Not Broken, Human

Five Minute Friday prompt: BROKEN

Years ago I stopped using the words “sinful” or “sinner” to describe myself and others. While they are biblical terms to describe a spiritual reality, I realized those words only played nice on the church grounds. Those across the street couldn’t hear the good news of a loving God because as they walked by some well-intentioned soul slapped them with a label. Maybe those words don’t play nice on church grounds, either.

I substituted the term “broken.” Most people know they’ve made mistakes, whether intentionally or not. They might begrudgingly admit that they aren’t living their best life, that they – and the world in which they live – are capable of so much more.

Lately, I’ve noticed myself moving away from “broken.” I prefer “human.”

Human includes every last one of us, wherever we are in the journey of life. Humans are imperfect and make mistakes. Humans sabotage and self-sabotage. Humans also have the capacity to grow and change. Humans can learn better patterns for living well. We can develop healthier habits that nurture our lives and foster loving relationships.

Broken is disparaging. It’s objectifying, as if we are toys that got played with too roughly and no longer pop – eliciting a heart-thumping shriek of laughter – when the timer goes off. Broken doesn’t work. It requires fixing. If broken can’t be fixed, it might as well get tossed with the trash. If humans are broken, has our capacity to learn and grow cracked? Maybe we’re hopeless. Maybe we’re beyond love.

Psalm 51:17 says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” A broken spirit recognizes our need for God and leads us to worship. I argue that a broken spirit is actually whole, a whole-hearted gift of our whole self offered to a God who receives and loves every atom of our being and moment of our lives.

A cursory examination of broken in scripture: We’ve broken covenant with God and each other. Broken faith, commands, and treaties. In the purity laws, broken skin was unclean. First Samuel 2:10 says “…those who oppose the Lord will be broken,” but that refers to judgment against those who reject God, not to God’s people who struggle to do right.

There are broken vessels and walls, broken necks and arms, broken wheels and sandals, broken cisterns and gates, broken branches and horns. Broken empires and idols. Another reference to a broken spirit depicts grief and brokenheartedness. A cord of three strands will not be quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12) so braid God into your human relationships. God will deliver his people from their enemies by breaking “the rod of the wicked” (Isaiah 14:5). The prophets often use the word broken as judgment against God’s enemies. Jesus also broke bread and fish to sustain the multitudes.

When we celebrate the sacrament of communion, we remember that Jesus’ body was broken for us. His body was broken, but not the whole of his being. His body wasn’t broken for broken people. His body was broken for love of the precious human beings he created, those he loves and sustains and longs to be with in relationship from now until forever.

A ministry leader once told me that I was broken and it was his job to fix me. I cried in recognition of the sad truth that I had been harshly judged, evaluated and found wanting, kicked to the curb as something unloved and unlovable.

He was wrong, friends. You and I are not broken in need of fixing, but beloved human beings. Learning, growing, living. Becoming. Human.

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