Ann Voskamp Shares a Chapter from “The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life”
Re-Membering Your Broken Pieces
But, first, remember, remember, remember . . .
- C. S. LEWIS
The day after we’d held on to each other in the kitchen, this package came in the mail with three words—“Open Me Carefully”—as if it could be a soul.
I have no idea how this happens. How in the thick of ache you can be this solid dam—yet you catch bits of a song on a radio somewhere or the light falls a certain way across the floor or you lean the mailbox forward and a package slips right there into your hand—and in a moment, the loss of it all breaks you wide open.
Maybe it’s because we never stop hoping for the best, wait- ing for the best like it got lost in the mail—and then one day there it is, unexpected and with our name right there on it.
I trace the ink across the top of the package—I don’t recog- nize the handwriting.
The package is largish—and way too small for the shoulder- crushing load of questions about what the bloody point of all this is. I keep forgetting, me with the chronic soul amnesia.
A mourning dove coos out in the maple to the west of the kitchen. It calls out bravely, unafraid in its lament.
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The Broken Way
Hurt is a contagion. When one person hurts in a family, everyone aches. And this is always the choice: pain demands to be felt—or it will demand you feel nothing at all.
I slice the box open. Whatever it is, it’s wrapped in tissue paper, a thin swaddling. I lift it from the box and this note falls to the table. It’s from Peru, found in a shop that a friend was wandering through. She writes it across the embossed note- card: “Saw it and thought of you.” The tissue paper feels like mummified dressings wrapped around something old enough to have the greatest story to tell. What do they say—that the great stories are the ones you need to hear again, the ones that call you back to find the wholeness of yourself again?
I unwrap slowly, hoping. There it is—something clay. Red clay. A base about eight inches long. Painted along its edge to look like thin bricks. Like a foundation, like the foundation for a story that might rejoin broken pieces. Unwrap it slowly, carefully—full of care for what might be. Thirteen small fig- ures, earthen and primitive, kneel around the perimeter of the base, and it takes me a moment.
The Last Supper. The Great Story. A bent Jesus kneeling with His disciples, each of them kneeling before their own small cup and darkened loaf of bread.
This is the wholeness, right here in my hands, like my begin- ning and middle and end; this is the great story that defeats lostness and loneliness, that grows your heart larger. Maybe even large enough to break wide open.
There’s something left in the box? Pieces roll around. And then I see the hand.
The hands of the Jesus are snapped right off. The Jesus has no hands.
I sit down. Jesus’ hands lie there in front of Him, in front of
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Re-Membering Your Broken Pieces
all the disciples, two hands broken off, lying there palms open like an invitation.
The jug in front of Him is knocked over. Poured out.
How many times in your life do you get the Last Supper delivered to your very doorstep? Hadn’t this been the story I’d been unpacking for the last five years? Hadn’t I just been searching for an answer to the question of how to live with your one broken heart? Where is the abundant life? And how in the world to find it?
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them . . .”1
I had first read it slowly, years ago—how in the original language “gave thanks” reads eucharisteo. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.
There was more. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, also holds the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Joy. And that was what the quest for more has always been about—that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception . . . all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”2
Deep chara is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo— the table of thanksgiving.
I had sat there long . . . wondering . . . is it that simple? Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
So then as long as thanks was possible, then joy was always possible. The holy grail of joy was not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here, in the messy, piercing ache of now. The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.
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The Broken Way
I’d whispered it out loud, let the tongue feel these sounds, the ear hear their truth.
Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.3
A triplet of stars to reveal the outline of the fullest life, thanksgiving, joy. Five years of living thanks, of counting and giving thanks for one thousand everyday gifts, of struggling, miserably failing, and then purposing again to take everything as grace, gift—charis—give Him thanks for it—eucharisteo— and therein find joy in Him—chara.
But now, what of brokenness? And what did it mean that “bad brokenness is broken by good brokenness”? Had I only been scratching the surface? What if there was more to full abundance? And isn’t the answer right here in my hands?
I hold the broken Last Supper in front of me, a Jesus with broken hands. What did Jesus do after He gave thanks?
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.”4
He took it and gave thanks. Eucharisteo. Then He broke it and gave.
New York Times best-selling author Ann Voskamp sits at the edge of her life and all of her own unspoken brokenness and asks: What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that s behind every single aspect of our lives — and one that The Broken Way rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways.
This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.
You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain, but actually within it.
You could discover and trust this broken way — the way to not be afraid of broken things.