The Beauty of Brokenness

My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17 (Amplified Bible)

It was December 1987 and I was one of thousands of people on the University of Illinois campus at Urbana/Champaign. We were all together for Urbana '87, one of the largest missions conferences in the United States. Young collegiates from all over the United States that had an interest in possibly pursuing God's call on their lives to full-time missions gathered for several intense days of meetings. I was nineteen years old and had no idea what the future held for me. I figured that God might give me some specific direction during those days as to how my missions experience in the Congo might be used of Him.

The speakers that were brought to Urbana were some of the most articulate and authoritative in their particular area of interest. I know that I was moved deeply and told the Lord that week that I was willing to be used by Him in any way He wanted to use me. But the one story that stuck out to me from the dozen speakers I heard those four days was not about missions nor was it about an adult. It wasn't even about sharing the gospel with someone else. It was about a young boy with a physical handicap who was bullied ferociously by others.

I confess that I have forgotten specific details of the story. But as I recall, this young man was part of a large group of boys who were possibly attending a week of Christian youth camp together. As so often happens, the one who does not fit in becomes the scape goat for the cruel remarks of those who are desperately insecure. I don't remember if this boy could walk, maybe with crutches, or perhaps he was confined to a wheelchair. But he wanted so much to just be one of the guys with the dream of being an ordinary boy who blended in with everyone else. Unfortunately, as soon as he opened his mouth, those around him saw that he was not like them. Drool spilled out of his mouth and whenever he talked, he unintentionally spit out his words. He soon became the laughing stock of the camp. Mean pranks and foolish jokes were played on him all week long. He bravely endured the mistreatment. Except for the sad look on his face, he did not retaliate in any way.

The last night of the week together was centered around an opportunity where the boys could share what they had learned about Jesus that week. The boys were fidgety and uncooperative and the staff wondered if the week had made any spiritual impact on the boys at all. The leader asked if there was anyone else who wanted to share.

"I-I-I d-d-do," replied the beautiful boy with cerebral palsy.

Snickers started spreading like wildfire among the boys. The camp staff firmly told the boys to settle down.


Loud guffaws of laughter could be heard now. Boys were falling over with their cruel, exaggerated laughter. Undaunted, the beautiful boy started speaking again, every word requiring the utmost concentration he could muster:

"J-J-J-e-sus l-l-l-ov-loves m-m-m-me!"

Three simple words that came with a flood of spittle and yet the power of Christ's presence broke all over that group of boys. The snickers were replaced with total silence. Then sobs, quiet at first, but soon loud and unabashed came from the same mouths of the beautiful boy's taunters. That night several boys came to know the same Jesus who had given such profound courage to this beautiful boy with the broken body.

We are all broken. We are all handicapped. We were never meant to be self-sufficient. And when we try to pretend that we are, we compete for God's glory. Our God delights to take broken, inadequate, unworthy human beings just like us and so fill them with His Spirit that where our brokenness was once so painfully apparent, only His Son, Jesus, can be seen. The beautiful soul does not need a beautiful body or an eloquent tongue. The beautiful soul is the broken soul that is surrendered to her Redeemer. Suddenly weakness is replaced with an irresistible strength that draws others to Jesus. The brokenness becomes beauty in the hand of the Master. He enables us to do and endure what we thought would surely kill us. He gives us peace in the midst of what should be terror. And He glorifies Himself in sinful people like me! How can we resist Him? Do we need to be reminded again of how beautiful a broken vessel is when it is filled with God Himself? Look in the mirror. Are you broken? But do you have the living God dwelling inside you because Jesus is the Lord of your life? Then you are the one for the job. He needs someone who will not compete for the glory, but will be willing to show His strength in her weakness.

Jesus, let that person be me. May the world not remember Shawn Lantz, but my Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the only One worthy of anyone's praise. Let me remember that true beauty lies in real brokenness that has been yielded to You to use. Thank You for being willing to use this flawed life to bring You the glory You so deserve. How do I adequately express how much I love You? I simply cannot. But this I do know, Jesus loves me!