Shelburne: Can we come back after we’ve been broken?

Can we “come back” after we’ve been broken? That’s the question.

Anything columnist Charles Krauthammer writes is worth reading, so I wasn’t surprised that his recent book Things That Matter, a compilation of some of his best columns, is filled with gems of uncommon sense.

Krauthammer tells an amazing “come back” story from the world of baseball (the game is a great metaphor for life) and then makes his point. Every life, he writes, has a moment when “the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter” has fallen.

His example is the story of a young pitcher on the way to incredible success who crashed, burned, lost it all, and then . . . (Get the book.)

But “catastrophe” doesn’t just come to pitchers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a master at cover-your-tail-section “risk management.” Guess what? Life is risky and can’t be completely managed.

The “catastrophe” comes. We’re broken. Then, as Krauthammer writes, “what distinguishes us is whether—and how—we ever come back.”

The good news is that, if we’re not destroyed, we’ll come back better. And once we learn (shock!) that we’re mere mortals and not “a cut above” ordinary people, then ordinary people, others who have been broken, will seek us instead of running from us.

Alas, an easy way to learn what God teaches us through brokenness and tears is not available.

In no other way will we learn to give compassion that is real and not condescending.

In no other way will we meet grace that is genuine and not Satan’s lie: “Work harder (like me), and you won’t really need much grace.”

In no other way will we learn to extend real mercy.

People who have been broken are the least likely folks to break others. Aware that they’ve received rich mercy as a free gift, they extend it quickly and graciously to others. When we’re still among the unbending, unbroken folks, blissfully (for now) unaware of how much mercy we need, we are misers where mercy is concerned, as if giving such a precious gift somehow reduces our own supply, rather than actually enriching and expanding our hitherto pinched off spirits.

Only people who have been broken can be much help to broken people. Our Father wants us to be able to give the gift he has given us. But he knows—oh, how he knows—how much giving real mercy costs.

We all put Jesus on the cross. But we do well to notice that the folks whose throats were hoarse from crying, “Crucify him!” were folks filled with faith in their own righteous holiness. Unbroken folks. And thus dangerous and most willing and likely to break others. “Spiritual” folks are always the first to show up at crucifixions.

And yet Christ’s brokenness saves us. And in our own we learn to truly experience and extend his mercy.

“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

 Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at
ckshel@aol.com

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