A week or so ago, the kids and I had the car radio on, tuned to the local Christian radio station, which is above average when it comes to that sort of programming, and we happened to hear a concert of sorts by a singer I didn’t know. She was talking about a song that had been playing on the radio and what it was about.
“It’s about this idea of planned obsolescence, how everything we have is made to break …”
And she played the song and it’s about our stuff–the electronics and material goods we have and how manufacturers make their lives only so long so we have to buy more.
But I couldn’t get over that phrase, “made to break.”
I wondered if it was true of me.
I wrote earlier this year about how my journey toward “whole” is taking a turn through “broken” and how surprising and unexpected that has been. It still unsettles me, this idea that there are things in my life that still have to break before I can come closer to “whole.”
But I think I’m slowly starting to understand why.
I recently read Laura Hillenbrand’s unforgettable book Unbreakable, the incredible tale of Louis Zamperini’s life. Olympic runner. Soldier. POW. It is horrific and amazing and heart-breaking all at the same time.
And I’ve been thinking about the title and how Zamperini was a survivor in every sense of the word. In the book, there are clear moments that show how his body, mind and spirit were unexplainably resilient to the forces that tried to break him. It’s an appropriate title in the sense that he wouldn’t give up when tortured or when stranded in the middle of the ocean with no hope of rescue in sight.
But Zamperini eventually did break. At a Billy Graham crusade when his family life was falling apart and his drinking was out of control. He had reached a point when he couldn’t do anything to save himself or get himself out of a mess or escape his nightmares.
He broke. And God worked in and through him to make something new.
Surviving impossible odds is inspiring. So is admitting that you’re at the end of yourself.
My husband and I started watching “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix this weekend. It’s a Netflix original series co-produced by Tina Fey (love) about a woman who was part of an underground (literally) cult for 15 years who decides to make a go of life in New York.
For 15 years, Kimmy and the three other girls were told they were garbage and dirt and worthless. Kimmy resisted those labels in the bunker. And now she’s out in the world again with a middle-school education. She is naive and innocent and optimistic, refreshing in a world that is all too cynical. She challenges me to see the world anew.
We’re led to believe that New York will try to break her (and that it will succeed).
Doesn’t the world break everyone eventually?
There’s that Hemingway quote we toss around about how people are strong at the broken places. But the rest of the quote is not as inspiring as we would believe by taking only the first line out of context.
Here is what the whole thing says:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” – Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Maybe everything breaks and we expect that, but maybe everyone breaks, too.
And maybe we’re made that way.
Maybe we’re not meant to do everything exactly right all the time. To carry all the burdens of this world, our worlds. Maybe we’re not meant to always have a healthy life, a comfortable existence. Maybe we’re not meant to help ourselves (so that God will help us) or rely on our individualism to save us.
I’m not saying God wants to bring suffering and hardship and calamity into our lives or that He takes any pleasure in it when it happens. I cannot believe in a god who would smile on adversity. The God I know is not cruel.
But maybe we’re made to break.
Our bodies, our relationships, our spirits, our beliefs, our emotions … at some point they all fail us. They all break in some way and it all breaks us. Mostly of ourselves.
Because when my body breaks, I’m broken of my independence. I have to rely on and trust others.
And when my relationships suffer a break, I’m broken of my selfishness that contributed to the rift.
When my spirit breaks, I’m broken of my self-sufficiency. I admit I need help.
And when my beliefs break, I’m broken of my assurances that I’m right and you’re wrong. I find that God is still God even if what I thought I believed changes.
And when my emotions break, I’m broken of living in my own power. I remember how weak I am and how much I need the power of God in my life.
Maybe breaking isn’t bad.
Maybe it’s necessary.
And maybe it’s not only necessary, maybe it’s for our good.
What do you think of the idea that we might be “made to break”?
How have you seen a time of brokenness work in your life?