We live in a world that is more broken than ever, yet also more afraid to acknowledge it. When we have physical brokenness, we run to a doctor without shame. When we have emotional, intellectual, or spiritual brokenness, however, we feel ashamed. We hide it, and often are afraid to get the help we so desperately need.
In this episode I try to really explore brokenness on two levels: First, why is it important that we face brokenness – both in ourselves and others? Second, How do we live with it? What do we do? I think these questions are going to become incredibly important as our culture continues to emphasize sex, divorce, and many more toxic behaviors.
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S02E32 Living with Brokenness
St. Mary of Egypt: Prostitute
Mary began her life in Egypt. Her parents adored her, which was already a bad start! She was the center of her family’s world. Everything revolved, or had to revolve around her: papa, the sun, her cat.
Mary was not an unhappy child. On the contrary, everything was given to her, everyone gave in to her. So much so that one day, annoyed because her parents chanced to oppose one of her whims, she ran away from home–at age 12–to the metropolis of Alexandria.
At that time, a girl of 12 was a woman. Mary was beautiful. She was not adventurous or ambitious or she might not have hurled herself into the wickedness of prostitution for 17 sad years. She had no center, nothing on which to orient herself; she had no faith in anything, she hoped for nothing. She was cynical and disenchanted, at once worshipping and detesting money. There is only one explanation for her life: She loved nothing. Dignity is the premise for any love. She didn’t even accept money for sex.
Out of curiosity, not piety, Mary joined a group of pilgrims who were setting out for Jerusalem. She paid for her passage by offering herself to the sailors. In Jerusalem, an irresistible force prevented her from entering the church with the other pilgrims. In front of an icon depicting the Blessed Virgin or, according to another version, at the Holy Sepulchre, she was overcome by the enormity of her sinfulness. Interiorly, she was told to cross the Jordan, where she would find rest.
Immediately, Mary set out for the desert, unrecognizing and unrecognized, afraid of the world. All that she took with her were three wretchedly small loaves of bread to provide for her immediate needs, to provide her with time to develop the strength to beg. Thus, completely worn out, she arrived at the bank of the Jordan River. She had no desire to return to her parents’ home.
She made her confession and took communion at the monastery of Saint John the Baptist, but did not tarry there. She left the monks to their mortifications. She had not seen any of them, because she had kept her eyes closed. She climbed the sandy hills to where the desert begins. Her life continued to be marked by excesses. Mary was to let herself dry out like a prune, for this was the remedy that she herself devised against her moral rot and decay.
We can’t conceive of all she endured, what she was seeking, what she experienced during 47 years in an absolute solitude. During these years she suffered from drought and cold. She lived on berries and dates. Her clothes wore out. Sometimes she had been tempted to return to her life of sin, but always she prayed to the Virgin Mary for strength to resist the temptation. She could not read, but she was divinely instructed in the Christian faith.
Prayer to Saint Mary of Egypt
Saint Mary of Egypt, being chased from the church by an angel with a sword; kneeling before a skull; naked but clothed with long hair; receiving Holy Communion from Saint Zosimus; sitting under a palm tree and looking across the Jordan; washing her hair in the Jordan; with Mary Magdalene; with the lion who dug her grave; woman holding three loaves of bread; please pray for us, that we may always be pure and persevere until our dying breathe.
Saint Mary of Egypt, Pray for us
4 Dangers of not recognizing Brokenness
We’re all deeply broken, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
- We don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t seek reconciliation.
- Think we’re too strong
- Wait too long
- Lack of humility.
- We don’t know to seek professional help
- Don’t hesitate to find a doctor when broken bone or failing organ
- We’re much more hesitant to address other issues (esp. men)
- God encourages team participation
- We judge people (instead of actions)
- It’s easy to see bad choices as indicative of the person rather than indicative of their wounds
- Injuring someone in a dark room vs. fully lighted
- The physical realm is so easy to see, but the others are just as damaged
- We all want to view ourselves as potent, capable, and self-sufficient
- Considering our brokenness diminishes this (at first)
- “There but for the grace of God go I.”
5 Steps to live with brokenness
- Grieve over our own brokenness
- Acknowledge it. Confront it. It holds less power if we are aware of it.
- It’s not part of God’s plan
- Through the grief, we come to realize that God can Recalculate.
- See others like Jesus (fr. mike schmitz)
- Give the benefit of the doubt
- Love the sinner before judging the action
- Live in the NOW
Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent p. 49-51
“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.”