Brave Enough to Be Broken
By Marie Drakulic
“For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11).
I recently watched a movie where the hero’s family is trapped inside a burning skyscraper. In one scene, amongst the flames and burning timber, he kneels to eye level with his son. “I’m scared,” the son admits. “It’s okay to be scared,” he replies. “In order to be brave, you’ve got to be a little scared.” Now, here I am, in the middle of that action movie, with tears in my eyes. Because I get it!
I get what it’s like to be stuck in a fire that feels as though it will consume you at any moment. I know what it’s like to look into your child’s eyes and see fear—fear you can’t take away. It’s not monsters under the bed or a loud thunderstorm. You can’t flip on the lights or hold them until it passes. The fear is real.
Sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine things are different—that we aren’t the family who people know because of a cancer diagnosis. For a moment, I see Austin as a normal teenager and us as a family growing up together. I imagine we are regular people with everyday problems. But when I open my eyes, reality hits me like a Mack truck. The reality is Austin has brain cancer, and it is deadly. We don’t get to grow up together or even plan next summer’s vacation. We can’t see past the next MRI. We are in the middle of a burning building, with fire surrounding us. Cancer hasn’t afforded me the luxury of not seeing my own brokenness. I am reminded of it every day. And it is both a gift and the most painful, heart-crushing thing I have ever experienced.
You might think it odd I would call it a gift. I’m still struggling to find the words to describe it myself. But I have never been so sure of God’s love for me than I am right now. It seems the hotter the flames, the more I know how deep and reckless and all consuming His love is for us. His love is so deep, He willingly stands in the fire with us. C.S. Lewis describes this phenomenon in his allegory, The Magician’s Nephew:
He thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came into his throat with tears in his eyes, and he blurted out: “But please, please—won't you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up until then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. . . . For a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
I may look strong, but I live afraid. Yet, that fear drives me to Jesus. Every morning, I get up and put one foot in front of the other. It’s because of Him. Every time I listen to a bad report at the oncologist and turn again to mother my children. Him. Every time I minister to others. Him. Only Him. Always.
That’s where bravery comes in. I have full access to Christ’s power when I surrender the full measure of my brokenness. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, “I rather glory [boast] in my infirmities [weakness], that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (12:9). I have to tell you, I would rather do plenty of other things than boast about my weaknesses. Like hide in a cave. Being vulnerable sometimes feels like having my heart raked over hot coals. But when I am brave enough to be broken, God’s extraordinary power is alive in me (2 Corinthians 4:7). When I am brave enough to face reality, I remember the greatest truth: Heaven is real and Christ died so we might attain it.
Cancer doesn’t get to win. When I am brave enough to “ugly cry” in front of someone, I get to experience the richness and depth of true friendship. When I am brave enough to admit it will hurt and things might not get better this side of eternity, I experience a joy that goes deeper than my circumstances.
What about you? Are you brave enough to be broken? You may not have a child with cancer, but I assure you, my friend, we have all been broken. Your brokenness may have come at your own hand—sin, addiction, or rebellion. Your brokenness may be a result of someone else’s rejection through divorce or abandonment. Your brokenness may be a result of death. I am learning grief never goes away, only changes as time passes. Your brokenness may result from failing health or poor finances. Or your brokenness may simply be the result of living in a world that is dying. We live in the in-betweens and untils, a time after perfection and before complete redemption. Whatever it is that caused it, you are broken.
It takes a good dose of courage to see the fire around you and admit you are afraid. You need to be courageous to stand before others and admit you are vulnerable, to confess you can’t make it better, to ask for help. It will be painful, but it will be worth it.
I will never forget the day when I knew it was cancer. They hadn’t told us officially yet, but I knew. I grabbed my phone and ran from the hospital room. Bursting into tears, I called my best friend. “I know God can be glorified in this, but I don’t want it,” I cried. And He has been glorified in this. Over and over, I have seen Him do “exceedingly, abundantly” (see Ephesians 3:20). Oh, but I think I know what Paul means when he calls it a weight, because some days the glory of Heaven seems too heavy a burden to bear on earth. Lord, help me to be brave—brave enough to be broken.
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
About the Writer: Marie Drakulic and her husband Tony are team members with Daryl Grimes, planting Flagship FWB Church in Erie, Pennsylvania: www.flagshipchurch.com.