Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The strength of being broken

Used by permission, CC 2.0: Felipe Alonso.

"Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."

Bob Pierce wrote those words inside the front cover of his Bible in the late 1940s. Three years later, motivated by that mindset, he went on to found World Vision, a hunger relief organization. Undoubtedly, World Vision has influenced the establishment of at least one successful copycat. (See Tyler Braun's "World Vision Vs. Compassion International" smackdown.)

How many more individuals--human beings--would starve to death today without Bob Pierce's epiphany? Bob Pierce never recovered from his brokenness. Rather, he needed it. It drove him, motivated him. Acclaimed minister Richard Halverson said of him, "Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart" [emphasis mine].

The standard business acumen that defines capitalist progress is "See a need, fill a need." This is probably a wise statement, but can justify a wide variety of noble and disdainful creative outlets. Couple it with a healthy awareness of human despair and indignity, and it becomes a force, contradicting injustice and societal decay with tangible, effective action.

But on a smaller, less systemic, more individual scale, aren't we all better suited for caring for the needs of others when they're hurting in familiar ways? We recognize. We respond. We comfort. We triumph cooperatively.

The broken person is far more of a useful tool in the arsenal of God than the prideful person who is sure he is whole. The broken person can be sent into places and situations that would shatter the man of pride. The broken person can dole out justice and kindness until it is not merely received, but it is multiplied, recreated, until it initiates a chain reaction of self-perpetuation.

We run from brokenness. We fear brokenness. Perhaps self-preservation requires this. After all, brokenness hurts.

Sure it does, but it also empowers. Anne Jackson talks in her Permission to Speak Freely about "giving the gift of going second."

When you confess, there's somebody on the other side of that confession who could very well be keeping a secret too. So when you go first, you're opening up this amazing opportunity for trust. You're saying, "I'm broken." That trust carries so much power with it. It can give people the courage to go second.

Without that trust, they might never go at all, forever burdened unnecessarily by shame or inadequacy or self-abasement.

Saint Paul writes that we should "rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope" (Rom 5:3-4). He continues, "And hope does not disappoint us" (Rom 5:5).

Saint Paul was both broken and wildly effective. Maybe he knew what he was talking about.

This post is part of Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time blog carnival on Brokenness.

Previous carnival entries have focused on lust, love, church, peace, patience, kindness, grief, faithfulness, and gentleness.

The Carnival is open to anyone who would like to participate. It is designed to encourage dialogue, cooperation, and personal growth.