Wounds, Brokenness and a Happy Father’s Day!
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable to you Lord God, our heavenly Father, Amen.
‘Do not waste your wounds, Jesus did not waste his.’ These were some of the last words that Bishop Robert Ladds left with myself and seven other deacons in his final address to us at our preordination retreat, earlier on this week. ‘Do not waste your wounds, Jesus did not waste his.’
The theme of wounds and brokenness has become central to my theology over the past ten years of my life. Many of you will have heard me speak of my upbringing in the Pentecostal wing of the church; in our churches we had a very strong theology, and subsequent belief, in God’s desire and power for healing and God’s constant attempt to make you happy and bless those who correctly followed him. Far less developed was any theology of wounds and brokenness. God wanted to heal you, bless you and make you happy, if you were not experiencing these realities than you weren’t praying hard enough, did not have enough faith or simply were not spiritually in the right place.
The first time I found reason to rethink this came when situations, which seemed entirely out of my control, disrupted the general peace, joy and comfort I had, until that time, experienced as my life. I struggled with trying to understand why God didn’t love me as much as others, why my pain was somehow not important enough to God for him to act. I tried to ask what wrong I was doing, in a desperate attempt to figure out where the blessing of God was and how I could get to that place. What my theology was never able to reconcile was that God’s unconditional love was actually unconditional and sometimes life threw things my way and were not any reflection of God’s intentions or actions toward me. In turn my theology took a massive redevelopment, and so pain, wounds and brokenness became central to embrace not avoid.
I would be surprised to find anyone here who could not think about a difficult, painful, or destructive situation that has happened in their life. The way we deal with those situations will vary, but the fact that life has in some way or another, ‘happened to us’, is universal. It is this happening to us that often causes pain, wounds and brokenness. We all bear the scars of the life we have lived, some simple wounds quickly healed while others broke us to points we never thought we could move past.
Our reading, in 1 Samuel, revolves around the victorious martial campaigns of David; previous to the verses we have heard is the story of David slaying Goliath. After this momentous victory, David’s success snowballs as battle after battle is won. Two people, who are very close to David at this time are King Saul and the king’s son, Jonathan. Our reading tells us that the Lord had left Saul and was with David, a reality that seems to be a very sore spot for King Saul and is something he is never able to move past.
Saul was the first human King of Israel, his status was established when he was anointed and the Spirit of God came upon him. Under his rule Israel was recognised in the same way all other kingdoms were; a human nation ruled by a human king. Saul received honour, status, power and wealth. It also became his right to pass his kingdom down to his own children, enter Jonathan.
Jonathan, by all accounts was a good son. He himself served in the Israelite army; 1 Samuel 14 paints a vivid picture of his bravery and confidence in God. The pedigree seems good and Israel appears to be in good hands. Saul, unfortunately, begins to doubt the power and authority of God, and in turn God repents of making Saul King and sends the prophet Samuel to anoint David as future king of Israel; Jonathan and Saul have two very different responses.
Saul’s response, which I can resonate with, is to deny his fault and brokenness and to project on David the reason for his troubles. Saul does not repent of his faults and failures, but believes David to be the cause of his problems and so David is seen as the one who aims to over throw Saul’s rightful place. Just to alleviate any concerns or growing anxiety, I resonate with the feelings and projections of Saul, not with trying to pin someone to a wall with a spear.
Jonathan, who in many ways has more to lose than Saul, responds quite differently. We have to remember that his status and inheritance came through his father. Jonathan, being the first born son, was in for the highest title and wealth, he would become the new king of Israel. Instead David is anointed king, and how does Jonathan respond? Jonathan loves David as he loves himself. He then makes a covenant with David and gives David his robe and armour. It is interesting that in the story of David and Goliath, Saul tried to give David his armour and David finds himself swimming in it and unable to move, while Jonathan’s armour fits David to a tee. The imagery of how the mantle of the King of Israel is being passed and received could not be more clear; the kingship of David is built on the love and covenant of Jonathan, not the hate and mistrust of Saul. Both Saul and Jonathan will lose the greatness of what they have to David, Saul projects his downfall on David while Jonathan offers his loss as part of their love for each other.
I cannot continue without explicitly acknowledging the remembrance of this day, Father’s Day. It is a massive privilege to celebrate today because my Dad is here with us today. I remember from very young age wanting to follow in my father’s footsteps. I wanted to be a pastor in a church but more than that, I wanted to be a father like my dad, to raise someone with the same ever deepening love that I have lived with from both my parents.
Three years ago Meagan and I decided we would try to start our own family, a dream, that for me, was years in the making. Because of cultural expectations I believed the steps to getting pregnant to be as a simple as a walk in the park; I could not have been more wrong. What began at that time was to be the hardest and most painful path Meagan and I have walked. Infertility became the dark monster that we found in ever crack, crevasse and corner of our life. Because the overarching cultural mindset is one where married couples get pregnant and start a family, we found there were not really any places to talk about our experiences, except in the quiet, private offices of infertility specialists.
As it always seems to happen, life stacks itself against you in the moments your heart’s desire burrows deeper into your soul; the people closest to us were all getting pregnant. Nine people in a matter of months proclaimed with joy their ability to conceive, and we in secret mourned. I began to find myself getting angry at other people’s joy, other people’s successful fertilisation and I felt like a failure as a man and husband as I could not do what was meant to be simple and natural.
The stories of people’s pregnancies coupled with the occasional ‘I don’t quite know how it happened so fast, we had only begun to think about trying’, became more than I could handle. It all came to head at the beginning of Lent this year and I made the choice to cut communication with my family, for Lent, because I just couldn’t stand the ones closest to me being happy and living in a state I desperately wanted for Meagan and I.
Meagan and I used Lent to mourn our waiting and wanting, and to seek how we could rebuild the relationships that had been slowly eroding over the past couple of years. It was a long hard slog and we both hoped for new life, in so many ways, as we looked towards Easter Sunday.
I remember my first conversation with my dad after that long silence, we, for the first time, met each other in our brokenness. We talked in a way we had not before and we connected in a way like we used to when I would sit on his lap and just watch the world go by. This time we were holding each other and we were both being held by our heavenly Father. I found out then that only by being open to meet another in the very depth of their brokenness with my wounds exposed, could we actually find that love and covenant like what we hear of Jonathan and David, and of which Jesus tells of God’s love for us.
The church should be a place where we experience, together, the depths and heights of our own and each other’s lives. It should be the one place where conversations can float between joy and sorrow, life and death and where we find God holding us together through it all. We are called to be the family, for those who have no one and for those who have someone. Our liturgy begins with a confession of our own brokenness, and we have intercessions for the world and ourselves before we share peace with one another, and then we meet in the greatest remembrance of love and brokenness, the Eucharist. You can only know true life and the depth of love if you also know of your own brokenness and the brokenness of others. Let us seek to be that kind of a community, a place where people find a community that has not wasted it’s wounds, because God has not wasted his.
I look forward with great hope that this is who we at St Mary’s are, because on the 15th December Meagan and I are looking to welcome a new member to our family and into this community. Happy fathers day to all, especially to God our Father, who loves us and is with us that we may find true life in the both joy and brokenness.