Broken Understanding: Ordain Women, Conference and Easter
First, I was asked to teach Temple Preparation to a humble woman in my area; it was a sacred personal exchange that touched me deeply. Also, I talked with my parents about their final experiences as missionaries as they concluded their mission and found them very moving. Additionally, I listened to General Conference, which is always a high point for me spiritually. I love feasting on the inspired words of the prophet, the apostles, and the other male and female leaders of the church. Coinciding with Conference, I had the privilege of walking with Ordain Women to the standby line at the Priesthood Session; praying, laughing, crying and being surrounded by these devoted and faithful women was inspiring to me.
Lastly, upon arriving home from Salt Lake City, I was asked to give the concluding remarks in my ward’s Easter Program. In preparation for my talk, I prayed and thought deeply about my Savior and His Atonement and felt personally blessed in my preparation. All of the leading experiences shaped my Easter remarks, particularly my experience with Ordain Women. The OW action pulled out a variety of view points and a lot of vitriol. It made me think of how we all see things “differently” and how we each have only a piece of truth. This idea of broken understanding led me to think of the broken bread and the broken Christ – and ultimately about redemption.
As I have thought of Easter for the past 40 days and during this Holy Week, my mind has rest on one scripture … in Mark Chapter 14.
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. (Mark 14:22)
We continue this tradition of blessing and brEaking bread each week during this very Sacrament Meeting – it is a symbol of Christ.
Jesus knew His body would be broken. He knew a terrible thing would happen – a brutal assassination. It is an intolerable thing. And the miracle of Easter is that God took this intolerable thing, and made it a blessing: the greatest blessing of all.
And because God created blessing out of that which was broken, we can have hope that He will do the same for us. He can take our unmet expectations, our shameful sins, our unspoken hurts – and bring blessing to these intolerable situations.
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
What else can this broken bread symbolize to us? I would propose two things: our broken understanding and our broken selves.
Our Broken Understanding
Each week, the Elders break the Sacrament bread – and pass it to us. We never see this bread made whole again, but rather we eat it, broken.
We take in to us a symbol of Christ’s body.
Each day and each week, we bring other pieces into us – into our minds and spirits – scriptures, lessons, conversations, temple sessions. We have pieces of truth and fragments of understanding.
We are all trying to put these broken pieces together and understand truth. Both children and adults are engaged in this pursuit.
In Primary we are trying to learn and understand truth.
Thane tells me that we can’t always hear the Holy Spirit, even when we listen and are very, very quiet.
Clara teaches me that being kind includes sharing with our brothers who we sometimes don’t like.
Nikola reminds me that there are so many, many things to be grateful for. You can even make a list of 32 things that are just good to hear with your ears.
I’ve been trying to understand the Atonement for a long time. I don’t think I can even understand it with my mind, let alone my heart. How was it done? How did one man – even if he was perfect and a God – internalize all the sin in the world? And pay for them … so that the scales of justice balanced? How did he feel all the hurt and shame and injustice? In just one night? And bear it? I am overwhelmed with these questions.
But I believe it was done. And then I am overwhelmed by the beauty of that grace.
I know that I learn grace to grace and truth to truth. Each day and week, I try to add another piece to my understanding. Over time (sometimes very long periods of time), the pieces come together for me in some areas. And I begin to see. And that is a blessing to me.
Have you ever felt it? The moment when the broken pieces of your understand snap together with a new piece of larger truth that encompasses all of the smaller pieces? And your spirit leaps forward? I believe that is the hidden blessing that grows out of the frustration and grief of our broken understanding. And, I believe this is the dynamic living nature of the Gospel.
Our Broken Selves
A friend, Lynn Rollins, taught me about “our broken selves” when she spoke to a group of women in Nauvoo last year. She read from her journal and described her feelings about sacrament and the broken bread. She writes.
I feel broken. I believe that I will be made whole again, but for now, I’m just broken. And maybe that’s the point. This is a broken mess and there is no way to put it back together again. All I have left to do is put it on the alter.
