[broken]

time in Liberia always moves at its own, unique pace. i’ve been back for only two and a half days, yet somehow, it feels like a lifetime ago that i stepped off the plane into the humid night air, the heat that settles itself deep in your pores, on the shoulders like a heavy blanket. two and a half days. how can so many thoughts, so many emotions and experiences exist within the confines of 65 hours?

i’ve had one word running through my mind since i landed here, a word that i’ve been chewing on, deliberately, thinking about and mulling over and holding up to the light:: broken. broken? at first glance, it doesn’t make much sense. sure, when i first came to Liberia in 2008, i was broken. i’d just gone through a messy divorce, i’d lost a job and relationships, and everything i’d held secure had come crashing down around me, shattering into a million tiny pieces at my feet. the shell-shocked woman who first stepped foot on African soil five and a half years ago–she was undoubtedly broken. but i’m no longer that woman; everything’s changed since then.

and when i left Liberia in 2013 i was, again, broken–just in a different way. i had PTSD, and the depression i’ve battled for most of my life had reared its ugly head. i’d seen too much, felt too much:: the grief when children die too soon, the shame when i finally understood my white privilege, the anger when teen girls were raped by men in their twenties and no one did a thing about it. i left Liberia 14 months ago broken, most certainly, but in the time i had at home–i healed. mind, body, heart, and soul; all those fragmented pieces have been put back together again.

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                                           [Photo by Peter Kirkeskov / Flickr / Creative Commons]

and so thinking about all of this, i see that i have come to equate Liberia with brokenness–my own, mostly, that of my heart and something deep within me that used to feel as if it would never be whole again. over the years, Liberia had stretched me, drained me, broke me. the things i saw, those that my heart and mind could never really find the words for–they wore me out, wore me down.

but somewhere along the line, i started thinking: maybe it doesn’t have to be like this. maybe there’s a better way. maybe brokenness no longer has to mean what it used to. hannah brencher wrote, “your heart is supposed to be broken like bread and passed all around, not left in pieces on the floor.” and these days, i hold her words within me, delicately, for i can feel the truth in them, and it feels holy, somehow. i hold her words, and i can’t help but think of our Christ, who broke the bread to feed thousands–and it was in the breaking that it was mysteriously multiplied. and i think, too, of when he himself was broken, on behalf of us, for the sake of love; again, the breaking somehow gives way to more, something better, something full.

so i started thinking about all these things, and it came to me:: maybe i can do something with this brokenness. maybe it means that somehow, someway, now there’s suddenly more of my heart to go around. i can hug and hold and share and pray and love without it taking everything out of me. looking back, i think there was a time when i was supposed to suffer with; but perhaps now is the time to show what awaits on the other side. the thin places, they always stretch you, and the hard places, they’re full of grit and pain, but they don’t last forever; that much i know to be true.

maybe my brokenness was only meant for a season after all. yes, it was heavy, and it was painful, and the season seemed long, too long. but it served a purpose. and maybe, just maybe–now is the time for redemption. maybe now is the time to see Liberia through fresh eyes, through the lens of what it feels like to be living a better story. maybe i’ll always carry the burden, and maybe the hard things are always going to break me. but i do not have to remain broken. i don’t have to stay shattered.

i have a choice. i can use what’s been broken, and i can see something new be birthed from it. and that–well, that’s a really beautiful thing.