Nearly 200 students, staff, and volunteers lined the high school gym. For several hours we had worked through a series of exercises designed to open our minds and hearts to the hopes, dreams, and pain of those we crossed paths with every day. It had been a hard morning. Good, but hard. Now, facing each other across the gym floor, we wondered what more we could do, how much more we could take.
And then the questions began. Easy at first, then harder, more penetrating. Each question probed pain, hurt, brokenness – like a doctor pressing on a bone and asking, “Does this hurt? What about here?” Our silent answers were simple yet at times paralyzing: to answer yes, that’s true of me, take a step forward; if no, remain stationary. Or remain still, indicating, I don’t want to answer that.
As the minutes and questions ticked by, teens and adults alike now stepping forward, now remaining still, the weight of our collective brokenness pressed on me. For forty-five minutes we heard only one probing voice, the shuffling of feet, and the occasional whisper of a choked-back tear. And then one last request: “If you have answered yes to any of these questions today, please step forward now.” Quietly, all around the gym, people stepped out once more, a few boldly, many slowly, hesitantly. Each one looked at the others next to, down the row, across the room. In each face was etched the scar of a past hurt, the burden of shared pain. Some tears dropped silently, others were wiped away in vain. In many hearts, undoubtedly, was the freedom of realizing, I am not alone.
That Fall day in 2012 is etched indelibly on my heart, a vivid image of a reality I was slow to understand: we are all broken people. Our hurt, loss, and scars are different; none of us truly feels another’s pain in the same way. Yet we share the reality of universal brokenness.
The slow dawning of that realization began to grow in me a greater compassion for the people around me. That driver on the highway hurtling past me across the double-yellow lines? Maybe his wife is on her way to deliver their first baby. The woman at the grocery store who seems to neither see nor care about the people she cut off in line? Perhaps she just lost her only son in a climbing accident.
Hurt people hurt people. That is, people who have been hurt tend to hurt others – often without thinking, without awareness, without malice. (And sometimes with all three.) Remembering that we are all broken can soften my harsh reactions toward those who hurt me. Remembering that we are all broken can open a door to healing, for myself and for others.
As I have met with so many of you over the past ten weeks, as I have heard your stories, I’ve been reminded time and again: we are all broken people. And what I’ve seen is how many of you, living out of your brokenness, are already seeking to bring hope and healing to our community. You are ministering in the prison, you’re caring for girls and women carrying babies they neither expected nor wanted, you’re providing meals and showers and clothing to homeless families.
God is redeeming your brokenness!
And that will be our theme throughout July: learning and recognizing how God redeems our own brokenness to bring hope, healing, and new life, to others’ broken lives. I hope you will join us on Sundays for our series, Scars Have Stories, as we look at a few broken people in the Bible and how God used them for his good purpose.
Pursuing peace and holiness … and grace,
P.S. Please make it a point to be at The Journey on Sunday, July 22. I will be formally installed as your pastor, and we will have a number of special guests with us that morning. It will be a day of celebration, of remembering our story as a church, and of looking forward to the future God has for us ... as a community in a community.