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Broken Places

The Church is now observing the Season of Lent, which often feels so misunderstood. It IS a time to give things up, but also a time to take things on. And more importantly to me than observing in these ways, Lent is an invitation to a solemn time. Many people understandably want to avoid the dark days of Lent. None of us wants to lean into darkness. It doesn't feel like an invitation - it feels like despair.


And yet, the last few weeks I feel like everyone I know is visiting broken places. Everyone I know seems to have something really difficult they are facing. My own heart has been hurting so deeply - for myself, and for those I love. I kept coming back to this prayer:


Blessing for the Brokenhearted by Jan Richardson


Let us agree

for now

that we will not say

the breaking

makes us stronger

or that it is better

to have this pain

than to have done

without this love.


Let us promise

we will not

tell ourselves

time will heal

the wound,

when every day

our waking

opens it anew.


Perhaps for now

it can be enough

to simply marvel

at the mystery

of how a heart

so broken

can go on beating,

as if it were made

for precisely this—


as if it knows

the only cure for love

is more of it,


as if it sees

the heart’s sole remedy

for breaking

is to love still,


as if it trusts

that its own

persistent pulse

is the rhythm

of a blessing

we cannot

begin to fathom

but will save us

nonetheless.


Recently a friend's beautiful business property was absolutely decimated in a tornado. I have a visceral reaction just to see the before and after. Her heart is broken and rightfully so. A well intentioned friend told her to count it as joy. And while I understand 100% the need for perspective and for gratitude - I also felt this didn't honor her very justified grief. This *just* happened to her. Things are hard. She deserves time to process and space to share her sorrow and feel the love of others. As Jan says so well, Let us agree for now that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger or that it is better to have this pain than to have done without this love. For now. For now. It isn't going to be this way forever. But it IS this way right now. So for now, let's agree to give grief space.


NO ONE wants the darkness. We don't ever choose it. But when we don't grieve our losses, our "joy" rings hollow. When we don't give some time to sit in our broken places, we will always struggle to lean into true peace and wholeness. But without Lent, there is no Easter. So, we walk through Lent. The only way forward is through.


There is a very real term called toxic positivity. It is especially true for those of us who are faithful people that churches don't address very well - and often contribute to. The Psychology Group of Fort Lauderdale calls it the "dark side of positive vibes:"


We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. The truth is, humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat-out suck. By pretending that we are “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience.


This is part of healthy grieving. It is part of the process of healing. And it completely sucks. So, we do it together. We stick together. We check on one another. We visit those broken places, working to slowly heal them and become better together. We walk through the darkness because we long for the light.


Who would stick around to wrestle a dark angel all night long if there were any chance of escape? The only answer I can think of is this: someone in deep need of blessing; someone willing to limp forever for the blessing that follows the wound.

― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark


If you find yourself in a broken place, may you wrestle until you receive your blessing. May you be surrounded with those who love you in the darkness. May your Lent give way to Easter.


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