A bone-crushing journey

February 10th, 2016

Remembering broken bones

I’ve never had a broken bone, though as a pastor I’ve seen lots of other folks experience them. I know enough to know that it’s no fun and that if they are going to heal properly they have to be set correctly.

I’ll never forget the way my brother-in-Christ, Justin LaRosa, suffered a broken leg while showboating on a jet ski (“pride goeth before destruction”) the day before his infant son was to be baptized. He didn’t want to miss the baptism or be drugged up on Sunday morning, so there he was on his crutches, obviously in pain for the baptism, before going to the hospital for the bone to be set.

I remembered Justin when I read Psalm 51 again this morning, particularly the eighth verse: Let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.

This week’s writer in The Upper Room Disciplines offered this insight:

We have trouble thinking about our faith journey as bone-crushing. But that’s what the psalmist describes. Along the path of life, we have some seriously breaking-and-mending work to do…We may need God to help us break out of the confining and unhealthy way we have chosen and to mend what is torn or worn out.

Mending broken bones

It also took me back to my book, Strength for the Broken Places. The title comes from Ernest Hemingway: The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. Here are my opening lines:

I’m broken. So are you. We’re all broken people who live in a broken world. The critical question is how we find strength to put the broken things back together.

This book is an invitation…to explore some of the dark places in our human experience, to track down the sneaky culprit of temptation, to uncover the sinister power of sin, and to experience the way the grace of God, revealed at the cross, meets us in our broken places to bring new life through the power of the Resurrection.

Thumbing back through the pages reminded me of why this might my favorite of the books I’ve written — right up there with A Disciple’s Heart. Both books took me to deep places in myself, places where I found the grace that both crushes and heals, the love that makes broken bones straight.

A day for crushed bones

Ash Wednesday is as much about crushed bones as is it about the ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. It’s a day for remembering that we are, in fact, dust and to dust we will return. To be human is to acknowledge that we are humus, the Latin word for earth, from which we also get the word humility — a virtue that seems to be in short supply on the campaign trail these days.

This is the day to experience both the brokenness and the healing in Psalm 51. It’s a day to remember Charles Wesley’s prayer:

O Jesus, full of pardoning grace,
More full of grace than I of sin;
Yet once again I seek thy face:
Open thine arms and take me in;
And freely my backslidings heal,
And love the faithless sinner still.

May that grace be as real as the ashes on our foreheads and may this Lent be a time of divine bone crushing and healing for each of us.

Jim Harnish is the author of "A Disciple's Heart" and "Earn. Save. Give." He blogs at at JimHarnish.org.

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