Most of us don’t want to talk about the not-so-pretty stuff of life. We’d rather focus on loveliness. Hued sunsets. Tinted leaves. Indigo skies. Golden grass. Holidays. But I’ve discovered a beauty that God brings in the unseemly, unexpected, broken things. He brings beauty into broken relationships, shattered dreams and painful realities.
It’s time to talk.
From the vantage point of survival, I can see now that I swallowed a myth that needs to be exposed for me – and for others who have also fallen under its power: that it’s even possible to create a perfect family.
I thought it was my fault that my first family broke, when I was five and my father sat in a white easy chair in his home office and beckoned me to his lap. He looked into my eyes and said, “Elisa, I’ve decided I don’t love your mother any more. We are getting a divorce.”
I tried to keep my family from breaking more when I would hear my mother’s alarm clock in the morning, push back the covers and pad into the kitchen where I grabbed a glass, plunked in some ice cubes and poured Coca Cola over it. With a handful of chocolate chip cookies from the cookie jar, I made my way down the hall to my mother’s bedroom. There I placed “breakfast” on her nightstand, turned off the alarm and began the process of getting her up and ready for work. As a single mom, she needed to work and it was my daily job to wake her up. My mother struggled with alcohol.
My mother broke. I wondered what I could do to fix her.
So I determined it was my responsibility to make an unbroken family when I had a chance as a grownup to start fresh. After all, I had become a Christian as a teenager, had been involved in ministry, even gone to seminary, where I met and later married my husband. Precious, stable, rock of a man. I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.
Problem is, I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken. So no matter what we do, we all end up making broken families. In one way or another.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality – and failing – God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty he brings in the broken.
I come from a broken family. And despite my very best attempts to produce a formulaically perfect Christian family in my second—the reality is that Icome from a broken family. We are messy – gooey in the middle – and I love my family more than I ever thought possible, brokenness and all. I love who they are and I love who they have made me to be.
I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “ family values”—values like commitment, courage, humility, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness and thankfulness. He understands that no one is perfect. He knows the unique journeys of loved ones. He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.
God doesn’t sweep the broken up into a dustpan and discard it. In order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us. He brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken.
I come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure that my story is likely yours too.