Afterward Many are Strong…

“You might break your arm again, but you’ll never break it there.”

It happened on the last day of Mike’s ski trip with Jake. Toward the end of the day, Mike took a tumble and landed on his wrist. Broken. They patched him up temporarily at the resort clinic, gave him some good drugs, and told him to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as he got home.

A rod and several screws later, he was good as new. Better, in fact, according to Dr. Cook. The only joint in his body that was invincible.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. ~Ernest Hemingway

I know people like that. I’ll bet you do too. Heroes who have walked through hell, and come out the other side with souvenirs of grace. Stronger. More radiant. Gentle dispensers of the mercy they themselves have received.

A friend whose marriage, like ours, should have gone down in flames. But she and her husband slogged through the breathtaking pain of it, the humiliating and generous WORK of forgiveness, and are building a family that vibrates with the glory of God.

A friend who has seen the bowels of depression. Who knows what it is to be so lost and desperate you can’t even see the road out any more. This friend is now in school to be a counselor. To extend to others the help that was given to her. Beauty for ashes. The oil of gladness for mourning. A garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.*

I have also seen those who define themselves by the great tragedy in their lives. Who refuse to  forgive. Who wear their woundedness like a badge of honor. Who play forever the role of victim or villain, unwilling that things should ever be other than they are.

What makes the difference?

I am no psychologist, counselor, or priest, but I have had my own experiences with brokenness, and I have walked it with friends. Here are some of the things I have observed.

1. Own the truth. Healing begins with recognizing my culpability in the situation. Blaming others, excusing my behavior, lying to myself are all barriers to my healing. I must invite people who know me to speak into my life. Even if I don’t like what they say. Perhaps, especially if I don’t like what they say. They are likely to see things more clearly than I can. If I cut off everyone who disagrees with me, I am cutting off my lifeline. Whether I realize it or not.

2. Ask for help. If my mind or my body betray me (ie. depression or illness)…if through no fault of my own tragedy befalls me (death or sickness of a child or spouse, job loss, bankruptcy…fill in the blank…), the problem is obviously bigger than me. Much bigger. I need friends to pray when I forget how. To get me to a hospital. To feed my family. To sit with me and share my grief. And to help me know when it is time to move forward.

3. What does this make possible? My friend Gail has asked me this question more than once. Nothing is wasted in life. But I must be willing to offer it with open hands.  There are people who need to hear my story (and yours). Maybe not everyone. But I usually seem to know. Sometimes the loss of one dream is a clean slate to dream new dreams. Like it or not, this is my new reality. What can I see/give/be/do from here that would have been impossible before?

The world breaks everyone. We have no choice about that. But we can choose to yield ourselves to the healing work that will make us stronger in the broken places.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. ~Isaiah 43:19

*Isaiah 61:3