“In Isaiah 61, the prophet invites the people of Israel to see God differently. Historically, the nation is in exile under the Babylonians, the city of Jerusalem in ruins. Foretold judgement has come, and the people of God are struggling to find hope. Isaiah speaks into this place of shame. He says God has come to set the captives free, to release the prisoners, to bind up the brokenhearted. The Hebrew word for brokenhearted in this passage is leb shabar. Leb translated means “heart, will or yourself.” In the truest sense of the word it encompasses the sense of who you are as unique human being–the core part of you that makes you. Shabar translates as ‘broken’, but not just meaning ‘cracked or unable to function.’ The Hebrew word translates more fully as ‘broken into pieces’, like a piece of pottery shattering on the ground.”
Tara Owens, Embracing the Body Pgs 49-50
Broken into Pieces
When I have those times or seasons when I literally feel my heart is “broken,” I often return to this familiar bit of scripture. Like those of God’s people it was written for millennia ago, it brings comfort to know God cares immensely. But this deeper interpretation of having something at the core of who you are being “broken into pieces” adds a new meaning to the passage for me.
For many in the WGA community, an explosive event like trauma, a death, abuse or divorce could leave a soul feeling shattered. For me, those “cracks” in my heart developed more slowly over time. There seemed to be a cumulative effect of different experiences that gradually wore me down. Instead of feeling worthy of love, time and attention, there were times of neglect and feeling invisible. Rather than affirming words being spoken over me, there were labels of shameful names. I struggled with my gender, sexuality and identity and often felt bullied and rejected. The combination of these things created large holes of deprivation in my life.
Sadly as I grew older, the ways I chose to cope with these painful holes only caused greater damage. As an adolescent, I began to numb this pain with drugs, alcohol and pornography. I looked for love and affirmation through sexual encounters. I wasn’t old enough or emotionally mature to understand how this was impacting me.
Can you recall experiences growing up that left you feeling “shattered” or created large “holes” of deprivation?
It’s not a surprise that growing up with a load of issues and deficits would eventually cause problems. Just like the piece of pottery which leb shabar refers to, the cracks and holes would leave the structure of my life faulty and fragile. Eventually, I did “fall into pieces” in many ways—my life just sort of collapsed. This was one of the reasons the Lord graciously re-entered my life after a prodigal season. Looking back now, it’s been helpful to pinpoint the issues I arrived with at the doorstep of Where Grace Abounds. These were some of the outcomes of the negative experiences I had and my own destructive coping with the pain.
- No sense of boundaries and a lack of identity
- Vulnerable to peer pressure
- Sexualized emotional needs
- Timidity-too afraid of pursuing dreams or desires
- Constant need for approval/perfectionism
- Shut down emotions, no voice, no opinions
- Christianity—God is real, but felt more burdened by legalism
- Reliance on addictions for coping
- Relational difficulties—Starving/Desperation for love
- Emotionally Dependent
- Not comfortable with my body, felt inadequate as a man
- Not worth being cared for/unhealthy reliance on self
- Apologizing for existing, taking up space on the planet
- Crushed Self-Esteem, Seeds of Self-Hatred, I am unworthy of love
What were some of the negative outcomes you had as a result of painful experiences?
Living a False Story
This is the story I was living for a good portion of my life. A story imposed on me by some of those around me and my own culpability of embracing it as true. Yet, I was living out a false story. One characterized by shame, failure, and inadequacy as a human being. One telling me I was not worthy of love, time, care or attention. For those of us who have been living out a false narrative about ourselves, thank God it’s not the closing credits of our movie. How does God “bind up the brokenhearted”? How does God begin to piece us back together again? In my next blog we’ll look at some ways that open us up to God’s healing presence, allowing Him to create beauty out of the ashes.
This article is an excerpt from a sermon called “Living into the True Story” which Scott recently shared at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, on Sunday, July 9th. To listen to the free audio of this sermon go here.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.