We live in a polished world of successful, driven people. We are conquerors, climbing the corporate ladders, slaying the dragons that confront us. We are bold, strong, good-looking. We can strut our stuff and preen with the best.
But underneath…depression rages. Suicide and divorce rates go up. Addiction, eating disorders, and self-hatred all seem to be rampant among teenagers. Even amongst Christianity, people are deeply hurting and messed up. People don’t even know each other anymore. We all feel so alone. When we stop pretending, what are we, really?
Broken…and ashamed of it.
After my senior year in high school, after my first big hurt from a guy, depression consumed me. I cried at least once a week in my closet. I felt so alone. It was like my heart was made of glass that had shattered into a million pieces. All over the floor the pieces lay, and I had no idea how to put it all back together again. I struggled with depression, I dabbled in anorexia. I was tired and sick, confused and sad. Where had the happy Christian days gone when nothing was wrong? And where was the joy Christians were supposed to have in this inexhaustible, boundless supply?
This broken feeling lead to much shame. Most of the time, I thought things like, How could God use someone like me? I am dirty. I am messed up. If anyone knew the secrets I carried, if anyone knew the shattered state of my heart…they’d leave.
And the enemy used this concept mightily in my life. Of course you’re broken, he whispers. And God can’t love you. No one can love you. You will never heal. You are messed up.
During this time in my life, I most often pictured myself as this little girl crouched in a corner crying. In this mental image, I was in dirty rags. I was in a dark room and I was alone. That was who I saw myself to be. Messed up. Broken. Alone.
This feeling of brokenness persisted when I went to Bible college. Although I was honest with some of my issues to people, I still couldn’t communicate to others the extent of the woundedness inside. So I hid. Especially from guy relationships. Because I felt so broken mainly because of a guy, I hid from guys. I masqueraded confidence, but inside I felt small and weak and utterly vulnerable.
After two years of brokenness inside, I dated a guy my sophomore year. During this relationship, more of my own issues came up. I was so scared that I couldn’t be happy. I couldn’t love. I just felt shame and fear and brokenness. Although I did try to trust him and to open up to him, in the end I couldn’t. But he wasn’t a good guy who was willing to help me along in the healing process. He dumped me. And this seemed to confirm all my brokenness. See? the enemy whispered. You’re broken. And you always will be. No one will ever stay.
My depression was at an all time low during my sophomore year. I felt passively suicidal. I never would’ve killed myself, but I wanted to get sick and die. To never wake up. Or get in a car accident. I was so tired of fighting this darkness that seemed to consume me. And still no one really knew what was going on, because I was so ashamed of my brokenness.
Finally, a father-figure at school told me he was worried about me. “You’re sad, you’re losing weight,” he said. “You should go to counseling. Just promise me you’ll go once,” he said. So I promised.
As I hit rock bottom, I began to go to counseling. I began to sort through all the pain and depression and confusion I had lived with ever since my senior year in high school. I met with a counselor every week and talked. I talked and talked in a safe place. And slowly, I began to make connections, to understand why I felt the way I felt, the deep wounds inside me, the unhealthy patterns in my life.
I also began to pray. I met with a small group of committed people who desired to lift each other up in prayer. I began to pour out my woes and struggles to God in more and more honest ways. And God began to show me the Truth.
In Bible times, one of the worst sicknesses one could get was leprosy. Lepers were highly contagious, and no one could touch them or be too near them for fear of being contaminated. Leprosy caused your skin to become white, and limbs to become limp—even fall off. When a person had leprosy, that person had to walk and call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” at the top of his or her voice to warn people to get out of the way.
I felt like a leper most of my time at Bible college. I felt like that most of the time around guys. My heart was damaged. I was broken. I was this messed up little girl who just wanted to shout out, “Unclean! Stay away from me. I’m not worthy of love or acceptance, because I am broken and sick. Unclean!” So I pushed people away, and I ran from relationships. All because of shame.
I treated God like this, too. You can’t really love me. I am unclean. You will leave me. Eventually, you will get so frustrated that You will abandon me. So I tried to run from Him. I couldn’t ever really trust Him.
But God doesn’t let us run from Him. He doesn’t leave us in this state. He will do whatever it takes to get us to face our brokenness and heal.
When Jesus walked the earth, he wasn’t afraid of any kind of brokenness. He talked with prostitutes and taxcollectors, with liars and thieves. He healed the lame, the blind—and yes, lepers. In Mark 1:40-42, a leper comes to him and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” And it says in Scripture that Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I am willing, be cleansed.”
Jesus touched the leper. He came close enough to touch a broken, dirty person that all of society shunned. He didn’t run. He walked straight up to the wretched, sickness-ridden man and was filled with compassion. His love covers all our ugliness of our past.
Like the leper, I cried out to God, “I am broken. If you are willing, you can make me clean!” again and again through the last few years of counseling and prayer. In fact, ever since I began to take the steps to heal by acknowledging how desperately I needed it, Jesus has never left me. He stepped into that counseling office with me, and he began sorting through the jumbled pieces of my heart with me. Patiently, over a two year period, he began to rebuild my heart. He gave me answers, He gave me Truth, He gave me grace, and He gave me love.
Gradually, I learned that I don’t need to be ashamed of my brokenness. Jesus can draw near to me, and I can draw near to Him. I can lay the pieces at His feet. I can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and will never leave me—even when I cry, or when I am angry and grieving. Even when I mess up and sin all over again.
Do you feel like a leper? Do you feel broken and unclean, scared to interact with God and with people because you’re afraid of what will happen? A lot of people in our society feel broken. Whether it was because of a bad relationship, sexual assault, addiction, deep sin, etc…Many of us feel as if we have been tampered with to the core of who we are. That something is irreparably damaged.
When someone is broken, the natural reaction is to pretend you aren’t. To try as hard as possible to not be broken by sheer willpower. I remember thinking that because I was a Christian, I should be able to handle this brokenness I felt. I should be able to overcome depression and to walk victoriously all by myself. Yet I couldn’t. Not on my own.
Don’t stay in that place of desperation. Find help. Begin to sort out your life, Don’t be afraid of confronting the pain, the sin, that haunts your background. Jesus isn’t afraid. He is beckoning you onward to a new life of learning to rebuild a heart piece by piece. He isn’t afraid of whatever state you are in.
There is healing. There is hope. It’s a long battle, but you don’t have to be broken and ashamed forever. Christ beckons with a wide embrace. Come to Him, all who are weary from the great woundedness of the soul. He will give you rest.
I still remember the first time I didn’t picture myself as a girl crouched in a corner anymore. It was at a Christian conference, and I was worshiping. And suddenly, I pictured myself walking into the throne room of God. Jesus held my hand, pulling a frightened and ashamed me forward. Yet I wasn’t alone. Jesus was there. And I wasn’t in a corner. I was at the feet of God.