The Blessings of Brokenness Pt. 1: The Challenge of Community

Broken Vases

 

 

I have been reflecting on the whole notion of brokenness asking myself the question, “Do I really embrace with honest conviction the “spiritual life principle” that I must live in brokenness?” Before I continue any further it is important for me to clarify that my use of the word brokenness is not to be understood as me living out of some emotional form of self-pity that postures me as living with the mindset of being a victim and desiring to evoke some form of empathy from others. “No!” the brokenness I speak of is the acknowledgement of the imperfection of my own humanity that is fully aware of its “undone state.” It is the living out of a life of daily surrender of my heart and will through full dependency and need to connect to Christ. A mindset of Brokenness embraces my need for transformation as a journey and not a sprint in which the destination is not heaven but instead a more authentic intimacy with Christ. Brokenness on my journey is my consistently leaning into Christ so that I can discover what God is continuing to reveal to me who I really am and who He’s created me to be.

The first blessing of brokenness is experiencing dynamic community. In writing this there is a low grade infection of cynicism wanting to manifest itself as a full on fever because my mind remembers those disappointments and painful moments in which we have felt either betrayed or forgotten by others who also verbally espoused their own need for community. What a Paradox! On the one hand we confess so many platitudes concerning our own imperfection and when others in community are imperfect our own reactions demand a sense of justice and the need for perfection. An important part of growing in maturity in my own life has been learning how to live authentically and with integrity about where I’m truly at in the context of community. It is hard and it can be messy. And I don’t mean to suggest that it’s possible to be that way with everyone but for me it has been this way. Concerning the challenge of Community I reflect on the words of Henri Nouwen when he wrote,”Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: ‘Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, up and downs – but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”[1]

To authentically live in Community is to live as Christ lived with both its joy and pain. To the degree that I embrace my own brokenness is the degree that I can fully embrace others with all of their own brokenness. It is only in this that I can more fully become alive in community. Henri Nouwen stated it this way:

“When we dare to speak from the depth of our heart to the friends God gives us, we will gradually find freedom within us and new courage to live our own sorrows and joys to the full. When we truly believe that we have nothing to hide from God, we need to have people around who represent God for us and to whom we can reveal ourselves with complete trust. Nothing will give us so much strength as being fully known and fully loved by fellow human beings in the Name of God.”[2]

Living out of the brokenness of my humanity affords me the opportunity for friendship and connection. Thus, community does not become a place to hide or in the words of Henri Nouwen a form of “psychic numbing” that acts as a form of anesthesia that forms a barrier from keeping us from taking the time to really look at the condition of our heart thus confronting our own fears.[3]

I think Henri Nouwen’s definition of community is one of the most dynamically impacting one’s I have ever encountered: “Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope.” Thus, in Henri Nouwen’s definition of Community brokenness is a gift to be embraced and not an abnormality to be avoided. In the truest sense the basis of the Christian community is not the family tie, or social or economic equality, or shared oppression or complaint, or mutual attraction but a divine call.[4] We are broken people who have the expectation that in the presence of God we can more fully be known. Thus, when we come together as a local community for worship we understand that, “We are all here because we are not all there … but we are on the journey!” We are a called people who run with a limp into the arms of He fulfills the innermost desires of our heart!

[1] Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup. Ave Maria Press, 2006 (First Published in 1996). Note:  In this book, Henri Nouwen looks at Matt 20:20-23, where Zebedee’s sons ask to sit at a place of honor in Jesus ‘kingdom. Jesus responds, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Henri Nouwen explains that in order to drink from the cup of joy, one must first drink the cup of sorrow and suffering, just as Jesus did. There are many practical insights and powerful stories that Nouwen shares from his time working among a community of handicapped people that makes this book well worth the short read.
[2] Ibid, Can You Drink the Cup.
[3] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. New York: New York, Double Day, 1975. p 36.
[4] Ibid, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. p 153.

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Iron Man Al Soto  Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry

for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE

Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA

where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln

Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats.  His hobbies

include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!” 

About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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We are all here because we are not all there!