God’s Broken Family
It’s tempting to freak out over the fact that our families are broken — to think that if we fix the issues of marriage, money, and faith, we’ll fix the future of our families, and voila! — all will be well. But in reality, broken families are not new. We all come from a broken family because God’s family is broken. The thing is, this isn’t the tragedy we assume. Broken is right where God wants us — and right where He can powerfully reassemble us.
In the beginning, God created man and woman. Adam and Eve were a family, a man and a woman evidencing the image of God in their beings and in their union. But before they even got around to making children, they fell and broke. The original family was a broken family — separated from the very heart of God.
The very first child was born into this broken, messy family.
In the space of the first five chapters of the Bible, man and woman became one, disobeyed God’s only prohibition, and gave birth to two sons, one of whom murdered the other. The result is that by Genesis 6, the inhabitants of the planet were those whose hearts were turned so wholly toward evil that God decided to start over again.
God’s heart broke over His broken family.
The second time around, the results were no better. God started again with one family — this time Noah’s. For forty days and forty nights they did okay together. But once the Flood ended, Noah and his sons lost their footing — and the downfall of the family continued.
- At the request of his wife, who was impatient for a child, Father Abraham took their slave, Hagar, as his mistress and had an illegitimate heir.
- Jacob married one sister but actually loved — and also married — another.
- David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband.
- The prophet Hosea was betrayed by his unfaithful wife, Gomer, yet took her back.
In Scripture we find families built with love and chastity and families formed from rape and sin. Children born from one father to mothers who were sisters. Children born out of adultery, through prostitution, and into polygamous marriages. Children born to people of humble means and then relinquished through adoption to rulers and royals. And because respect didn’t come naturally to His people, God had to tell them to honor their parents.
That’s just in the Old Testament. The New Testament begins with an unwed — though betrothed — pregnant teenager…
We all come from a broken family and then create another broken family, because all families are broken. Even God’s. In our brokenness, we are just where we need to be. Fractured. Messed up. Sinful. Needy. Redeemable.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Pain makes theologians of us all… Pain is one of the fastest routes to a no-frills encounter with the Holy.”1
There is beauty in the broken.
Our Creator God pants to bring His children into being, and then his heart tears in pain as we run, hide, and reject His love. Our Father God christens us sons and daughters and then releases us to our own stubborn ways but stands in the road, watching and waiting for us to return to Him. Our hereafter God dreams of redemption, when we are restored to His original purposes and put in pleasant places in relationship to Him and to each other.
Humankind is a broken, messy family. And we all come from this broken family. The family broke before it was even completely made. Just as my efforts fell short of fixing the breakage of my first and second families, our efforts will also miss the mark in making families whole and healthy in our broken world.
Think of it this way: If God’s family was and is broken, why do we think ours will be any different?
Isaiah 53 prophesies that healing for the broken will arrive through an unexpected channel: a broken Messiah. In Isaiah 53:2, the coming king is seen as less than lovely. Seemingly no “beauty in the broken” there.
He had no special beauty or form to make us notice Him; there was nothing in His appearance to make us desire Him.
My pastor, Robert Gelinas, compared the beauty of Jesus to that of Fiona in Shrek. There was beauty in the princess, but it wasn’t revealed until she became an ogre, revealing to Shrek and others her beauty from within.2
The beautification of brokenness appears as God’s despised man of sorrows takes our infirmities upon himself. Isaiah 53:5 underlines God’s provision for the broken heart, the broken soul, the broken human, and yes, the broken family.
But He was wounded for the wrong we did; He was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him, and we are healed because of His wounds.
The word “wounded” in this verse actually refers to bruises — black and blue marks created by broken blood vessels.3 And the word “healed” comes from a root meaning “mended, repaired, thoroughly made whole — spiritually forgiven.”4 By His broken blood vessels that resulted in black and blue blotches we are made thoroughly whole.
