On our recent vacation to the Gulf Coast, my kids loved picking up shells. It seemed they didn’t care if it was broken or only part of a shell. At one point I heard Andrew say, “Don’t pick up the broken ones. Get the ones that are whole.” Isn’t that the way we want it? Isn’t that the way we think God wants it? He only wants me if I’m whole, complete, perfect. He will throw me back if I’m not. So I try and I try to be perfect, but I’m still not. Even if I could find perfection, I would still have people around me like my husband, my kids and my friends who I have tried to make perfect through lots of nagging and manipulation, but they still broke too.
Which leads me to the bad news: It’s all broken. It always has been and it always will be. Ever since the garden when Eve made that fateful decision to eat the fruit, it has been broken. Mankind’s relationship with the natural world was broken. The relationship between the man and the woman was broken. And the relationship between God and man was broken.
I used to think that God the Father made this beautiful, perfect creation to exist perfectly as Plan A. Then when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, he looked at Jesus, His Son, and said, “Well shoot. They messed it up. Now what are we going to do?” I used to think that it was Eve’s fault that Jesus even had to come to earth and die on the cross.
However, I have come to realize that a beautiful garden with a crafty serpent and a forbidden tree were all Jesus’ Plan. (John 1:3) The truth is that it was all made to be broken.
When I think about life outside the garden for Eve, I imagine it must have been incredibly painful and difficult. Most of us have only inklings and glimpses of what Eden was like. My trip to the beautiful gulf coast is just a small picture of the glory of God’s creation. But Eve lived in it and experienced it. She knew exactly what Eden was like and all the glory it held. She didn’t have to guess or imagine it. I have brief moments of true intimacy with my husband when we can be together fully ourselves, without hiding, without shame, without selfish desire. But Eve knew what that was like to live free, completely known, completely loved, completely treasured with Adam.
After they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves. They made their own coverings so that they could be in relationship with God. I also try to make my own coverings through self-justification, making excuses for why I did what I did), self-righteousness (being right in my own eyes at all costs) and blameshifting (blaming other people other circumstances for why I did what I did).
But nothing we do on our own can make us whole, complete, unbroken. I try and try everything I know how to do to fix it, but it will never work. It is easy to fall into despair and hopelessness over all the brokenness all around me.
Even as he moved Adam and Eve out of the garden, he gave us hope that some day things would not be broken. The hope that someday things will be better. Some day we who believe will live in a new and better garden. (Read Revelation 22:1-5 to get the full description.)
However just knowing that someday things will be better is not enough to make it through the hard days here on earth. But a brighter future is not our only hope. My hope is for today. God is making me new today! He has already restored me into right relationship with Him. Yes, I’m still broken and everything around me is broken, but it’s all covered by the blood! Not only is it covered, but the Holy Spirit is at work in me and through me to make it different. By him and through him, hearts can be changed, relationships can be healed, old patterns can be broken!
When God made coverings for Adam and Eve out of animal skin, he was making a way for them to be in relationship with him. He made a way for us to be in relationship with him. A way not by the blood of animals, but a better way through the blood of his only son (Hebrews 10:10). Our hope is also that he is changing us and making us new even today. As I learn how much God loves me and understand his love, then I can in turn, by the power of the Holy Spirit, love my children and my husband the way that he loves me.
When I believe that Jesus, God’s Son died on the cross as payment for my sins, I am made right with God. I also receive his Holy Spirit living inside of me which is transforming and changing me even now. “And all of us [reflecting the glory of the Lord] are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever-increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another.” (II Corinthians 3:18, Amplified)
So the bad news is that it’s all broken. But the really good news is that it’s not up to me (or you) to fix it! Jesus stepped into His perfect plan and did something that only He could do. So if it’s not up to me to fix it, then I can rest and cease striving. I can stop trying so hard to be perfect and unbroken because he lived the perfect life and was broken for me. I can stop trying to make everyone around me perfect and just love them in their brokenness the way that He loves me in my brokenness.
Do you know what God does with all those broken shells on the beaches? He takes all those pieces and makes miles and miles of soft sand. The smaller the pieces the softer the sand. When the shells surrender to the tide, they become something bigger and better than they were before or could ever be alone. This is what God does with broken things.
Recommended Song: “What If Your Best” by FFH on their album Wide Open Spaces
Recommended sermon in case you think I’m making this up: Bill Wellons, Fellowship Bible Church, April 10, 2011 http://www.fellowshipnashville.org/media/messages/weekend-messages/