Fresh Starts: How to Pick Up the Broken Pieces

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Have you ever had a deeply held dream, something that you had wanted for years and years, all of a sudden come to a screeching halt? It happened for Sarah and I a few years ago. We had always wanted to be parents, and had some difficulty getting pregnant. And then, all of a sudden, it happened! I remember Sarah called me to tell me while I was in the library at Pittsburgh Seminary, and I had to work really hard to not scream and disrupt others. I called my parents. I called my friends. It was a time of jubilation and triumph! We were so excited.

And then just a few months later, we experienced what an unexpectedly high number of couples in our country do: we had a miscarriage. Every bit as vividly as I can remember getting the phone call from Sarah in the library at PTS, I remember sitting on the couch in our living room in tears. I felt like someone had placed one of those led aprons you get at the dentist office on my chest, only this one weighed 100 pounds. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t react. I was broken inside.

And I think that moment in our spiritual walk, the one where we are broken inside, incapable of movement, I think that moment is one that our culture just wants us to “get past.” Lots of well meaning people will say really dumb things in that moment. Like I said, they mean well, they want us to get back to our happy, jubilant self. But I have actually come to recognize that broken feeling inside as a holy place. It’s where God does some of the best work.

The very same night I learned about the miscarriage, I had a youth event here at the church. I struggled really hard with what to do. Should I cancel? Should I go and fake it? Sarah and I prayed about it and decided that it would be best for the students, and for me, if I went. And you know what, it was in fact healing, but not for the reason you would think. In fact, none of the students knew what was going on with me. They were just there for a good time. And they didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to cheer me up. They just made their usual jokes and pranks. It took me some time to figure out what had happened, but I think that in my most broken moment, I was standing in the community of the faithful. I went to church, and felt the presence of God in the presence of others.

I think this is incredible advice for those of us who have friends and family in the broken places. We so badly want to run in and fix it. We want to help our friends out of the broken places. But because I think God is hard at work in those moments, and because I think those moments are in fact holy ground, the best we can do is be present in someone’s life. I mean, when Moses finds holy ground, he takes off his sandals. It’s almost as if to say, “You know what, I’m going to stick around for a while.” As someone who’s been there, I promise you this is better than any trite saying or “helpful” advice. The ministry of presence is maybe the best gift we have to offer each other.

The weeks and months that followed were difficult, but each passing day we healed a little bit more. A big part of that healing for Sarah and I was recognizing that we could not in fact pick up the broken pieces to our own pain. Not entirely anyway. No, that was God’s work to do. The kind of fresh start we were in need of was the kind that would only come by way of a great physician, a wonderful counselor, a mighty God. So we allowed people to be present in our lives. We invited them to tell us what God was doing with them, and in so doing started to see what God is doing within us. We worshipped, even in the moments where praising God felt like a bridge (pun not intended) too far. And in truth, I’m not sure that wound is ever going to completely go away. There will be a scar tissue around our hearts for the little one we lost, I’m sure, from this day to eternity. But I also know that through it all the presence of my friends and family shone a light on the great presence of Jesus Christ, and it’s helped me in the aftermath to trust him more.

So we as a church have a wonderful opportunity to seek out those who are in those dark and broken places. We’re not there to fix them, that would be silly at best and harmful at worst. We’re not there to help them “get past” the broken places, because that would rob them of the healing work that God is doing in that dark season. No, I think we as a church have a tremendous responsibility to come alongside those who are hurting, put our arm around them, and be present on that holy ground.

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