Reconciling broken expectations with Gospel identity
My little boy knocked over a vase last week.
He's two and every surface in my house makes a great road or track for whatever truck, train or car he's currently holding. Bellies, arms, tables, couches, doors ... and yes, vases. I'd had the vase for a long time and liked it, but it wasn't a family heirloom. I picked up all the pieces, cutting my finger on the sharp ceramic once, ouch. Then I put it on the counter—where it still sits a week later.
I should probably have just thrown it away, but I liked that vase and the pieces were large enough I figured I could try and put it back together. (I also like a good puzzle and am too frugal to buy a new one.) But I haven't made time yet, so there it sits, in a pile on my kitchen counter. This is actually the second time the vase has been broken. I fixed it once before. I don't remember who broke it the first time, but it survived, so I'm sure it can again.
Walking past that vase again this morning, trying once more to decide if I should throw it away or not, I suddenly felt my heart lift, and thought, I've been broken for a long time, but I think God's starting to put everything back together again.
God is a God of promises and renewal. I've seen it in my own life, and the lives of others, over and over. There's nothing He can't redeem. There's nothing He can't make whole in Himself. And I cling desperately to that characteristic of God because honestly, the past 10 years or so have been so so hard.
Yes, you read that right ... 10 years or so. It seems like we've experienced one difficult season after another. And because those years were so hard, I have struggled so much to let go of what I thought they "should" have looked like. I've been living wishing things were different. That I had a better marriage, a different body, a different home, different finances. I'm so desperately embarrassed to admit that, but it's true. I've been living my life waiting for the grass to be greener.
Please don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of joyful moments, so many of them, I know I live a privileged life. But on the whole, I had a very different picture in my head of what my life would have looked like in my 20s than what it ended up looking like. I never imagined so much disappointment, heartache and honest suffering, and it led to discontentment and feeling stuck. I can fully admit I did not have realistic expectations of what my 20s would look like, and, in part, that ended up causing a lot of pain.
But recently I feel like God has given me a fresh perspective, and I was reminded of it and grateful for it once again because of that vase. Reminded that I've decided I want to live the life He's given me, warts and all. I want to be present in all the mundanity and not-up-to-par-ness of it. In the vacuuming-for-the-fourth-time-this-week and haven't-been-on-a-date-night-in-months-ness. In the sweet moments with my kids and the alone time with a good book. I want to get rid of the desperate need I have to prove something or have perfection, because it's not fair to anyone around me, including me.
I don't exactly know what it looks like to do this. To let go of all that. But I can sense God doing something, and I want to be here for it. To see it grow little by little every day in the dirt of my life. I didn't see it before, but He's shown me recently that redemption isn't something that happens at the end of our life when we're standing at the pearly gates. It happens every day, and has been happening every day. God, unbeknownst to me, has been redeeming my story from my first day on this earth.
For a long time I'd given in to the idea that I'd lost myself. That getting married and having kids and life not going as planned had somehow damaged me and I wasn't the same girl I remembered from childhood through college. But God's showing me that I didn't lose myself. I was constantly becoming. The only thing I lost was the ability to see it. I lost my vision. I took my eyes off of what God was doing in me and at some point, just wanted to have arrived.
Why is it that we're fine with "growing up" until we get to this ambiguous age where we think we should be grown? Well, I've only just realized that I will be "growing up" until I'm dead. And it's a really liberating feeling.
Like that vase, I'm reminded that I'm broken, and I have experienced some real suffering over the past several years, but suffering doesn't disqualify me from living if I'll choose to do it. I can choose to embrace the struggles and my brokenness and why He's allowing it, because He's promised to redeem it all. And not at some appointed time in the future, but now. He's been putting the pieces of my life back together every day. I've just been too blind to see it.
No matter what we've gone through, there is no way back. There is only forward. And that's hard. Picking ourselves up after loss or rejection or devastation is never easy. We need to grieve what's been lost, but must make the choice to get back up and go on. And it's not our own strength, it's Him. Rebuilding every single day when we don't see it or even do anything.
Things may never look whole to us. There may still be plenty of cracks, missing pieces, and large or small deformities, but those imperfections can be healed and our lives can still be useful if we'll choose to see ourselves as a new kind of whole and be used, instead of sitting on the shelf afraid and holding onto a broken identity that's no longer true.
Here are some encouragements I have for you today:
Don't believe the lie that because you've been broken or are in a place of brokenness, you should stay shelved.
Don't believe the lies others have spoken over you because they're clinging to their own broken identity.
Don't believe that you don't have the God-appointed strength to speak up for yourself, set boundaries for yourself, or leave toxic places and relationships that are keeping you broken. We can do hard things, and are called to live through suffering, but sometimes we're keeping ourselves in it because we are afraid, not because we're being called to stay there.
Don't live your life waiting or wishing. Begin embracing it the way it is and you'll start to see the goodness He's creating in the midst of it, because our identity of wholeness is through and in Him, not in anything we do to "get on the right track" or clean ourselves up or be deemed worthy to the people around us.
My identity is no longer one of brokenness, it's one of wholeness, even if it doesn't look like what I hoped. Even if it has cracks and scars. I'm so ready to embrace it and make amends with the parts that look a little different than I expected.