Monday, September 20, 2010
From Brokenness, Life
When he was a senior (because it was only for seniors), he would be named to the national leadership society.
He would join a fraternity and become an officer.
He would have a major position on the school newspaper.
He would receive this and that award, and be named to this and that list, and win this and that recognition.
He would achieve, because achievement gave life meaning, and it would give his life meaning, because he kept looking at the darkness looming behind him and he knew that achievement would keep the darkness away.
And he worked on these things in his own way, in his own style. He didn’t offend people with his ambition, and most of his friends would have been surprised if they knew the extent of what he strove for. He wasn’t ruthless; he didn’t walk over people. He simply kept working at achieving things.
The cost, because there’s always a cost, was loneliness. No one got too close; he’d start pushing away if that happened because relationships were a distraction. But whether he thought about it or not, he was willing to pay the cost.
By the beginning of his senior year, his plan was successful. He had achieved all of his goals, and more: the national leadership society, president of his fraternity, major editorial positions on the newspaper, awards and lists, all of it. Every bit of it. And no one begrudged him; he hadn’t hurt anyone in the process or stolen or taken anything that he hadn’t rightfully earned.
He was sitting atop the world he had created for himself.
And he saw how empty, how broken that world was.
Something inside began to break, or perhaps the breaking merely accelerated. The darkness that had so long hovered behind him now engulfed him. He had learned the hard way how transient and meaningless achievement could be.
Inside was so bad and so broken that he reached out. A speaker came to campus, a religious speaker, a kind of evangelist and apologist who needed publicity in the student newspaper. People reached out to the senior to make this happen, and he though that this might be different, that perhaps there was an answer here. But there wasn’t. A short meeting, the wrong words blurted out, and the senior recoiled.
Within a few days, he found himself late at night sitting in the basement of a lecture hall, talking with a man, a man who cut through all the stuff and baggage and goals and human achievement and failure and brokenness, especially the brokenness, and said this is all so simple, really, we just keep messing it up, we keep breaking it and we don’t have to. I don’t have the answers, the man said. I don’t. No one on this earth has the answers. But someone does.
When the senior went home that night, he went home with one line from a letter reverberating in his head and carved on his heart: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Out of brokenness came life.
To see other posts on brokenness, visit the One Word Blog Carnival over at Bridget Chumbley’s place.
Top photograph: Window by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission
Bottom photograph: Lockett Hall by Louisiana State University. Used with permission.