During high school I used to attend a wonderful, inclusive (and super-liberal) church, and I often find myself recalling one thing or another from the services that remains lodged in my mind. Today, some words percolated into my awareness which were often spoken during the pastoral prayer:
“… and we give thanks for our relationships, even those that are broken…”
I had been thinking, when these words popped into my mind, that there is something really beautiful about brokenness. We spend so much time trying to make things work, and work better, that when things break we are stopped short in our tracks. In a good way.
I think that somewhere in all our striving — if you excavate a little — is the idea of “perfect”. The ideal sits there, unconsciously becoming the standard against which all of our efforts, achievements, possessions are measured. And too often the result is dissatisfaction, and an inability to see and appreciate what we have.
But broken is so far from perfect that it can no longer even strive to be perfect. Perfect becomes a laughable impossibility (which, of course, it may have been all along). And in that lack of striving whatever is broken can just be, simply and beautifully, what it is.
(Buddhists sometimes talk about the suchness of things, their essential nature. When something breaks, all is laid bare, and that suchness can express itself.)
This is why sometimes it is good to break, because it can give us an opportunity to stop trying to conform to expectations (ours and others’), and simply acknowledge ourselves as we are. I know that, in my life, the periods of most brokenness have been followed by periods of most growth and happiness. When a person lets down his or her armor, and cries, there is a deep honesty there that is precious.
Mind you, I don’t think we need to be broken to be honest, to be simply ourselves. But I think that brokenness has a lot to teach us.