Earth is a beautiful but broken place, and it’s hard to accept this fact and know what to do with it.
It’s hard to see brokenness painted on an earth-sized canvas and detailed in the eyes of every man, woman, and child. Hope and sorrow are always mingled in this world, a tandem pairing in every life, every system, every country.
As I write I am seeing a homeless friend through the coffee shop window. He is an older gentleman, feeble and stumbling across the sidewalk. He’s wearing a large fur cap and is holding a pipe to his mouth with a tight fist. His nose is running and dripping all down his chin. I pause my writing to ask his name and chat with him for a bit. His eyes are filled with lostness, suggesting that he is somewhere far away, and that he is unwell.
Through sharing a cup of coffee I learn that his name is Don*. A closer look brings a smile to my face as I realize he’s dressed like Elvis. Every time I see him he is wearing the same matted black wig and bell bottom pants that used to be white but are now a light brown. He’s talking about how he just had a birthday, how he lost his job, and how he wants to go to Memphis someday to see Graceland. My smiles and nods are laced with sadness since I know: I know he needs love in so many ways.
He’s broken. I am too.
Yesterday morning I was drowning in noise, though the room was silent and I was alone. It was noise so loud that it threatened to overtake me. The noise was from within, and it seeped into my heart slow and heavy, like an oil leak. Whispers of doubt. Screams of insecurity. I heard it all and my heart couldn’t handle it, so I did what I had to do: I pulled the covers back over my head, put my earbuds in, and went back to sleep.
We’re broken, but hope is at our door.
We are all broken in a million different ways: mental illness, physical illness, broken relationships, opportunities that we’ve missed or lost, relationships that we’ve lost and miss, marriages that break, bank accounts that empty, jobs that take and take but give so little. A million ways that we hurt and crack and crumble and break. A million ways we experience loss and pain, heartbreak and disappointment.
People are complex, and so are our problems, and so are our wounds. But grace lights a million candles in the dim, dark, musty corners of our broken lives.
The sunset on a northern lake. A sweet card made of red construction paper and placed into my hands by a little girl. Stumbling upon an orchestra in rehearsal at the city hall and sitting quiet, observing from above. A painting that begs to be adored and meditated on. Sunlight – in any form, at any time, in any place. A dancer who feels the music and gives life to the words. These are candles that light up my life.
God moves in a million ways, nothing is too small or too big for Him to work through.
And just as people are broken in a million ways, so are people healed. One Healer, but a million ways He heals. A touch on the hem of His garment. Seven dips in the Jordan River. Writing in the sand, on a wall, on stone tablets, in our hearts. Some spittle and mud. A prayer to heaven and a call to dead bones.
A cabin in the Muskoka woods with eight little girls and an open Bible. Sandwiches and water bottles under a Seattle bridge. Prayers through a street in Vancouver. He heals, He moves. Maybe physically, maybe spiritually, but usually some unpredictable combination of the two. And in that moment, God’s kingdom on earth is growing, like flowers out of cracked cement or grass on a gravesite.
The God Who Resurrects
I recall a painting by an artist friend of mine. It’s a skeletal ribcage on barren ground with a single monarch butterfly in the middle. Light illuminates the ribcage, and though they are dead bones, life and light are present in the midst of them. God is in the business of resurrection. He brings life where there was once only death.
When the cups of coffee aren’t cutting it, when drastic measures leave us empty and hurt – He still is the God who resurrects. When she’s standing on the street corner asking for money on the daily, sharing her story of the hell she’s lived through – He still is the God who resurrects. When he is living with addiction, mental illness, and personal demons – God is still the God who resurrects. When depression overtakes me and I can’t get out of bed and or out of my head, He is still the God who resurrects.
We who have nothing. We come before Your throne, to drink deep the living water. And at Your feet, we who have nothing are filled. We who are weary find rest. We who are broken find healing. And we who have nothing find ourselves being gifted everything. Loved back to life, loved back to hope, loved back to love.
A garden grows here, from inside, bursting forth from the places I’ve been loved. Because the hearts that God prunes produce fruit, and He tends to those He loves.
God keeps loving me back to life, and I believe He’ll do the same for each of His children, including me, including my Elvis dressed friend, including you.
Trust His hands as He tends to your heart; let love take root in the deepest parts of you.
 Can These Bones Live? Josh Tiessen, 2016.