Over the past few weeks we have been reflecting on our brokenness and what it means to be broken and in relationship with Jesus. And today we bring that series to a close with a reflection on being broken and beautiful. I am inviting you to think with me about how we hide our brokenness, how our brokenness can be a good thing and how the beautiful Jesus became broken to make our brokenness beautiful. So let’s begin.
The word “broken” is a word that has several facets of meaning to it. Brokenness has this sense of being fractured into pieces, like a broken vase or a broken marriage. Brokenness also communicates a condition of not functioning as originally designed, like a broken radio. Also, when a person doesn’t function properly because they are damaged by addiction or disease, we may refer to them as a broken person. Brokenness also includes being so overcome with grief and disappointment that a person gives up all hope and lives in despair. For example, we might say that a widow is experiencing brokenness after the death of her husband.
All of us are broken in some way. And we often consider our own brokenness to be worthless, that is, something to be discarded, or we consider our own brokenness to be or shameful, that is, something to be covered up. Not only do we consider our brokenness worthless or shameful, we tend to hide our brokenness, because underneath our brokenness is a wound that penetrates right to the core of our being. Maybe you know this from personal experience. Perhaps you have experienced rejection from someone you loved, so there is a pain in your heart that never goes away. Maybe you are reminded in some way, perhaps through your looks or through your abilities, that you don’t measure up to the standards of society, and you never feel like you are fully accepted for who you are. Or maybe you have been abused emotionally, physically or sexually and you somehow feel responsible for what was done to you, even though that is not true. This lie has been whispered into your ear so often by the Deceiver that you believe it. So you wrap yourself in a protective cocoon of manipulative and controlling behaviours and you medicate your wounded soul with busy-ness, romance novels, channel changing, internet browsing, shopping, food, pornography, alcohol or drugs.
We hide our brokenness because we do not want to get hurt. We also hide our brokenness because we think that our brokenness is ugly. If we could wave a magic wand and change one thing about ourselves, our chief area of brokenness is likely the thing that we would most want to change. And we hide our brokenness because we think that our brokenness is like a ball and chain that holds us back from living a beautiful life.
But brokenness can be a good thing. Our brokenness is good when it brings us to the point where we realize that we are powerless and that denying our brokenness doesn’t really work. Our brokenness is good when it forces us to look outside of ourselves for help. And our brokenness is good when it brings us to a point where we become open to new possibilities: new ways of thinking, new ways of being and the formation of new habits.
Our brokenness is a good thing when it brings us to the end of ourselves and our personal resources. God does not force Himself upon us. So when we want to be in control, He lets us have our own way. But when we realize that we are powerless to deal with the challenges in our lives, God is ready and willing to help us. And when we decide to do things God’s way, then He can start to make our brokenness into something beautiful and life-giving.
When I speak of beauty here I do not mean shapely women in revealing clothing being used to sell cars, beer, music or magazines. I mean the kind of beauty which arrests your gaze and lifts it heavenward; the kind of beauty that draws a silent “Wow!” from your lips. The kind of beauty that makes you pause and reflect on what is good and beautiful and true. A few years ago, I was on a mission trip to a small village in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. After we had completed our time of service, we did a little sight-seeing. We were all on the bus, boisterously chatting away when we came around the corner and saw the Copper Canyon and the whole bus immediately went silent in awe. We see true beauty in nature. We can also see it in art. We also see true beauty in people, young and old. This is the kind of beauty that I am referring to.
There is a Japanese art form which is known as kintsukuroi (which means “golden repair”) or kintsugi (which means “golden joinery”). In this process, broken pottery is repaired with a resin that has gold, silver or platinum mixed into it, and the result is a work of art that is more beautiful than the original. It is believed that kintsukuroi may have started in the 15th century in Japan when the shogun, or military governor, Ashikaga Yoshimasa had a tea bowl which became damaged. This tea bowl was crafted in China, so Yoshimasa sent it back to China for repairs. When the bowl returned, Yoshimasa and his court were disheartened to see that the once-beautiful bowl had been repaired with ugly staples. Japanese artisans began experimenting to find a more aesthetically pleasing method of repair and what they discovered was kintsukuroi. This new method of using precious resin to repair broken pottery became so popular that artists were accused of deliberately breaking vases and bowls so that they could be made more beautiful in their brokenness than they were in their unbroken state.
Just as precious gold, silver or platinum is ground up for the kintsukuroi process to make a broken pot beautiful, so also the beautiful Jesus became broken to make our brokenness beautiful. There has been only one perfect human being who walked upon this earth. The perfect Son of God set aside all of his divine beauty and glory to become an ordinary humble human being who experienced all of the hurts and pains that we do in life. And yet, even though he lived in the midst of this world’s brokenness, this God-human named Jesus did not sin.
