“Broke. Not Broken.” That was the message on a sign—corrugated cardboard with lettering in black marker—held by a panhandler on a street in San Diego. I was heading back to the airport following a conference there in June. The conference was a meeting of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (NCCL). Its theme was “Embrace Grace!”
It had been a full week of workshops and exhibits . . . and grace! A beautiful setting and incredible weather, along with great presentations and faith-filled cohorts in ministry, combined for an outstanding experience.
And then I saw the man with the sign. Even if my heart reached out to him—and it did—I couldn’t assist him except with a prayer. The message of his sign has stayed with me, and I say a prayer for this nameless stranger every time I think of it—and him.
I’ve been there. Not homeless or begging on street corners. But I’ve had my days, weeks, and months of feeling “broke”—somehow lacking needed resources—because a friend betrayed my trust, a family member let me down, I was rejected by people I thought I could count on, I was disillusioned by the Church I love and serve.
We’ve all been there. And it’s tough to pull ourselves together and move beyond the hurt, the disillusionment, the anger.
But Not Broken
That’s where grace comes in. If I’m sure of one thing, it’s that God is faithful. God loves me when I am deep in despair and have lost sight of the good in my life. God loves me through the hard times and gives me the spirit to find hope again. God’s grace—God’s loving presence in my life—helps to make me whole.
In Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen shares the story of a young athlete who lost a leg to cancer. Early in his therapy, she asked him to draw a picture of his body. He drew a vase—with a big black crack through its center. Over time, the young man began to see beyond his own loss and started reaching out to others who had similar challenges. His anger lifted, and he could see that good had come from this tragic loss. As she was wrapping up her time with him, Dr. Remen brought out the crayon image of the broken vase he had drawn early in his therapy. He looked at it and told her it wasn’t finished yet. Taking a yellow crayon, he drew thick lines radiating from the crack and said, “This is where the light comes through.”
That, my friends, is God’s grace, plain and simple.
How do you experience God’s grace in your life? When have you been broke, but not broken? Who or what helped you move from despair to hope?