I’ve thought of her words often. And I think she’s right. When we give our broken selves to God, we consecrate that brokenness. We make it holy. And it’s also my belief that we are even more lovable in our brokenness than we realize.
A couple of years ago I was saying good-bye to some family members after a fun weekend gathering. My dad hugged me and said, “I love you – and your sisters love you and we all think you are great.” Because I was feeling particularly vulnerable at that time … and full of weakness … I shrugged off the comment with a laugh and said, “I’m not so sure I’m that great.” Sensing my deeper feelings, my father said, “we think you’re great BECAUSE of your weakness. We see how hard you try and that makes us love you more.”
I’ve wondered since then why we try so consistently to hide our broken parts. I believe more and more that we are meant to be broken just as we are meant to live (for a time) in this broken world. And we love each other more because we see the struggle and we watch the faith.
The gift and the blessing is simply: imperfection.
Leonard Cohen says
There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in.
The deeper blessing of our brokenness is that it tells us “we are divine”. We are uncomfortable with our weaknesses and our sins because we sense in our spirit that we are more … and that we came from a better place. We believe better things for ourselves. We search for the divine within us as we work to overcome our weakness and we search for our divine Parents in the foreign, broken world.
Christian music writer, Laura Story, sings a beautiful song about this idea
What if our greatest disappointment and the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst, this world can’t satisfy. The pain reminds us that this is not our home.
One more thought on our brokenness. Like the sacrament bread, perhaps we need to be broken to be shared. We know that we need each other in this life.
When my sister was 28 years old, she was engaged to be married in June. Nine days before the wedding, she and her fiance called it off – and it was devastating for all of us. We all flew home because we already had our plane tickets. We spent time together and ate a lot of chocolate wedding cake. On the morning of the once-wedding, I sat with my sister on the bed we had shared in High School. I looked at her and sighed and said, “It would have been a beautiful day.” And she started to cry – and so did I. We felt very broken. And, yet, we were blessed to be together.
Life makes us feel broken in many ways – and blesses us at the very same time.
I’ve cried with friends over miscarriages – sometimes second and third miscarriages. And felt blessed in the moment for the gift of life.
I held tight to a friend has he lay curled on his bed after his wife left and divorce papers were filed. There were no words to help the devastating ache. But I felt blessed by our silent closeness.
My own friends sat in my hospital room when I signed the papers ending all chances of motherhood in this life. I thought my heart would break that day and could not have born it without the blessing of strong hands to steady me.
Children die, mental illness debilitates, accidents cripple. And in it and threw it all we are blessed because we, the children of God, share these experiences with each other. We need not wonder “where God is” because He is ever with us, often in the form of other broken mortals.
Christ spent His mortal ministry serving broken people who needed healing – physically like the lepers, mentally like the boy possessed of a demon, and spiritually like the rich young man.
Perhaps we do have to be broken to be shared. And somehow in our shared brokenness – we are redeemed.
I quote again from my friend, Lynn’s, journal
At times the suffering is so immense that our heats cry out in anguish, echoing the words of the Savior, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” But we must believe in the ending of that story: that even our darkest hours can be transformed into blessing.
Thanks to our Savior and this Easter Morning, we have a Guardian, a Staff, and a Comforter.
Thru the valley and of death though I stray,
Since thou art my Guardian, no evil I fear.
Thy rod shall defend me, thy staff be my stay.
No harm can befall with my Comforter near.
I know that sometimes there are no words for the pain. And for the heartache and disappointment and shame.
But I know that there also times when there are no words for the Grace and for the Glory.
In attempt to find some words, I’ll quote Colton Dixon’s lyrics to Christ in his famous song:
If I had no voice, if I had no tongue, I would dance for you like the Rising Sun.
And when that day comes and I see your face, I will shout your Endless Glorious Praise.
This is how I feel today on Easter morning – like shouting endless glorious praise. I know my Savior lives, and is everything to me. He makes my broken mortal life better today. And He gives me so much bright hope for the future. I cannot speak of His grace without wanting to fall to my knees in gratitude and love.