It’s June. High school graduation parties are in full swing.
It’s summer. We have four weddings in two months coming up—one right here on our farm on June 28 with horses in the background and wildflowers on the tables, tucked into vintage blue Mason jars. Pinterest perfection with a Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice ambience. We are itching with excitement! Especially me—a Jane Austen NUT, like the bride-to-be and her Mr. Darcy!
Times of celebration.
I’m celebrating too.
I’m celebrating God’s breaking of my pride and my prejudice—of my worldly ways and vision of what I think is great and worthy . . .
Intelligence. Outstanding achievement. Social adeptness. Worldly recognition and acclaim.
I’m celebrating new freedom from trappings that have kept me bound for decades—from many things the world deems wonderful.
Around here, we haven’t experienced, and most likely won’t, many life events and developmental milestone most families take for granted. But I’m not going to list those. I’m going to focus on my bittersweet gratefulness for DIFFERENT—for the beauty of broken and the holy purposes realized through methods we humans often turn away from in fear and despise in pride.
We’ve been talking as a family around here lately, again, about how broken is painful, but broken is good.
We all went to see God’s Not Dead on Wednesday. We drove our broken but healing selves in this family down to our favorite Cedarburg movie theatre. I braced myself for yet another low-budget Christian film with bad acting, trite comments, and contrived dialog that makes me want to SCREAM. To be honest, I observed some of all three. But I prayed during the movie that God would move hearts anyway. Because God doesn’t much need great art to work miracles. Actually, God doesn’t much need great ANYTHING to work miracles! He does quite fine producing miracles in even the slightest open heart usually opened through some weakness realized—some brokenness, some poverty of body, mind, soul.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Of course, it’s great to strive for greatness—to be the best stewards of our God-given gifts we can—but God doesn’t need greatness to be great. He can work His will, even through the poor—so often, especially through the poor. Because the poor really can’t take any credit, can they? Can any of us? We are all poor, but most of us don’t realize . . .
As we entered the packed theatre, we realized we needed to split up. The boys went to a couple front row seats. Todd, Anna, and I sat further back in three seats together. Actually, the movie was better than I expected, even though there was, in my amateur film critic opinion, bad acting, trite comments, and contrived dialog (Like really—who actually talks like that in real life?)
As soon as the movie ended, our boys came up the aisle and our 16 year-old sat in the seat behind mine. The film credits rolled and the theatre began to clear. I turned around and saw him with his face in his hands. He was crying. He’s not an openly emotional kid. So I inquired.
“What’s going on Nick?”
“I don’t know.” He tried not to cry hard.
But he looked up at me, chin quivering, tears streaming.
“I don’t know. Something happened to me in the movie.”
I asked if he wanted to talk.
He said yes.
We made our way to a place in the middle of the emptying theatre away from the exiting audience. After a few minutes, only a few elderly volunteers remained, cleaning up trash people had left on the floor. (How hard is it to dispose of your own trash properly? Apparently, impossible—the main message of this clearly Christian movie, if you think about it.)
So I asked him . . .
“Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”
We went through the normal list of four words I give our kids when they can’t name their feelings.
“Let’s start with mad, glad, sad, or scared. Which one are you feeling?”
He chose another, not on the list of four.
One word. That’s all he could say through his tears.
But I used my intuition and my understanding of our son to offer some thoughts. And I asked him to correct me if I was wrong.
“I wonder, are you’re amazed at what Jesus has done for you?”
He nodded and cried harder.
“I wonder if you wish everyone would know and follow Jesus, because you care so much for people?”
That was it. The floodgates opened. And there we sat in an empty movie theatre with wrinkled men living out their last years picking up other peoples’ trash and our son was sobbing over the lost—all those who don’t know Jesus and His intense love for them. And this is our kid with more designated disabilities than the other two—the one who has experienced so much brokenness—the one who was abandoned by his birth mom and left in an orphanage—the mother who tried to drink herself to death and damaged her baby’s brain permanently before he ever had a chance to take his first breath of this earth’s air.
God has a way of using the broken—a mighty, awesome way.
“I think you just felt the Holy Spirit in your heart, Nick, and you are just overwhelmed with love and gratitude.”
My tears mixed with his as they all fell on our jeans. My pride was broken right there in that public place, recognizing that some of us have no choice about our brokenness and some of us have to let ourselves be broken before we can see God. Because none of us can see God when blinded by our own pride—our own false god of self-sufficiency.
I asked him if he wanted me to pray for him right then, right there.
He nodded and bowed his head and let me place my arms around him—in public—something that would get me a bark to back off at any other time. I began:
Oh Lord Jesus, thank you for Nick! Thank you for creating him as you have! And thank you for giving him such a tender heart for you and for others! Help him to live full-out for you! Amen.
He looked at me, eyes still wet but calmer and simply said, “Thank you, Mom.” I could hardly contain my tears of joy, trying to compose myself once again to present my face to the world once again.
We left the theatre and joined the others in our family.
I thought all the way home about our three kids—these three one-time orphans living in Russia—these special kids with so many special challenges and needs.
I thought about how hard and exhausting our lives are much of the time with all the crosses we’ve been asked to bear for Christ—to grow us up in Him—to bear witness to the world that brokenness is a holy plan when God is allowed to shine through all our cracks—caused by so much bending.
And I thought about how truly content I am—and grateful—that my greatest desire in life has already been fulfilled. All three of our kids know Christ. They’re not just religious church-goers. They KNOW Jesus and LOVE Him and want to FOLLOW Him and live according to His way—to the best of their abilities. And even with all the challenges around here—with all the bending and breaking and taping to keep us all standing strong—is there anything more important? Is there anything, really, more satisfying than knowing your kids love and follow and worship the God who is not dead, but surely alive?
That’s all I’ve ever wanted.
Thank you, Jesus, for moving our hearts.
Thank you, Jesus, for continually breaking my pride, healing my fears, growing me up in You so YOU can shine through all my cracks and heal others of themselves in a likewise manner—for all who are willing—for all who offer You even the most feeble invitation.
I reflect on recent weeks since our daughter’s new diagnosis—on top all the others—of bipolar illness and how we find ourselves as a family still trying and hoping for stabilization through medication. It will take time. We are praying for courage and patience and much, much grace. I thought about that photo I took of the daffodil she picked with the bent stem and the dropping head we put in the smallest of vases and taped with transparent strength. And as I held my camera and prepared to snap the photograph, I saw beyond the daffodil’s bent stem and drooping head. There in the back ground was a shadow of a cross. Yes, in truth, we TRULY LIVE when we remember we all live in the shadow of His cross. Because crosses mean brokenness and death. But, with Jesus, brokenness and death is always transformed into NEW LIFE—TRUE LIFE with God, with others, with ourselves.
Is there any better news—this GOSPEL news?