We live in a society that values wholeness and the pursuit of it. Wholeness is a multi-billion dollar business and a national obsession. There are plenty of self-help books and television empires built on the back of this quest. Wholeness in the 21st century west means having all I need to be happy and fulfilled in myself and by myself. Being whole may include religion, but not necessarily. The irreducible minimum is that I am wholly self-sufficient and self-satisfied, independent of anyone or anything. All that I need I have in and of myself. I simply need to discover it. Does that sound familiar? It sounds like every book in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble and the subject of every show by our friend from Chicago who now runs her OWN network.
On the contrary, brokenness: the admission that I am neither whole nor complete in myself, is a condition that our culture may acknowledge but sees no value in. We tend to think of it as evidence that something has gone horribly wrong with our lives, but with the right attitude, understanding and maybe a little therapy, it can and should be fixed as quickly as possible. We may even go as far as to say, it’s what happens to weak people who can’t find wholeness on their own. We seldom think of brokenness as something that has value and certainly not something that we should pursue. It is more of a temporary setback. And there is good reason for that line of thinking.
We think that way because true brokenness is something that is never pleasant. It involves admitting that I will never be whole in myself or by myself. It means that I need others and more importantly, I need Jesus. That is a tough pill to swallow for our independent culture, but it is a necessary admission for every true disciple of Jesus. Following Jesus requires that we are brave enough to acknowledge the heights of God’s holiness, the depths of our sin and the resulting tension that those two extremes create. That tension is like retracting the arm of a catapult (click, click, click). And the moment we realize that we are incapable of living the life that is required to satisfy a holy God, the arm of that catapult is released and a bolder of truth demolishes our image of ourselves. Our belief that we have what it takes to be “good Christians,” is shattered. We are broken.
That sounds incredibly scary and leads to a place of vulnerability that many of us are unwilling to go. But go we must. It is only in the place of brokenness that we experience the true tenderness of God’s mercy and the vastness of His amazing grace. It’s only in the place of our deepest need that we experience Him becoming all that we need. It’s there that the illusion that we are good enough to live the Christian life by dedication, discipline and determination crumbles before us.
In the rubble of our crumbling selves we are remade; not into “good Christians,” but into “dependent Christians.” And when that happens, the truth of the Gospel becomes more real than ever – that a holy God loves sinners, and in Jesus, He did and continues to do what we could never do for ourselves – make us acceptable to God. It is a gift of free grace given not to those who think they are whole, but to the broken who are willing to receive it by faith.
It is a fool’s errand to pursue wholeness in ourselves. Psychology, extreme health consciousness, religion and even commitment to spiritual disciplines all promise what they cannot deliver – wholeness. True wholeness can never be attained directly. It is a byproduct of my willingness to embrace the One who came to earth whole and was willingly broken for me, and through His brokenness I am made whole. True real wholeness is only possible in Jesus. It is not a wholeness that it independent of Him, it is a wholeness that is wholly dependent on Him. Only when I realized that all of my efforts, religious or otherwise, will never make me whole, and only when I am broken at the foot of Christ’s cross, will I ever be truly made whole.