I have heard quite a bit of talk in the church over the recent years of people’s brokenness. I am encouraged by brothers and sisters sharing openly about their struggles. I seek to be open as well about my shortcomings and areas of spiritual and personal need. It’s as if we’ve come to terms with the lie we often live when we claim to have our acts together, similar to Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey’s character) in the movie, American Beauty. All is not well in suburbia, or in the gentrified inner city for that matter. When we are honest and recognize we are broken, we can then move to the point of effective change.
What leads us to the breaking point of recognizing that life as we have made it is not all it’s cracked up to be? Hard to say. Surely, there is more than one possibility. Perhaps it’s dissatisfaction in a relationship or in one’s work. Perhaps it’s midlife crisis. Perhaps it’s too much quiet during our quiet times. But one thing for me is sure. It’s not enough to come to the place of sensing our brokenness. We must recognize how great our need for Christ is, too. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:3). The first of Jesus’ beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount addresses the issue of brokenness. When confronted with his presence, as those who have come to him for life and meaning and purpose, we find that our need is very great. Our need for him is very great. Those who sense their poverty in relation to him are people of his kingdom.
The preceding words may sound rather pious. Maybe so. But Jesus breaks us out of a faulty piety. He breaks us out of preconceived notions and expectations of him, where we latch onto him and demand that he meet our great expectations. Soon enough, we’ll find—if we’re honest—that Jesus does not meet our expectations of him to repair us and help us get back on track in keeping with where we were in our relationships, our work, and our spiritual journey. Rather, he breaks us still more. Our expectations of him must give way to his expectations for us, where we find our identity in relation to him, the one who was broken for us.
Jesus shares life with us out of the state of the brokenness of his and the Father’s love for us in the Spirit. He calls us to find our identity in him, whereby the fullness of his broken and beautiful heart of love for us renews and transforms us. No doubt, he will continue to break through to us along the way, where he reveals to us our false expectations of ourselves and of our relationships with him. But still, the end result of these various encounters and breaking points will be the confident assurance that Jesus’ love will be enough, more than enough, in fact, for all that is needed for us to be all that he wants us to be.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths. This volume and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.