In the heat of Uganda this past July, I wrote a letter, a post, I keep returning to, igniting with, a post that’s gone far and wide and sort of went crazy, A Letter to the North American Church. That’s what’s fiery in my bones… The church is the beautiful bride that Christ is returning for and I am passionate about the church, committed to her growth, her relentless flourishing, her certain thriving, preparing herself for His soon-coming. How do we, the church, grow and strengthen into the ready and beautiful bride?
I quietly have asked many of my friends to pray for the church over the next several weeks, and share with us here their own Letter to the North American Church.
Last week, my heart-sister, Patsy Clairmont shared her letter with us… and today, my other Women of Faith sister, Elisa Morgan, one of Chrisitianity Today’s top 50 women influencing the church and culture, author of 15 books on mothering, spiritual formation and evangelism, and former CEO of MOPS International, writes words and wisdom on the farm’s front porch of things that her and I have talked and prayed much over:
Dear North American Church,
I want to ask you to take a step of honesty.
Just for a moment. And just within your own skin. No one else needs know your answers to the questions I’m about to ask you. But will you answer them for yourself, in your own mind?
Are you a child of addiction?
Or of divorce?
Have you lost a child?
Or a grandchild?
Do you have a daughter who became pregnant as a teen?
And then a second time?
Is someone in your family or your extended family gay?
Does someone in your home today struggle with addiction to alcohol?
Has someone in your family been adopted?
Or relinquished a child to adoption?
Has someone chosen abortion?
Have you experienced an eerie, middle of the night call that someone you love has been arrested?
Or injured in a wreck?
Or is drunk – again?
Did you answer “yes” to at least one of these questions, but you’ve never told anyone? Not outside of the most-trusted core group of family or friends who’ve experienced these “yeses” with you.
Do you carry about a sense of shame that silences you and shuts you off from the life you always imagined you’d enjoy as a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ?
I answer “yes” to every one of these questions. I’ve sat in
-hospital rooms, and
-inmate visitation rooms.
Oh…so many issues have entered our home: alcoholism, learning disabilities, cancer, legal issues, abortion, homosexuality, addiction, teen pregnancy, infertility, adoption, divorce, and death. (For more see: The Beauty of Broken.com )
It’s time to talk.
From the vantage point of survival, I can see now that I swallowed a myth that needs to be exposed for me – and for others who have also fallen under its power: that it’s possible to create a perfect family.
I come from a broken family.
When I was five and my father sat in a white easy chair in his home office and beckoned me to his lap.
He looked into my eyes and said, “Elisa, I’ve decided I don’t love your mother any more. We are getting a divorce.”
My family broke.
And like many children, I thought that somehow it was my fault.
I tried to keep my family from breaking more when I would hear my mother’s alarm clock in the morning, push back the covers and pad into the kitchen where I grabbed a glass, plunked in some ice cubes and poured Coca Cola over it. With a handful of chocolate chip cookies from the cookie jar, I made my way down the hall to my mother’s bedroom.
There I placed “breakfast” on her nightstand, turned off her alarm and began the process of getting her up and ready for work. As a single mom, she needed to work and it was my daily job to wake her up. My mother struggled with alcohol.
My mother broke. I wondered what I could do to fix her.
I determined it was my responsibility to make an unbroken family when I had a chance as a grownup to start fresh.
After all, I had become a Christian as a teenager, had been involved in ministry, even gone to seminary, where I met and later married my husband. Precious, stable, rock of a man.
I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.
Problem is, I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken – beginning with Adam and Eve and moving forward to you and me.
No matter what we do, we all end up in broken families. In one way or another.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality – and failing – God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty He brings in the broken.
I come from a broken family. And despite my very best attempts to produce a formulaically perfect Christian family in my second—the reality is that I still come from a broken family.
We are messy – gooey in the middle – and I love my family more than I ever thought possible, brokenness and all. I love who they are and I love who they have made me to be.
I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “broken family values”—values like commitment, humility, courage, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness and thankfulness.
He understands that no one is perfect.
He knows the unique journeys of loved ones.
He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope.
God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.
God doesn’t sweep the broken into a dustpan and discard it.
No, in order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us.
He brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken.
So, North American Church, what if we move away from the myth of the perfect family and toward the reality of our beautifully broken ones?
Might we then breathe air clean of the stench of shame and saturated with the grace of God?
And might others find in us, not the exhausting chasing of some impossible dream but fresh hope for the real life they are living?
A life where Jesus comes, in a broken body, to provide the beauty of healing?
I come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure that my story is likely yours too.
Because there is beauty in the broken.
Elisa Morgan is the publisher of FullFill (www.fullfill.org), a speaker, and the reluctant but joyful author of:
The Beauty of Broken: My Story, and Likely Yours Too …
a long-awaited book I have prayed for and am deeply grateful to have speak a new, profound word from our Father into our pain. Elisa writes real and raw — and revival for the broken.