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The Paradox of Brokenness

You are not broken. Neither am I.

You are not broken. Neither am I.

Strange assertion from a man who carries deep wounds. The traumatic death of my wife. Witness to alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide attempts. Assaults on family members. The loss of my two closest friends. Too much to simply rattle off in a list.

Few people go through life unscathed. That’s what my dad used to say. It’s the nature of this life. Grief. Suffering. Loss. Death. We’re asked by life to face profound pain.

My uncle put it this way: “You never know what someone has been through.” Be kind. Treat others as if they carry a burden, perhaps a great sorrow from the past, perhaps some trauma of the present. Respect the hidden journey of others. Respect what others choose to reveal.

We also ask this of God. Shomei’a tefillah, be the One who hears our prayer. God, be my Witness.

“Hear my words, Adonai… Hearken to the sound of my outcry… at dawn hear my voice…” (Psalms 5:2–4) “Oh God, hear my prayer, give ear to the utterances of my mouth.” (Psalms 54:4) “When I call, answer me… be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalms 4:2)

The Psalmist prays to be heard and asserts that prayers are, indeed, heard. “… Adonai has heard the sound of my crying. Adonai has heard my plea…” (Psalm 6:8–9)

God hears our sorrows. God witnesses our brokenness. And yet, in this moment, all of us are exactly what God needs us to be. God sees us with love, perfect in our imperfection, whole in our experiences of brokenness.

Our experiences of brokenness contribute to the magnificence of the universe. You are a beautiful reflection of creation, filling a unique role, a role sometimes crushing with hardship. A heart. A soul. The damage we experience is part of our beauty.

Firm in my belief that God witnesses my suffering and still sees me as a vital part of creation, I no longer need to identify with my brokenness. My language is free to shift. So is my attitude.

I am not broken. I have experienced brokenness. Even now, I experience it.

Seeing myself through God’s eyes, I am not my brokenness. I’m exactly the man God needs me to be. With God as Reminder and Witness, I live in the paradox: experiencing brokenness, I am still whole.

Wild Broken Heart

My heart is free,
Cracked open by fire,
Pouring radiance and music into the night,
Lifting prayers to the heavens.

This wild broken heart fears nothing,
Embracing stars and secrets.
What more can be done
To rubble and ash?
To dust and whispers?
My feet touch the hot core of the earth.
My hands reach the cold edge of the universe.
I am the hollow bone
That brings medicine and light
From the Soul of Eternity
To this world, to this life.

Take this wild broken heart,
Place it next to yours,
The wildness of your dreams,
The wildness of your laughter,
The wildness of your joy and love,
The truth that pulses through your veins,
And we will shine
Magnificent visions into the darkness,
Summoning the battered, the bruised, the wounded,
Summoning hearts split and torn,
Calling out to the thirst for healing
And the hunger to heal,
Calling wild broken hearts to the center,
To the place within where we all dwell.

Our wild broken hearts sing.
Our wild broken hearts bless.
Our wild broken hearts sparkle and shine.
Our wild broken hearts
Are whole.

© 2016 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Alden Solovy is a Jewish poet, liturgist and teacher whose prayers have been used by people of all faiths around the world. The author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing, his nearly 600 new prayers appear in multiple anthologies, prayer books and websites. His work can be found at http://tobendlight.com/. He can be reached at alden@tobendlight.com. Photo by Alden Solovy.

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