“I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans,”
I once texted those lyrics from Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli to our oldest daughter. She had received a car for graduation less than 6 months earlier and had just been in her second accident. She seemed to have somehow missed the lesson on blind spots or she was distracted on that day or something . . . but at that point she was discouraged. Because she loved this song, I knew exactly how she would respond to my text:
“Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy.”
Perfection is my enemy. I found myself singing those lyrics again a few months later as I worked on a project. I had two canvases I wanted to hang above our bed. I wanted the words, “Broken Together” painted on them. If you haven’t heard this song by Casting Crowns you should listen to it. REALLY. It is a song that greatly ministered to me and my husband as we were going through a time of great brokenness and we have continued to try to hold on to its truths.
“Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
. . . The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.”
I had considered having a friend who is much better at lettering, paint the canvases for me, but there was a part of me that felt I should do it myself. I was very hesitant, however, because I knew it wasn’t going to look as good if I did it. It wouldn’t be perfect.
Sure enough my perfectionist tendencies kicked in as I was painting. At one point I was in tears, painted over everything I had done and started over. It was during my second attempt that I found myself singing those Free to Be Me lyrics, “perfection is my enemy.”
You’ve probably already picked up on the irony of this, but I was a little slow. I was literally painting the word BROKEN and was trying not to get frustrated because it was not perfect when it finally hit me . . . brokenness and perfection can’t coexist. I was going to have to decide which one I was going to embrace; it couldn’t be both. I chose broken.
Now at that point I didn’t just start slapping the words on the canvas with no thought or care, but I did let go of the need for it to be just right and stopped trying to correct every little mistake. And there were mistakes – parts that weren’t just right, but these became reminders that I am not just right either. Neither is my spouse. Neither is our marriage.
Later I found myself in tears again, but this time they were not tears of frustration but tears of gratitude. I had been painting in the garage and brought the canvases inside. I set them up in a window sill in the kitchen to finish drying. I was getting some water at the sink, turned to look at the paintings and right there between the O and K, I saw it. . . a cross. The frame of the canvas had a vertical piece in the middle and there was a random streak of darker paint going across and as the light came through the window you could see it – the cross.
I said earlier that brokenness and perfection cannot coexist, but that is not entirely true. There is a place where they coexist beautifully. On the cross the body of Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, was broken for my sin. He who knew no sin, became sin, so that I could receive his righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Because Christ, the perfect, sinless, spotless lamb chose to be broken and die for my sin, I am now viewed by my Heavenly Father as righteous, redeemed, perfect.
Actually, now that I’ve thought more about all this, I’m going to have to retract my previous statement. Perfection and brokenness can coexist. They coexist in me. Christ has given me his perfect standing with the Father, but as long as I live on this earth, brokenness will be a part of who I am. I am broken and my world is full of broken people . . . as a matter of fact, my house is full of broken people and my church as well.
What can’t coexist is perfectionism and brokenness. The more I try to live up to a standard of perfectionism, to appear as though I have it all together, the more likely I am to miss the deep community God desires for me to have with others and there is a strong chance relationships will be broken apart.
There is a difference between a broken relationship and being broken together. I know this too well. When we’re broken together we come alongside one another admitting our own weaknesses and encouraging our brothers and sisters in theirs as we walk through this broken world together. There is a big difference. It’s the difference between isolation and loneliness and deep, fulfilling relationships.
“The only way we’ll last forever is broken together.”
*I did go back and paint the cross into the picture.
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