We’re all broken.
The Lord is clear. Unless we are fully changed by the spirit of God, we are enemies to Him. We have been from the beginning and we will be forever and ever. Our only hope is to be changed by the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19).
In our quiet, introspective moments, we are deeply pained by our fallenness and failures. Sometimes we despair.
At other times, we take comfort in the idea that we’re not as bad or broken as some of the people around us.
We like to think we’re less broken than others.
There is a human tendency to believe that our personal strengths are the ones that matter most. Then we hold other people’s weaknesses up to our strengths and find them wanting.
“Brother So-and-so is so arrogant.” “Sister So-and-so is such a gossip.” “The Such-and-such family is so messed up.” We love to identify the sins we don’t have (or don’t think we have) in the people who bother us.
Most of our judgments are fully automated. We cringe when someone’s testimony in fast meeting is just a little too emotional. Of course we would never say anything to the person; but we relegate them to a lower rung on the social order. We wonder why people don’t control their kids in sacrament meeting, or fail to attend third-hour meetings, or . . ..
In traffic, at work, in the store, at church, we are constantly assigning people to places in our (un)holy hierarchies. We are quite circumspect about what we say, but our hearts are wagging a finger at people who lack the taste and “character” to act in the way we prefer.
Jesus asks us to stop trying to beat each other in (what we think of as) our own “amazing races.” Philip Yancey put our competition in perspective: “Jesus took an altogether different approach to sin [than we fallen humans]. Rather than ranking sins as significant or less significant, he raised his listeners’ sights to a perfect God, before whom all of us are sinners” (What’s So Amazing about Grace?, 1997, p. 205, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
As we rate relative brokenness, we tend to ask the question, “Am I worse or better than others?” Jesus invites us to ask very different questions: “Do I recognize my own brokenness? Am I turning to Christ for healing? Am I willing to act redemtively and embrace others who are broken?
Jesus loves broken things.
Jesus was magnificently different from the rest of us. All of us have faults that He didn’t have. And He loved all of us with our brokenness. Time and again He took those who looked hopelessly broken and He fixed them replacing their brokenness with His wholeness and holiness. He offers to do the same for each of us.
For the sinful woman who wept at the Redeemer’s goodness in Simon’s house, Jesus offered forgiveness, compassion, appreciation, and salvation. As the only non-broken human, He might have been offended by someone so severely and conspicuously broken. But, where we see dysfunction, He sees divine light. Where we focus on damage, He turns to repair.
If we had been there, we might have joined Simon in grimacing at her presence. We might have wondered about Jesus’ taste that he allowed her to touch Him.
Think of Jesus’s reaction to the woman taken in adultery. While the most religious stood and accused her, the Lamb of God offered to take away her sins and pointed her to a stainless future (John 8:1-11). He did not let her broken history obstruct His relentless love. Do we offer hope and fellowship to those who have made soul-damaging mistakes?
Jesus was different from us. Human brokenness does not impair His redemptiveness. He offers words of encouragement and the hope of redemption to all who bring their brokenness to Him.
Maybe the surest evidence of our brokenness is our tendency to condemn those whose sins are different from ours while the surest evidence of our godliness is our instinctive offer of healing and hope to those with the greatest need. Surely that is a core message of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Surely it is the central message of Jesus’ ministry.
His warm and loving embrace of sinners, Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, and adulterers scandalized his contemporaries. He could NOT have sent a message that was any clearer: My mission is to love and heal broken things.
We can tell we have become like Jesus when we seek to love and bless broken things.
Jesus customizes our challenges to our maturity. When we are yet fragile, the challenges are generally small. We deal with disappointments in reverence and a little chafing about a calling that doesn’t perfectly suit us. In such minor challenges we have the opportunity to practice patience, and compassion.
Many everyday challenges to our compassion deal with failures of decorum and propriety. We are bothered by people who eat too much, talk too much, make unreasonable demands, or fail to keep their promises (or meet our unspoken expectations). These provide the everyday opportunities to grow our discipleship.
Jesus offers His serious disciples the biggest challenges. He entrusts them with the care of His most broken children. Maybe we are called to work with someone who has deeply hurt us or betrayed us. Maybe an annoying person with a history of sin asks for our help.
Big challenges form the seedbed for the development of real discipleship. If we have been filled with the doctrine and spirit of Jesus, we ask what we can do that would bless. And we pray to have our hearts changed so that we can deliver the right help at the right time with the right spirit.
And in doing these things thou wilt do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord. Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. (D&C 81:4-5)
How anxious we should be for broken humans to enter our lives so that we can practice His healing arts of compassion, encouragement, service-all the manifestations of love. Irritation is an invitation to godliness.
Enjoy books by Brother Goddard
You may be interested in Brother Goddard’s book, Bringing Up Our Children in Light and Truth or one of his newly revised books: The Soft-Spoken Parent: 55 Strategies for Preventing Contention with Your Children; or Modern Myths and Latter-day Truths. You might also enjoy his popular Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage. They are available at Latter-day Saint and online booksellers.
Sign up for free E-mail Series with Helpful Ideas
If you are interested in ideas for personal well-being, strong marriages, or effective parenting, you are invited to sign up for a free resource created at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
Navigating Life’s Journey is a weekly e-mail series that offers helpful ideas based on research. To sign up for any or all of these messages, go to https://arfamilies.org/navigating