken relationships I have suffered--and God was so good to give it to me. I know that He wanted to truly free me once and for all. Burnt bridges are hard on me, and I am grateful that I have had only a few in my life. Yes, I must forgive everyone who has wronged me because Christ has forgiven me and thus, commands that I do the same (Matthew 6:14). I believe I have done this. But I do not have to place myself back in relationships where the other parties failed to do either of the two things required for God to truly restore the relationship. All we can do is give our broken pieces to God and pray the other parties relinquish control of any they are holding. God knows the situations and He is best suited to handle them. Sometimes God has actually repaired something, but it doesn't look like we think it should. There are times when separation and finality are the best repairs.
This week we celebrate Easter--the Christian holiday marking the historical event in time when Jesus Christ was broken to the ultimate level in order to restore our utterly broken relationship with God. As I write this, I realize that any brokenness I have ever suffered pales in comparison to the brokenness Jesus endured for each of us on the cross. Jesus was certainly the best picture of the wondrous irony of, "utter brokenness." He was strong, but meek. He was a King, but He was a humble servant. He could perform great miracles, but chose to suffer in agony and die on a cross in our place. He had the largest, softest heart of all.
I also realize that just as we humans struggle to admit and work to fix our sins against each other, we likewise don't always want to admit our sins against God, either. We prefer to, "hold our own pieces," and try to fix our lives and earn our way to heaven ourselves. I believe we run from God for the same reasons we run from others--we run from our guilt, our shame, and from the responsibility and effort of fixing our mistakes. We run away with our pride. We're afraid it's all going to be, "too much work," or that God will require too much of us. We think we have figured out a better way to live, so we run. But we don't need to run. All it takes to fix utter brokenness is utter brokenness--it's like one cancels the other out. Christ's utter brokenness on the cross cancels out our utter brokenness in sin on this earth. Jesus suffered and paid all the cost of the sins and mistakes of the entire world when He hung on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice required for the payment of sin. He was a lamb without flaw. Just as we need to admit our wrongs to each other and make an honest attempt to do better, this is all God requires and asks of us. He wants our utter brokenness in return for Christ's. He wants us to believe in the free gift of salvation we can have through Christ. He wants us to admit our sin and deep need for His salvation. He wants our sincere effort at building a relationship of trust in Him. He does not expect perfection--Jesus already took care of that part, and we cannot no matter how hard we try. He wants you to give Him the broken pieces of your life and let Him begin the restoration. I pray that God can get a hold of every piece of your life and mine--and I pray that He doesn't just use Super-Glue. I pray He remolds and re-fires us beyond breaking.
In closing, please pray this with me:
Thank You for being utterly broken so my brokenness can be perfectly and finally repaired. Help me to relinquish control of the pieces of my life and my relationships, and truly let YOU care for it all. In this life, while I work diligently to maintain respect, patience, trust, loyalty, faith, hope, and most importantly, love for others, I pray that You will seal cracks before they become breaks. I pray that You can get a fast and firm hold on any and all broken pieces in my relationships in order to keep them beautifully intact. In Your time and way, I ask You to repair any that You believe are worth repairing. I thank You, Lord, for loving me so much that You came to earth only to die and pay the price of my sins and those of the entire world. You were and are most concerned with my relationship with YOU. Thank You for sparing my soul and giving me the chance to know You and live eternally with You in heaven. I don't always understand the mystery and all the details of Your coming to earth to live as a human--as, Jesus. But I know it has everything to do with Your sinless character. You could not allow sin to go unpunished or allow it to fully destroy us. We all deserve death because of the sin we inherited from, The Garden. You gave us all free will--a choice and chance to love you back and obey. You did not create us to be Your pawns. You wanted our genuine love, and we failed to give it. We still fail. I know I would have done the same things Adam and Eve did. We all want to be our own god, and we all want to go our own way. I know this is true for me, being the control-freak that I tend to be. But You didn't want man to just die eternally in return for our sin. So You provided a Solution to the problem. Jesus was the Remedy. Jesus was the Fixer and Repairer for all the brokenness. Thank You, Father, for loving us so much and having such mercy on us that when we failed, You sent Jesus, and gave us another choice and chance to believe, accept Your forgiveness, accept Your salvation by faith, and follow You. You came and walked our world, faced the same struggles, temptations, and death we face, and conquered it all victoriously without flaw through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for being the perfect example and sacrifice for us. Though we failed You, You came and died in our place. This kind of love baffles me. I love that You are a God of second chances. I love that You are a God of many chances. Help us to all greatly value that about Your character, and not test it. You deserve better than that. Thank You for Easter, Father, and what it means to us as believers--that we, too, can have victory over sin and death through Christ and the power of His resurrection. We can rise again as new people in You. We don't deserve this, and we don't deserve You.
We love You, Lord.
Happy Easter, friends!
Isaiah 53:5, "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."
1 Peter 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."