When I was a kid, I once took my RipStik out for a cruise around the neighborhood. I was feeling brazen, so I headed down a hill quite confidently…until I hit a rock and went flying.
If only I had learned my lesson then.
But instead…this summer I got into longboarding. And, with two weeks left before I headed back to school, I set out around the neighborhood one evening with a friend.
We came to a hill—right next to the Ripstik wipeout hill, actually—and I figured I’d give it a go and conquer my fear of uncontrolled speed. I cautiously proceeded, but in a matter of seconds, I was going too fast and my board began to shake.
And then, quite gracefully, I landed face first on the pavement, twisting to catch myself. Three broken teeth, a torn ACL, a sprained MCL and LCL, and various abrasions later…I sat in bed, frustrated.
ACL surgery wouldn’t be until December because I had to leave for school, so in the mean time: no long boarding (disclaimer: I still think it’s great, absolutely no hard feelings), no tree climbing, no soccer, no swing dancing, no running, no FUN. I began to make a mental list of all the things I wouldn’t be able to do for the next 5 months.
“C’mon God,” Miss Negative Nelly Me thought. “Is this really Your plan?? If so, it’s stupid.”
But now I see something I didn’t realize at first: being broken isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, being broken is beautiful.
Let The Lord Carry You
This state of physical brokenness is making me aware of something I’ve often tried to ignore: I’m always broken. I’m always helpless—physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
But in this brokenness, the Lord seeks me out. He always has.
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
The Lord is close to the weak, the ill, the brokenhearted. In fact, He is closer than He’s ever been before. Like lambs with broken legs, we are placed tenderly upon the Good Shepherd’s shoulders as we heal, His closeness and His care our saving grace.
He draws near to us intimately in our times of need. We are His beloved. We are His children. When we hurt, He hurts for us. He watches after us. He carries us until we can again walk on our own two feet.
But even then, after we’ve regained our strength, He is close to us.
We can never walk this life alone. Sometimes it takes a physical injury to remind us of that, to show us how dependent we are upon the Lord and one another.
It is only through God that we can gain new strength. It is only through God that we can run and not grow tired, walk and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).
It is only through realizing our brokenness that we can learn to depend solely on God.
“Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am” (Psalm 39:5).
Another beautiful thing about this state of brokenness is that the One doing the healing is broken, too.
Our Savior knows what it’s like to feel pain. He knows what it’s like to call desperately upon the Lord.
By the power of the cross, we get to unite our suffering to Christ. When we feel pain—physical, spiritual, or emotional—we get to walk the road to Calvary with Christ. When the pain is too much, we get to fall beneath the weight of the cross, with Jesus at our side. And when we don’t think we can keep going, Jesus grabs our hand and leads us onward, bearing the burden8 by our side.
With pain comes an amazing blessing: We can learn what Christ endured for us.
Even if we never experience pain quite as excruciating, we can look at our crosses—regardless of their shape, size, or severity—and connect them to God’s. We can understand, even if only minutely, the crazy love that drove Jesus to endure such suffering for our sake.
We carry our cross together with Christ: through Him, with Him, and in Him.
Offer It Up
I toss around, “offer it up,” whenever one of my Catholic buds is complaining, mainly as a joke. But the phrase speaks volumes about what it means to unite one’s cross to Christ’s.
When life is unpleasant, God invites us to give it to Him, to “offer it up.” But what does that look like?
Offering it up means participating in the salvation of the world. That sounds a bit drastic, but think about it.
Jesus endured suffering as an offering to the Father for our salvation. It was through His cross and Resurrection that we were given hope for eternal life and released from the chains of death and sin.
But this wasn’t a once-and-done deal. Christ continues to offer Himself up for our sake in the Eucharist, constantly. So when we give our suffering to Christ, our pain is joined to His pain. Our sacrifice becomes part of His sacrifice. Our endurance unites with His, becoming one offering to the Father through Christ’s cross.
As a result, our suffering means something. Our pain has a purpose. Although it’s not inherently a good thing, God has transformed the bad into good. The cross, once a symbol of death, is now a symbol of hope and new life. Likewise, our mess can work for God’s glory.
When we give God our mess, our ugly cross, He turns it into new life. For this reason, we rejoice in the cross. We rejoice in tribulation, for we know that it produces nothing but virtue and endurance (Romans 5:3, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:13).
We All Have Scars
In the Eucharist, you hold a perfect God…but not an unscathed One. Rather, you hold a broken Christ, a bloody and beaten Savior. You hold a Man on the cusp of death, a God brought lower than He could ever deserve.
But you also hold love in its purest form. Because, that’s what love is all about: suffering for the sake of another.
Christ endured specifically for you. So, endure for Him. Endure for everyone around you. Bring purpose to your pain and significance to your suffering.
You can’t make it out of life unscathed. We all have scars, but they are battle wounds in a war that has already been won. Revel in this victory.
You are broken. You are in need of a Savior. And what a beautiful thing that is.