WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

What Do We Say to Brokenness?

WelCom April 2018:

The Passion of Christ and the Resurrection – the Paschal Mystery in our everyday lives

Joy Cowley. Photo: Weston Cowley

Joy Cowley

Whatever we say about suffering will be largely subjective. It will come from our beliefs which in turn, have been shaped by our life experience.

My brokenness will relate to the brokenness out there. Some will call that projection. Others will call it empathy. My own journeys through crucifixions and resurrections, will make me want to help others to find the freedom of the empty tomb. That’s the way it works for all of us. On the other side of brokenness, we learn that the fruits of pain are wisdom and compassion.

My beliefs become simpler as I get older. Experience tells me we come from a greater reality and we return to that greater reality. This little interval that we call life is a time of growth, and what we call death, is our true birth. The great writers of our Catholic tradition have been telling us this for centuries but I think we have to live it, before it filters from ears to heart. In this small interval of incarnation, I see hundreds of little dyings and birthings, crucifixions and resurrections.

“This little interval that we call life is a time of growth, and what we call death, is our true birth.

The great message of the Paschal mystery is – what is resurrected is always greater than what has died. Jesus told us that when he said, ‘Except the grain of wheat die, it remains a single grain’.

I believe that this growth process is compulsory for all of us. I could ask you now, to think back 10 or 20 years and remember a time when you felt so broken that you thought your life would never come together again. You were filled with loss, grief, a sense of non-being. Remember? When you had grown past the resentment that floods us at such times, what happened? You may well think now, that your brokenness was the best thing that happened to you. You came out of it a much larger soul with a wisdom you could not have otherwise gained.

But this belief is often at odds with a pain-avoidance society. The popular view is to avoid brokenness at all costs. We project it out there by blaming someone else. We fill life with analgesics – alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions, power – anything to hide the symptoms. Instead of going through the birthing process, we try to avoid it. The truth is, we can’t avoid brokenness, but we can become stuck in it. We can fail to grow. To use Easter imagery, the stone does not roll away from the tomb.

So how do the broken-hearted, make that journey with Jesus from crucifixion to resurrection?

If we accept the view that all of life is a birthing struggle, then we realise that most of us need midwives to attend our many birthings. In turn we need to be midwives to others who are in labour. We tend to think of pain in terms of loss. But the birthing struggle is about gain. It’s about new life. We don’t need a midwife who is going to deny our life-gaining effort, who sees our pain as unnatural or abnormal. We don’t want to be disempowered by systems that make us dependant. In the parables of nature all around us, we know what happens if we peel the shell away from the hatching chick. If we help the butterfly out of its chrysalis, it too will die.

So what do I require of a midwife?

First of all, to be there. To be present. To have time for me, without looking at a watch. Some birthings take years.

The midwife needs to understand that this is something I have to journey through. It’s what I was born for. Remember when Peter tried to protect Jesus and Jesus replied, ‘Get behind me, Satan?’ Jesus knew that this particular temptation to pain avoidance was evil. We too, need to trust the crucifixion/resurrection process.

I need a midwife who will not ‘should’ all over me. He or she has been through the same kind of brokenness and understands the three stages of the journey – crucifixion, tomb, resurrection. My midwife will gently remind me that the only way through loss, grief, pain, is to travel through it without bitterness or resentment. My midwife will hold my hand in unquestioning reassurance and be a presence of Christ to me. My midwife will, by example, show me how to be a midwife to others.

Brokenness…is the way to Wholeness.

What can we say to brokenness? Oh friends, it’s not about saying. It’s about being and doing. When we are directly involved with another’s pain, we discover there is no separation. We laugh and cry together, suffer and celebrate together, grow together and discover that we are all part of each other. Brokenness, paradoxically, is the way to Wholeness.