A couple of weeks ago in the SF Marathon, I tripped over a manhole cover and fell flat on my face, my hand, my shoulder and several other places. It was bloody and alarming to others, but seemed more surprising to me. I am not accustomed to falling down and I hadn’t dropped out of a running race in 37 years of racing. So, I just kept telling the kind people, who were trying to help me, “It looks worse than it is,” as the blood ran down my face. It required a trip to the ER, shots in my upper lip, four stitches by a Plastic Surgery Resident, a half dozen X-Rays, a CT scan, and lots of waiting. The MD’s sent me home with Vicodin, salve for my lip, and instructions to come back in five days to have the stitches removed. When I returned, they did more X-Rays and ascertained that I had fractured my wrist. They wanted to put a hard cast on me. Hearing that I was going to be living in Hawaii for the next 3 months, they advised me to stay out of the water because of the cast and the sun because of the scar (becoming more apparent permanently). Naturally, I was overjoyed to hear this. Not!
So, I have been reflecting upon my human limitations and my brokenness. I do believe we are all made in the image and likeness of God. These days, it takes some real stretch of the imagination to believe that about absolutely everyone, given the violent political situations in our world, some of which masquerade as religious strife. However, that is another story. It is quite easy to see my own limitations and brokenness, and that of others. My impulse is to deny it or to get around it somehow. I did not accept the hard cast, preferring a soft one that I could remove for convenience sake. And now, there’s a lovely, tempting triathlon coming up at the end of the month: only a 500-meter swim, an 11-mile bike, and 5K run. I know I could do the run. Could I wear the cast for the bike? Could I do the sidestroke for the swim? Maybe I am not that broken. Do I really have to stand at the sidelines and watch my husband do it?
Kayla McClurg writes this about brokenness in the Christian scriptures:
“’…and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.’ After the miracle of compassionate multiplication, after everyone has had their fill, twelve baskets of broken pieces remain. (For the twelve tribes of Israel, perhaps, a complete set of disciples, the whole hungry batch of us all?) What bounty there is, even in the brokenness. Jesus blesses and breaks the loaves, and then, like Oprah handing out cars, I hear him calling to us still—”You get some brokenness! And you get some brokenness!” Enough brokenness for us all.
In many circles we are encouraged to strive after wholeness and perfection. Reach higher, stretch further, make it happen. Sadly, even in our churches and among friends we often try to hide our wounds, mask our scars, not reveal too much of our broken selves. Jesus has a different idea. He tells the crowd to sit down, where they will be able to see not only him but each other. Face to face, we cannot quite as easily ignore our neighbor’s hunger, and we cannot as easily hide our own. Seeing our meager baskets, our lack of capacity to feed ourselves, we have to admit we are needy, hungry, beggars all.
Helping us to form little circles of community is the way Jesus breaks himself open, and breaks us open, too, and gives us to each other. Only then do we begin to realize how hungry we are. Facing each other in our brokenness, we can no longer pretend we are whole. We are twisted and pulled, chewed on and wounded, and yet we are enough. We are not perfectly shaped pieces of a puzzle, searching for the right fit with other perfectly shaped pieces; we are broken and misshapen leftovers. Who could ever want us? Yet, we are in good hands. We can be here for each other, unafraid to see into the abyss, sharing what we have, food enough for our next becoming.”