Somewhere along my journey from my first broken family to my second broken family, I began to understand that the brokenness in my first family wasn’t my fault. God led me through the layers of shame and fear to convince me: I had no control over my parents’ choices. I didn’t run my father off. I didn’t force my mother to overdrink. Gently, God led me to the words of 1 John 4:18:
Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears.
I realized that I did not need to fear because Jesus had already endured any punishment I might face. We are healed because of His wounds.
Hear me well: the brokenness inflicted on you in your first family is not your fault.
The years passed and I mothered my second family. In spite of my imperfect, broken places, gradually I faced the reality that God did not evaluate my mothering by how perfectly or imperfectly my children developed. Rather, He expected me to address how I influenced my children by how I yielded to His love for me and then acted it out in life. Period. He did not ask me to control their responses, their choices, or their consequences. I could throw my body over the potholes in their path, and they might or might not heed my warnings. I could not fix my family — my first family or my second — any more than I could fix myself. I was broken. They were broken. I was to offer myself to God and to allow Him to use my best, but still flawed, mothering to shape their development.
By His wounds we are healed.
While the brokenness you experienced in your first family is not your fault — remember that — there may be elements of brokenness in your first or second family that you are responsible for. If so, say so. It is up to you to take responsibility to right the wrongs and move toward healing. I’ve had to go to each of my children and my husband and confess my overparenting, my fear, my judgment, my inadequacy. At times the list of my failings has been so long that there was no gathering it up in my arms. I dragged it about behind me like a length of toilet paper stuck to my shoe. Humiliating, but necessary to notice and shake away.
Jesus alone has the power to heal the broken. Jesus alone has the power to save the lost. It’s by His wounds that we find healing. Broken families find healing as the broken people within them admit their brokenness and yield personally to God’s healing power. Rather than praying, “Make my family whole,” we pray, “Make me whole.”
When we are broken, we are exactly where God wants us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. — Matthew 5:3 NIV
When we are broken we are bankrupt. When we are bankrupt we are dependent. When we are dependent we are done with ourselves and open to God.
Crazy thing here: we tend to view our fallings as grounds for disqualification from meaningful ministry, from lasting relationships, from worthy contributions to our world — when exactly the opposite is true. When we fall and then turn to God for the hope and help he alone offers us, we can actually become more qualified for fuller living. Our brokenness makes us more able to invest in the lives of those around us as we bring God’s healing of us to our relating to them.
Make your way through the pages of Scripture and you’ll see human after human used more mightily after a fall than before. Abraham. Moses. Rahab. David. Ruth. Jonah. Peter. Mark. Paul.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Yet hope emerges through understanding that the broken family is anything but an unredeemable reality. Compassion comes as we understand that all of us — every one of us — is birthed forth from God’s broken family. As we embrace our own need for mercy, we can extend grace to others. While vibrant and full of life, the healthy family of today is also gritty and real, a place where assembly and even reassembly is required. When we are broken, we are right where we need to be before God. And where we need to stay.
There is beauty in the broken.
Excerpted with permission from The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan, copyright Elisa Morgan.
- Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 157–58.
- Robert Gelinas, “Transfiguration: Beautiful,” sermon at Colorado Community Church, May 13, 2012; http://www.coloradocommunity .org/media/sermons/sermons-online/?page=4.
- Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon, 2250; http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin /strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=2250; R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset & D. Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible (Oak Habor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Isaiah 53:5; J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Isaiah 53:5.
- Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon, 7495; http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin /strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=7495; Victoria Neufeldt, David B. Guralnik, Eds., Third College Edition Webster’s Dictionary, (New York: Prentice Hall, 1986), 621.
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We are all broken. Every person is broken and every family is broken. Even God’s. Isn’t that somewhat of a relief? We can come straight to the Lord unafraid because He already knows that we’re broken, we fail, we make messes, and we need His healing. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about the beauty in the broken! ~ Devotionals Daily