batter my heart

Sometimes, I tell people I am part of the "Church of the Broken" - a broken man in a broken world. I find it helpful to classify myself like this, but it does tend to annoy people.

Being as weird as I am and having absolutely no compunction about messing with the English language - pirating, inventing, dismantling and re-creating words to meet my needs and whims - I tend to be loose with definitions and lazy about justifying them. But the word "broken" is important enough that I think it's worth clarifying.

So let me admit that when I refer to myself as "broken," I don't mean "malfunctioning." I don't think I was once going along all ticketty-boo, and then something awful happened and now I'm a useless mess. What I mean is something more like broken-down, like clay that's pliable because someone has broken it out of its hardened shape and bent and kneeded it by hand, so that the hand-warmth has infused it with potential. When this happens, the clay has become perpetually available to be molded into a new shape - the shape required by ever-evolving circumstances. 

There is something about the air on this planet that wants to harden me... to force me to retain a shape once I'm in it. It seems safer to be something - to have rigid ideas about the world and very set patterns for how I am living in it. It is safer, in one sense, to turn myself into an inanimate object. But it is also, I have found, very boring. It is not life.  

There was a time when I thought I knew what I was. I sat as still as possible, my teeth clenched and my brow furrowed as cracks began to form all over me and I hardened into an ugly, misshapen parody of what an earthen vessel can be. 

But then, at what seems to me now to have been the last possible moment, someone came along and picked me up and smashed me, hard, against a table. They did this again and again and it was the most horrible thing I could have imagined. I thought I was going to die, as my life and my marriage unraveled. They threw me around, punched me, and beat me with dripping wet hands. I felt parts of myself flying off in every direction. But I also felt water and warmth seeping into me, and eventually, I realized something new... I was free to be anything. I was free to live. For the briefest moment, I realized with my whole being that I did not need to be so sure all the time. I could let loose, and enjoy being constantly re-shaped and re-made by something beyond my ability to comprehend.  

I think I was born to be - in the best possible way - the plaything of God. I was made to be ever-incomplete, a part of a joyous creative process. In brokenness is life. I wasn't made to know, or to understand or to be one thing. Those are interesting diversions and at their best provide a quest that is an intriguing part of living, but I was not meant for knowledge, control, rigidity or arrival, I was made for the joy of it, for a Great, Becoming Act of Creation.

To be this way is to live fully in faith... to abandon all fear. I do not like this. I (sort of) enjoy my certitude and fear. They give me the illusion of power in a world where I am very small, and weak, and isolated. But I am tired of drying up and becoming brittle.

I'd rather be broken. 


  1. Good words, once again, and another index card of thoughts to file in my mental Roll-o-dex on this topic of our projected selves - something I'll be exploring in this weekend's post. Thanks man.

  2. I don't necessarily agree "in brokenness is life" but I would agree that in brokenness is to be human. The world itself is not broken. The life in a tulip, albeit brief, is perfect, as is the life in a slug.

    But I know what you mean.

    Sometimes I wish God would reach down and pound my life somewhat shapeless, again. He did it to me once, and I emerged with a life I don't mind - a life I can tolerate - but don't relish. Sometimes when God wrecks our sand castles, He uses the sea, and there ain't no coming back. So I'll stick with what I got and count myself lucky.

  3. I wasn't exactly sure how to handle the idea of the world being broken, Mark, so I mostly skipped it, here. I think for the world, I'll stick to defining it as "bent, creatively," which probably justifies another post entirely.

    And you're right about there being no coming back. A lot of "becoming broken," as I've defined it here, is less about coming to some great insight and more about just acknowledging the reality in which you do in fact live.

  4. These course changes our lives take are sometimes subtle sometimes sudden but always interesting.

    At the end of Grade 10, my parents allowed me the option of staying in a private Christian HS or going to a public HS closer to our home. I opted for the latter. To 'fit in' to my new school, I changed my look and attitude, transforming from a heavy metal rocker/partyer to a preppy jock wearing pastels and actually doing a little studying. I look back now, and that course change was smooth but profound. My brother wasn't so lucky.

  5. Is the post title from the John Donne poem?

  6. "Batter my heart, three person'd God; for you."

    Which is to say: affirmative.


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