The poor thing didn't have a chance. Not with wind gusts of up to 60mph whipping around it. It was bound to fall over and sure enough it did. Potted plants just aren't made for that kind of weather and neither was my wife's Hibiscus. I went out the front door last week to find it lying on it's side in the middle of the yard, it's forlorn, windswept blooms staring up at me as if to say, "What are you doing leaving me out here?!?" I picked it up and placed it just inside the front door and looked it over to see if there was any severe damage. There was only one break. A small branch with a bud on the end had broken. But the break was not clean through. It kind of dangled there, sad and pathetic. I thought to myself, "That bud will never blossom." I went to get scissors to snip it off completely, and as often happens in a house full of children, I forgot about it completely.
Have you ever felt like that poor plant? You are sitting where God has placed you, and then out of the blue a storm comes and blows you off balance. And as you roll and tumble, you feel the pressure and then the snap! of something breaking. I have, and unless you are very young or very out of touch, chances are you have felt that disoriented and painful sensation of breakage.
We are reminded of brokenness everywhere we look. This month, my wife's cell phone decided that it would no longer charge. Snap! This past week as my car sat parked along a busy street, someone drove by and clipped my side-view mirror with theirs. Snap! Just this morning, I went to turn on the television to watch the news and heard a 'pop-fizzle' sound, and now instead of a TV I have a 27-inch paperweight. Snap! We are surrounded by brokenness.
Even our bodies remind us we live in a broken world. A father is diagnosed with cancer. Snap! A couple tries unsuccessfully for years to conceive a child. Snap! A family slowly loses their grandmother to the fog of Alzheimer's. Snap! Yes, our bodies act as barometers of the storms that bring pain and brokenness.
If only that brokenness were confined to things or our physical bodies, but we see broken people around us as well. A marriage suddenly ends when one partner decides that someone else's grass is greener. Snap! Children raised in good Christian homes grow up and reject the faith of their parents and live lifestyles that are self-destructive. Snap! A man tries to bear the weight of the world on his own shoulders, but succumbs to trying to drown out the world with alcohol. Snap! A woman is stuck in an abusive relationship because she doesn't know if there is any way out, and for some reason she truly does love the person who harms her. Snap! Broken people make up a large portion of our population, and chances are, there is part of you that is broken as well.
You lost your temper with the kids. Snap!
You got laid off at work and actually doubted God's ability to sustain you. Snap!
You failed to love your spouse like Jesus loves His Church. Snap!
You might even be wondering how God can use you if you are so broken.
Funny thing about that Hibiscus plant (you thought I had forgotten about it didn't you?) I came back the next day to place it outside and noticed something odd. The bud that was at the end of the broken stem had bloomed! Apparently it had enough of a connection with the main part of the plant that it was able to blossom, in spite of it's broken condition. This reminded me of a conversation that Jesus had with His disciples in John 14-16. Jesus is with His disciples on the last night of His earthly life and He instructs them that hard times are going to come. In other words, storms are coming to blow them off course. But then, in John 15, Jesus gives them the secret to surviving life's storms, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (verses 4-5) I love how The Message paraphrases parts of this, "Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you... I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant..." What Jesus is saying here is that the key to survival is to keep the relationship with Him close and intimate.
You might be questioning right now, "But I am broken. How can God use me if I have snapped off the vine?" Just because you are broken doesn't mean you have been snapped completely off. Just as the flower blossomed, you too can bear fruit. Paul hinted at this in 2 Corinthians when he spoke of a thorn in the flesh, a physical brokenness that he felt inhibited him from bearing fruit. I love God's reply to Paul's request for the thorn, the broken thing, to be removed: "My grace is sufficient for you; My power is perfected in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) Stay connected. Pray for the Vine-dresser to come and repair you. Realize that even though you are broken, through the all-sufficient grace of God, you can bloom and bear fruit. And in this brokenness, God's power just may be perfected within you!