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Identifying with brokenness

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Miles McPherson

Words of LIFE

I walked directly behind the nurse without looking left or right. She was leading me through the intensive care unit. A church member had asked me to visit a 25-year-old woman named Tracy who had been in a terrible car accident. Of course I would. That’s what pastors do. I thought I was prepared.

The nurse stopped and I glanced up. The young woman lay flat, with a bunch of tubes coming out of her body and running into a machine. Small chains and straps from an overhead frame suspended her swollen arms, burned black and pink. Both legs were in straps, too, and pointed toward the ceiling. Her knees were wrapped in white gauze. That’s where they had been amputated.

As I got closer, my eyes traveled up to her head. Chunks of blond hair had been burned away. One eye was completely shut. The other one stared at me.

It was my first hospital visit as a young minister. I was a professional football player turned youth pastor.

I was clueless. I took another step forward and leaned down, introducing myself. I offered to pray for her. Around the tube in her mouth, the young woman mumbled something.

"Can I get you something?" I asked.

She shook her head and mumbled again, this time a little louder. I glanced around for the nurse, who was doing something a couple of beds away, and then asked, "Are you trying to tell me something?"

She shook her head and mumbled louder. I asked, "Do you want me to leave?"

Again, Tracy shook her head. This time she began to groan. She started to rattle her arms and what was left of her legs.

The nurse walked over and glared at me, as if I’d yanked on Tracy’s chains or something. I swallowed and moved to the other side of the bed as she tried to calm Tracy down. But Tracy wouldn’t stop shaking and moaning. The nurse kept glancing at me with a disgusted look on her face.

Thank goodness it wasn’t long before the nurse excused me from the room. She saved me. It is one thing to miss a tackle or let a guy catch a touchdown pass, but this was failure on a much higher level.

I had walked into the hospital as "Joe Pastor," the guy with all the answers, on a self-righteous mission to do something good for someone in need. But I was missing a huge step. I should have walked into Tracy’s hospital room as a broken man who had spent time in my own spiritual "hospital bed." Instead of expecting to do something for her, I should have come to do something with her: to hurt.

I should have known better, too. After all, I had hurt before, both alone and alongside others. I have, in my own small way, been Tracy. And I have seen many Tracys – people whose lives have been destroyed by car accidents, severed relationships, paralyzing pride, brutal addictions and smashed careers. The only reason many of them survived their tragedy is because along the way there were people willing to do something and share the lessons of their own brokenness.

Look around you. Your neighbors are in desperate need of love and a helping hand. What the world needs is God’s love. We can all recognize that someone needs to do something. Right now!

That someone can be you. You were created to do something great. You want your life to count. There’s no better way to make a difference in the world than to take action and help someone. But there’s a step we all need to take first: you and I need to recognize that not only is the world broken, but we are also broken.

Through the years I have gained insights from the life of Jesus Christ on how I can do something to make my life count and to help people in need. I asked myself, If Jesus was God – holy and perfect – why couldn’t He just have revealed Himself as God and then died a week later?

Wouldn’t it have been enough to pay for our sins? He was sinless, after all. His sacrifice would have been acceptable. Why three years of ministry? Why teach the lessons? Why perform the miracles? Why be denied, why be betrayed, why suffer a horrible death?

The reasons are many, but here’s the one I want us to focus on. He was on earth to do more than to accomplish the sacrifice on the cross. Jesus came to launch a plan which would not only secure salvation for those who would believe but would also establish a foundation for us to execute our individual roles in the plan of salvation for others. This plan empowers us to communicate hope to a broken world.

You and I were created by God to do something great with our lives. Something like Jesus did, but not because we are smarter, more special or better qualified than anyone else. We’re not. Our spiritual health has been (or perhaps still is) just as compromised as Tracy’s physical health was. Our wounds are deep, severe and fatal. The only thing separating us from those whose spiritual wounds will kill them is the encounter we have had – or need to have – with the Great Physician and Savior, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Until you get in touch with your brokenness, you won’t be able to relate to someone else’s brokenness. Until you are able to express yourself through your pain, the cries of those we need to help will only sound like mumbling.

The first thing Jesus did was to do something with us: He became a man and subjected Himself to the temptations and struggles of this world. After He identified with our brokenness, He went on to do something for us. He died on the cross.

If you want to do something great, keep in mind what Jesus told us to remember. Just before He left, He gave us specific instructions. He said, "Celebrate my brokenness. Celebrate my body, broken for you.

Celebrate my blood, spilled for you." That’s what communion is all about.

Just as He identified with our brokenness before He did something for us, so we must identify with brokenness before we can do something for others. We do this by acknowledging our own brokenness and sharing the healing that God is bringing to our lives. God has to first do something in you before He can do something through you.

Adapted from Do Something: Make Your Life Count by Miles McPherson

© 2009, Miles McPherson. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


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