Call and Brokenness

This issue on “40 under 40” presents a sampling of young Covenanters who are making a mark in a variety of ways. We could just as easily have done a feature on “80 over 80,” or, “10 under 10.” Covenanters of all ages are making a difference as they live out their faith in an array of settings. God has the same in mind for you.

In Ephesians 2:10 the Apostle Paul says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV). That verse is saying God already has in mind the difference we are to make in the world. There is a contribution God already intends for you. It is observed that a person’s strongest contribution is often found at the intersection of her or his gifts and the world’s needs. You take what you are good at and find where that intersects with the needs around you. It is wise and sound advice that would be indicative of the highly capable people profiled in this issue.

But let me add a counterintuitive factor to those considerations: the stewardship of brokenness. God weaves redemptive purposes even out of distressing and troubling circumstances that otherwise deflate and devastate.

John Wenrich, our director of congregational vitality, went through a valley early in his ministry. It caused him to search the Scriptures on brokenness. What he discovered is the consistent theme that God redeems pain not just in our own lives, but also for the benefit of others.

He found a distinction in types of brokenness. Yes, there is brokenness that leads to disuse: the car breaks down and doesn’t run. The plumbing, the computer, the toaster—when they are broken they are of no use.

But other things have no use until they are broken. A thoroughbred can’t race until it is broken. A baseball mitt is not good until it is broken in. In case of emergency, break glass. To access a medicine bottle, break the seal.

The bedrock spiritual reality is that God uses broken things. In fact, our entire faith is built on this statement of Jesus about his sacrifice on the cross: this is my body, broken for you. And what does King David say is an acceptable offering to God? A broken spirit and contrite heart. God uses broken things—not a brokenness that leads to disuse, but brokenness that, when the pieces are given to God, can open us up to greater dimensions of God’s presence, intimacy, and mercy. Pieces that then God redeems and reshapes for service to others.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (NIV). Our pain helps us to come alongside others in that same pain to help bring understanding and hope.

My wife, Nancy, is a two-time cancer survivor. As often as not when the phone rings at home, it is someone wanting to talk to another person who knows and understands. African American leaders in the Covenant Church strengthen our resolve on messy issues of racial righteousness because they have personally seen too much unrighteousness in our society. And so it mercifully goes. You can identify many times over in your own experience how one’s pain leads both them and others to redemptive engagement with many around that precise concern.

And so yes, we will commonly make a strong contribution at the intersection of our gifts and the world’s needs. But don’t be surprised if you get to that intersection traveling on a twisting, rutted avenue called broken.

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