We’re to minister through our brokenness.
My mom shared that with me the other day, and I think I’m starting to get it.
I was used to being the outgoing one, the friendly one, optimistic and fairly confident.
But when we moved to Florida 5 months ago, I arrived as…the broken one. The scatterbrained one, the tired one, the one who doesn’t want to make small talk with strangers, the one trying to hold herself together. I was weepy. My brain was foggy. I was distractible and forgetful. Sometimes grief (ah, blasted unpredictable grief), would come upon me without warning, without my permission, and at the most inconvenient times it seemed. Why is grief like that? It lingers. And pounces.
I felt like I had nothing to offer my potential new friendships here other than broken pieces of myself. And that felt horribly inconsiderate on my part.
I had just enough to offer my new job, but it was far from my best, and I knew it – and I hated that. I felt clumsy.
Outside of my work acquaintances, I mostly avoided people for the first couple months we lived here. We would get invited to a social get-together, and I would send Matt to represent us but would choose to stay home. Church felt hard, not because I was angry at God, but because it exhausted me to answer people’s well-intended questions about who we were, where we had moved from, what our summer was like, if we had kids, etc. I didn’t have pleasantries to exchange. Just baggage to dump. And I refused to dump baggage on some poor, unsuspecting, new acquaintance.
Can you imagine?
I just wanted a friend who knew me, really knew me, to sit with me on my couch and let me be my worst self. One Sunday morning at a church we were visiting, I had to excuse myself and quietly cry in a stall in the bathroom. I just felt so…sad. And unknown. And lonely. So I asked Matt if we could take a hiatus from church-hunting for a month.
Who is this girl I had become?? She was a drag. I didn’t like her very much. I’d think, “When’s the old Liane coming back? Will she come back? I miss her.”
Are you ungracious with yourself sometimes too? Matt pointed out to me I am far more gracious with other people’s brokenness and mistakes than I am with my own. It’s true, but I don’t know why. Probably something having to do with pride and sin and not receiving God’s grace fully and needing a counselor.
I felt like two people. There was the me who needed to be handled gently – the broken one, the hurting one, the one who was forgetful and was having trouble focusing and needed a lot of reassurance and was embarrassed about that.
And then there was the other me – the one telling the broken one to get herself together, to buck up, to soldier on. The one with some dignity who was still competent and self-assured. The one who remembered that everybody struggles. The one who thought that now was not the time to wallow. There was a new grade level to learn, a work team to contribute to, a house to unpack, a city to explore, a church to find, a grocery store to locate, a bank account to set up, a DMV to wait at, a community to assimilate into, new friends to make. And I’d think, “You can’t afford to be broken right now. There’s too much to do. Get on with it. Nobody likes someone who makes excuses.”
And the other one would whimper in shame, feeling defeated, wanting just a little bit of coddling.
I was convinced that it was not a good idea for the new girl in town to share her brokenness.
How on earth would it promote friendship? I was hesitant to put this rawer, weaker, vulnerable version of myself out there. Better to let the broken season run its course in private.
But, then, something wholly unexpected happened.
My guard came down after school one day when a coworker must have asked me the right question at the right moment with the right expression on her face. Because before I knew what was happening, I was bearing my soul and crying with her in her office. In my 11 years of teaching, I have never done this at work. I barely knew this woman. What was I doing?? I’m the new girl in town. I need to be proving my competence and composure! And yet, there I was. Softly crying, then ugly crying. Sharing sadness, stress, and concerns I hadn’t shared with anyone here. It was kind of embarrassing, but it mostly felt very relieving. To finally share my heart with a real person. To be honest. To feel known in this new place.
She shared a little bit too and cried with me and prayed with me. And the next day, I found this book on my desk with a sweet note inside:
And I was struck by the fact that my brokenness didn’t deter this new acquaintance. She responded in love. Christ’s love. Huh, Christ’s love is down here in Florida too? 😉
The next week, a different coworker (one I didn’t know and rarely see) quickly ducked into the nearest classroom because she felt tears forming and didn’t want to cry in the hallway in front of people. The classroom she happened to duck into? Mine. Coincidence? I think not.
She was quick to apologize and simply said she just needed to gather herself for a minute, she was having a stressful week. I gently asked her what was going on. She proceeded to share very honestly. And my heart felt great sympathy for her. Over the next hour, we talked in my empty classroom about real pain. I asked questions, she shared. She asked questions, I shared. And, by the end of the conversation, a friendship was formed. Another friendship that started not with jokes or even common interests, but simply with … honesty. Honesty about brokenness.
Five names are coming to mind of people here who, after I shared my story, in turn, shared some really hard and painful stuff in their lives – some things that I can’t imagine having to bear. It was an honor to be entrusted with their hearts. Is that how they felt when listening to me share about my pain? Was it not a burden after all?
I found that I could empathize in a different way than I had been able to before. I felt myself actually feeling more deeply for them. I knew what it was like to have recently cried hard about something.
An old friend’s wise words have come back to my mind with clearer understanding. She used to say, “Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.” Who wants to share her pain with someone she thinks has it all together?
I’m learning something here. I’m learning that brokenness in fact can help create bonds. It has acted as a relational catalyst of sorts, not a hinderance as I had feared. And I’m not talking about a trite “misery loves company” sort of thing. Nor an unhealthy codependence. No, this feels hopeful. And good. A reminder that I’m pilgrimaging through this life alongside others who know longing and pain and have learned to cling to Jesus. I love these new and few, but real, friendships God has provided here so far. May He receive much glory through us sharing our brokenness with each other and looking to Him. Together.