Stress has been beating me into a bloody mess in recent weeks. Children—0; Flu—2. A tenth birthday party. A dog with fleas. A dancing daughter with another foot injury.
The passing of a precious aunt, and I still can’t begin to wrap my mind around her too-early-for-me-going-home-to-Jesus entrance into heaven.
And then there’s the job. The teaching 170 students with two essays each while desperate to just be a wife and mother. Too many frozen pizzas and mildew rings around the toilet.
Lately, I’m a mommy-guilt mess. Feeling so broken. Depression always slips its dark hands in when stress overwhelms. I live scared of slipping back into it’s dark hole.
And then…His gentle whisper. I was reminded.
Reminded of a lakeside stroll I took last fall. My shoes crunched the sandy earth dotted with grass and fallen pinecones. The light of the setting sun danced and moved through the branches, kissing each needle goodnight.
Breathing in the calmness of a sunset. Tension lifted from my shoulders as tight muscles unwound, and I focused on the decadence of creation.
How can I walk by such glorious artwork and not stop to breath it into my soul?
I turned to be greeted with pine needles just a foot or so from the top of my head. I reached up and ran my hand down their silky surface. I smiled and looked higher in the tree. What I saw stole my breath.
The branch holding the needles at my fingertips had been broken. Broken years ago. But instead of dying, the branch had healed around its brokenness. Growing and living in spite of it’s break. It grew at a 90-degree angle—straight down. Straight down as if it wanted to brush it’s fingers against my hand.
In that moment, I knew.
Sometimes we must be broken to reach down. To reach down and touch the hurting soul of another.
Because we were never meant to walk this life alone. We have a choice. We can choose to allow our broken places to kill us. Or we can allow our broken, dark places to help others.
In that reaching, we can find healing for ourselves too. We heal when we reach out. Reach out in spite of our pain. Reach out when we’d rather pull in. I know. Because I’d always rather pull in.
And there is a pulling into Jesus—close into the One who knows pain. Understands our torn hearts and weeping spirits. Our brokenness requires a drawing near to the One who can make it well with our souls.
But honestly? When I’m hurting? Sometimes, I’d rather pull into Jesus and stay there. Never reach out. I want to shelter the torn places, run away, and shut myself off from the world. Because I can’t break more in that sheltered place. In my quiet places with the Comforter I can scream, I can cry, I can shake my fist.
But I can’t help.
Only in the drawing near and reaching out is healing found. Because when I whisper “You’re not alone” to another mama with exhaustion etched in her eyes, brokenness worn in the stoop of her shoulders, I am reminded I’m not alone either.
When I bend to hear the cries of a neighbor walking a road I’ve not traveled, I can slip my arms around her neck because I know broken too and our pain doesn’t have to be the same to comfort.
Because we’re in this thing together. Suffering together. Enduring together. Grieving together. And really? It shouldn’t ever only be about me. If I’m too wrapped up in my own hurt, I fail to see the tears of my sisters.
Our Jesus calls us to lives that shine His light in a broken world. And shining is only ever done with arms open. Reaching. Stretching. Touching.
We can choose to live through our broken by reaching down into the souls of others. And there? Healing for the collective human spirit.
“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”