Because of his infinite love for us, perfect Jesus allowed Himself to become completely broken to make our brokenness beautiful. And Jesus experienced brokenness in all of its various forms. Jesus experienced relational brokenness for you. Jesus was betrayed by His closest friends. Jesus was abused by the leaders of His own faith community. Jesus was condemned unjustly by His own government. Jesus was rejected by the people that He came to save. Jesus was mocked by His own community. Jesus suffered physical brokenness for you. Jesus was beaten, flogged and nailed to a cross to suffer one of the most painful deaths known to humanity. Jesus suffered spiritual brokenness for you. As Jesus hung on the cross, all of our sins were poured out on Him, instead of us. In that moment, Jesus’ heavenly Father, with whom Jesus had, up to that point, an unbroken relationship of perfect, self-giving love, turned His face away from His Son in revulsion over our sin.
And when His suffering for all sin and brokenness was complete, Jesus gave up His life and died. But on the third day that followed, Jesus rose from the dead with a new resurrected body that was more handsome and more glorious than His old body. In some ways the resurrected Jesus was different and in some ways He was the same. And so, sometimes, people did not recognize Him, and then, after a closer look, they realized who He was.
And even though Jesus, with His resurrected body, was healed and made whole in a way that His old body never was, the Bible gives us a curious piece of information. When Jesus rose from the dead with a new, glorious and more beautiful, physical body, His body still bore the scars of His crucifixion. Jesus still had the holes in His wrists and feet where the nails were driven to fasten Him to the cross. Jesus still had the wound in His side where a spear was thrust through to pierce His broken heart. When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, He didn’t eliminate Jesus’ wounds. He healed them and made them into marks of beauty that enhanced the attractiveness of the risen, glorified Jesus.
What God the Father did for Jesus, Jesus, in turn, does for us. It wasn’t just our sins that were placed on Jesus as He hung on the cross. All of our brokenness was put on Him too. And because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our brokenness no longer separates us from God. Not only does our brokenness no longer separate us from God, Jesus also transforms our brokenness to make it beautiful. The risen Jesus brings healing to our wounds. And as Jesus heals us, the scars of our brokenness remain, but with those scars, we are more real, more alive and more attractive to others than we ever were before. In addition to the beauty Jesus gives to our brokenness, Jesus is able to work through our brokenness to bring healing to the wounds of others. With Jesus, our greatest wound becomes our greatest gift. With Jesus, our source of pain becomes a gift of life. With Jesus, what was ugly inside of us becomes a beacon of healing and hope to others that draws them to us and to Jesus.
My encouragement to you is to bring your brokenness to Jesus and let Him make it beautiful. Ask Him to heal your wounded heart. Ask Him to transform your brokenness and pain. Offer your brokenness to Jesus and let Him work through it to encourage and help others. Bring your brokenness to Jesus and let Him use it to make you into a beautiful person living a beautiful life.
In Biblical times, when a couple were married, there were three different, but very important, gifts that were given. First, the groom or his family gave a gift to the family of the bride and this gift. Sometimes called the bride-price, this gift sealed the covenant of marriage and bound the two families together and compensated the bride’s family for the loss of their daughter. Second, the family of the bride gave a gift called a dowry to the bride or the groom. This gift could be in the form of servants or land and its purpose was to both bless and assist the bride and groom in their married life together. The third gift was from the groom to the bride. Often, the groom’s gift would be expensive clothing or jewels which the bride would wear on her wedding day. The bride was already beautiful in the eyes of her husband, but the jewelry and the clothing would make the beauty that the groom already saw apparent for all to see.
In Isaiah 62:5, we read, “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” All of you, male and female, are the bride of Christ. And in your marriage relationship with Jesus, he is both the Giver and the Wedding Gift. First, Jesus is God the Father’s gift to the family of all humankind. Because Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, He binds God to humanity in a way that was not possible before. With Emmanuel Jesus, you know that God is always with you. Second, as the Creator of the human family, God the Father gives Jesus to His children to help them in their new life together with Him. With Jesus, you have the comfort, the courage, the strength and the peace of God with you as you face the challenges of everyday life. Third, as the bride of Christ, Jesus already sees you as beloved and beautiful. But your beauty is not a possession that you own. Your beauty is a transformation that Jesus gives. Your beauty does not depend on how you think or feel. In a close, intimate relationship with Jesus, you radiate beauty because you are loved. Jesus’ love is what makes you beautiful.
Because you are His bride, Jesus gives you wonderful gifts that make your beauty so radiant that it becomes apparent for others to see. Jesus heals your wounds with the healing salve of His unconditional love for you. Jesus crowns your head with the renewal of your mind. Jesus adorns your face with the joy of your salvation. Jesus dresses you in radiant garments of forgiveness, purity and righteousness. Your scars remain, but they make you even more attractive than you would otherwise be. With Jesus, you are both broken and beautiful. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church on May 25, 2104.)