Yesterday, I went for a drive in the mountains. I didn’t have a destination in mind or an agenda to follow, I just wanted to drive. See, my car is a sort of sanctuary for me – it’s not pretty, it makes noises that a car isn’t supposed to make, it’s covered with all sorts of scratches and dents, and it’s even missing a few pieces – but it provides me with a space where I can simply be. My car sees me at my best, and at my worst… it sees me when I’m joyfully singing at the top of my lungs, and when I’m ugly crying so hard I can barely see the road. My car offers me a reprieve from a world in which I often feel that I must “hold it together” and “put on a good face.” It’s the place where I can give voice to the parts of myself that I’ve deemed “unacceptable” or “unfit” to be seen by others.
I tell people I’m not much of a crier, but if my car could talk, it would most certainly out me… the truth is that I’m not a crier around other people. Somewhere in my 25 years of life, I bought hook-line-and-sinker into the lie that I could only bring the “good” and “acceptable” parts of myself into relationship… and the rest of it ought to be reserved for my car (and apparently for the people next to me in traffic who are watching me bawl my eyes out).
The past few weeks have been hard, as my own brokenness and pain has been weighing heavily on my heart. So yesterday I drove, I cried, I sang along with my favorite worship album… and I prayed. As I talked to God, I found myself becoming apologetic for my brokenness, and feeling like I needed to cover it up and only bring the “good” parts of myself to Him. It was one of those moments when I realized just how disconnected my formal theology (what I say I believe about God) can be from my functional theology (what the way I live says I believe about God). I realized that I had projected what I have experienced at times with other flawed and broken human beings onto a perfect God. Namely, I had come to believe that God is as uncomfortable with my brokenness as some humans have been know to be from time to time.
Maybe, like me, somewhere along the road you’ve revealed a piece of your brokenness and pain to another person and felt them take a step back, putting distance between themselves and your pain. It happens. When finite and flawed humans are confronted with brokenness, we can sometimes become overwhelmed. We might care, but not have the words to say; we might want to help, but not know what to do. When confronted with the pain of another, we can feel powerless, and that feeling of powerlessness can cause us to instinctively take a step back. But while people may sometimes be prone to take that step away from our brokenness, that’s not the way that our God responds. God doesn’t move away from our brokenness, He draws near.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
When we bring our brokenness and pain to our Heavenly Father, He doesn’t shy away and take a step back… He moves toward us and reaches out His hand. God is not made uncomfortable by our brokenness, He is not intimidated by our mess; He holds us just as tightly in our times of pain as in our times of rejoicing.
As I was driving, I felt God speaking to me over and over again through the words of the song I was listening to;
“If you sought perfection, I’d die trying to reach it. But this broken heart is all you want.” – Hillsong United, Closer Than You Know
Our Heavenly Father doesn’t begrudgingly allow us to bring our brokenness to Him, He invites and desires for us to bring our whole selves – the good, the bad, (and the ugly cry) – to Him. He doesn’t want the version of us that we have deemed “acceptable,” He wants the children that He created, loves, and has gone to great lengths to redeem.
Often times, when our brokenness causes us to feel the distance growing between us and God, it’s not because He is moving away from us, but because we are moving away from Him. Maybe we’ve been hurt by people in the past, and we’re afraid to trust Him with our brokenness. Or maybe the image of God that we hold in our minds reflects our experience with a harsh and uncaring parent, instead of the good and loving Father that He is. Whatever the reason might be, we need to be reminded of who God truly is; He is a God who draws near to us in our pain, who stepped down from His throne to get down into our mess, and who is fiercely committed to restoring our messy and broken lives.
“He is love itself, grace embodied, holding the fullness of who we are – strong, weak, good, bad, wild, fearful, brave, silly – in his hands. He can be trusted with every part of it, the silly and the enormous.” – Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect