Early in my teaching career, an academic dean said to me and my colleagues, “You are the curriculum.” My life would educate my students as much as any textbook or lesson plan. Long after those first-year college students forgot how to structure an effective introductory paragraph or how to avoid run-on sentences, they would remember what my life had taught them.
Now, as my oldest child begins middle school, with his brother and sister not far behind, I wonder what my life curriculum is teaching them. With stress rising on the crest of each new day, maybe I’ve lost sight of what really matters. Honestly? I’ve been too tangled in trying to fix all the ways my life isn’t measuring up, and I’ve stopped looking them in the eyes. I haven’t told them I’m sorry for being so wrapped up in my list of urgent things I haven’t engaged in honest confession: I’m worried and anxious and fearful that I’m getting this all wrong.
Four decades on this old ball of dirt, and I know it’s true: brokenness is what we bear. Sometimes it’s the brokenness of our own making: short-sightedness and too-short fuses; being enamored with tasks instead of people; insisting on our ways instead of helping others make a way; taking stock of deficiencies instead of the imago Dei in them. Sometimes it’s the brokenness we didn’t even ask for: a life cut short, a medical diagnosis, a broken relationship, failed finances, missed opportunities. When everything feels broken, how do you find your footing?
Sarah Clarkson urges us to reconsider all this brokenness: “A rich education must provide a way to bear frailty, to meet suffering, to tango with loss. But sometimes I think we treat suffering as if it was a specialty topic, something that only happens to some people. We don’t act as if it is integral to our experience as human beings and so we don’t include it in the way we think about education, spiritual or otherwise.”
I lived almost two full decades before I understood how broken life could be. How hard it can be to push aside the sheets, rise from my bed, and put one shaky foot in front of the other. How impossible it feels to believe that God is good in the wake of devastating realizations. Sometimes I still want to believe that pain, loss, and suffering are all anomalies to be swept under the rug, best ignored and moved on from. But Sarah pries open my guarded heart as she continues, “A well-woven narrative can be a way to journey through the brokenness, to traverse and map our sorrow, even to find its borders, rather than merely assent to it.”
Living a broken but beautifully surrendered life seems more like a nice ideal than a reality I can grasp. I’m frustrated by the broken nature of this world getting in the way of the life I want to live and of being the mama, the wife, the friend, the human I want to be…
Continue the read over at The Glorious Table.