Everything is broken. And not in a good way.
At least, that’s how I felt in February of 2015.
My internship at the time wasn’t igniting any of my passions as a social worker, and my graduate classes felt as though they were being taught in a foreign language. In both my work and social circles dangerously tumultuous relationships were only in the very beginning stages of wreaking havoc in my life, and yet, I sensed the forthcoming destruction, even then. Broken spirit.
The effects of my Cerebral Palsy had rendered me immobile with pain most winter mornings, and something had to be done so that I could continue functioning in all of my obligations. So, that month, I began my eight-week sessions of Physical and Occupational Therapy. At twenty-five years old, I felt like I possessed the energy and agility of someone more than three times my age, and there were many mornings when I wept as I struggled to button my blouses. I mourned that none of my muscles will ever work as well as I would like. Broken body.
I had ended a series of really uncomfortable “getting to know you” dates with a guy whose only commonality was that we are both legally blind. And though I knew that this man would never be well-matched, there was still an aching. My endless hope for a loving, respectful and committed relationship faltered-- yet again -- when I accepted that he wasn’t Mr. Right. And he was, like, the fourth Mr. Not Right in the last six months. Broken dreams.
I cried out to God. But God seemed so far away. Or, rather, I was far from Him. Broken heart.
February was always my least favorite month.
On the last Friday in February, my dear friend, Sasha took me to dinner. She wanted to care for me in the best way she knew how – with hot soup and a warm heart. She and I sat across from each other in a cozy Panera Bread booth, and the words she spoke carried me through that night, and through this year.
“I used to run like hell from the idea of change and breaking and ending,” she began. “Because it’s just so painful. But, I’m learning to rush into it, now. To embrace it, no matter how destructive it seems, because breaking is sometimes necessary. Look at nature. It happens all the time, in order for new growth. ”
During the winter months, God breaks and bends the twigs and trees under the weight of ice, and snow, and cold. And this process seems long, and painful and deathlike. But, oh! How necessary, this breaking season, so that spring may triumphantly come, and hope may break through the thawing ground, and brilliantly bloom with new life.
Many times this year I’ve attempted to write about the Breaking Season, yet never knew how to begin. I realize now that this season, for me, lasted this all of this year, and thus, I couldn’t begin to speak about it until this very moment. I’ve broken away from those relationships and environments that were breaking me. I’ve sat with loved ones as we cried over our broken pasts and shared our fears of an equally fragmented future. Some good relationships broke, too, and I mourned that loss, as well. And through all of these agonizing changes, I have found a tremendous gift of peace and healing.
Peace and healing in a time of brokenness and despair. That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? I love the juxtapositions in our Christmas celebrations. We celebrate the miracle of hope and promise and renewal in the bleak of winter – at a time when everything is dead and withering away. Light comes to the world at the darkest time of the year, and Christ is born in a barren season.
The beauty of these contradictions remind me of a poem by Robert Hayden which is entitled Ice Storm.
In the poem, the narrator is awake in the middle of the night, watching as a blizzard curls its vice-like grip over trees in his field, and he is speaking to God about the destruction he observes. In the final stanza, the narrator says:
“The trees themselves, as in winters past,
will survive their burdening,
broken thrive. And am I less to You,
my God, than they?”
I often recite these words as a prayer on those days when my heart feels as lifeless and frostbitten as winter’s snapped and ice-glazed branches. When I need a reminder that I am heard. When I need a reminder that I am His.
Now, I know that I will experience breaking in this next year, and the year following, and every year after that for the rest of my life. Ten months ago, I wouldn’t have been comfortable committing that truth to page. But, I am slowly becoming more like my dear friend, Sasha, and not only accepting the change, but embracing the brokenness of this life. These struggles, these devastations, are only emboldening me for the life God has in store.
Everything is broken. And it is beautiful.