Sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorns
Whose blood will save us
Unto us is born” (Chris Rice)
I have often hear people call the world “Beautiful and Broken.”
I always find myself cringing a bit at this description. Something in it rings trite. Its as though these words are used to diagnose or to put a cap on the perpetual migraine of the human condition. To sum it up and let it be.
It is only natural I suppose. Scientists say that our brains are wired for seeing patterns. With everything we hear, see, taste, feel, and smell, our brains work to understand a repeatable pattern. We seek patterns because at our deepest level we want to know what to expect from life— we want to know what is true.
And so as we go about life, we look to see what the pattern is. We laugh and are delighted at the silliness and trust of our fat old golden. We scroll through a news feed and are confronted with another body count. We cherish the love of our dear ones, and grieve the inability to be at peace with oneanother. And we are wild to know what the pattern is in all this.
We, those with the powers of reason, with eyes bent on seeing patterns, with hearts desperate for explanation, seek resolution for the dissonance that daily plagues us.
And the best we can come up with?
Beautiful and Broken
Yes. The world is broken. The Nations still rage, the poor are still oppressed, there is still hate and separation. I see it on the newspage that carries to me the latest carbombings and random shootings, and I see it in the eyes of the one I love, white and achey with pain of body and soul. Oh, this world is broken. Shattered and aching rocking and weeping. In a world of polarization, at least on this we can agree: everything is not right.
But then, yes. I find the world is still beautiful.
As blurry as our vision may be from tears, we can’t help but see the breathtaking sunset. We cannot see the fearsome tender love of a mother to a child and not gasp at its glory. There is laughter, there are french fries, there is the overwhelming happy drunkenness of first love. There are heroes who give all they are to help others. There is the tight woven covering of family. There is music that transcends pain, there is art that subsumes time. There is the strange and beautiful fact that we exist at all! In the face of all the smog of the human condition, there is hope as stubborn as a fourteen year old.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Emphatically yes. Life is beautiful.
“We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Forged in the fires of human passion,
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage…” (Rich Mullins, “Not as Strong as We Think We Are.”)
So, as our eyes have sought a pattern, they have found hope, hurt, and longing. The beauty we see is as a butterflies wings: breathtaking, but likely to break. We long for a something to crush the power of evil that shakes this old world. But the darkness is not only outside of us, it is inside. For all the confusion and chaos in the world, when I peer inside myself, I find a force and swirl as confusing as the headlines I read. So, we long for good to defeat the darkness that shapes our worlds, but we also long for a light that could shine on these confused hearts and teach us how to be whole.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
The old Jewish prophets understood this tension and longing, and in their heart’s eyes God told them that He would make a way, and that their hearts would not always be broken, and that their world would not always be dark. And so, being people like us, the Jews of those centuries believed and waited for a Messiah who would bring power to once and for all do away with the powers of darkness. But perhaps what they forgot, and what we forget, is that if God were to destroy all the darkness of the world, we might find our own hearts swallowed up in that judgement. So, instead of destroying the world so full of darkness, God, the source of light entered it as a fragile baby.
The hope of the world, wrapped in pink baby skin, screaming and drawing sharp first breaths in the dark country side. Born into a ruthless empire, the hope of the world reached with tiny, fragile fingers stretching, reaching, and claiming light had come.
It’s a strange story, when you think of it. One you wouldn’t really want to make up if you were trying to create an airtight consolation for the ugliness in the world. But something in it rings true. The tender beauty. The power through vulnerability. The sanctifying of this fragile gift we call existence. The final proclamation that God will never give up on us, and that in the the butterfly wings are stronger that we thought.
Yes, the story is strange one. But it is one I cling to, one which keeps me returning to hope in this broken and beautiful world.
Ever since the child was born, there have been people who have gotten drunk on him no less than they can get drunk on hard liquor. Or if that metaphor seems crude, all the way down the centuries since that child was born, there have been countless different kinds of people who in countless different kinds of ways have been filled with his spirit, who have been grasped by him, caught up into his life, who have found themselves in deep and private ways healed and transformed by their relationships with him, so much so that they simply have no choice but to go on proclaiming what the writers of the Gospels first proclaimed: that he was indeed the long expected one, the Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – all these curious and forbidding terms that Christians keep on using in their attempt to express in language one thing and one thing only. That in this child, in the man he grew up to be, there is the power of God to bring light into our darkness, to make us whole, to give a new kind of life to anybody who turns toward him in faith, even to such as you and me.
Fredrick Buechner, The Hungering Dark (1969).