The Role of Brokenness

"Broken Vase" by Elias ATX creative commons license
“Broken Vase” by Elias ATX
creative commons license

In yoga, when I break it, I have to fix it. Seriously. Recently I overextended my SI joints—the joints between your hips and your lower spine. (Didn’t think you had joints there? Move your fingers around your low back until you find those knobs at the top of your hips—your SI joints are just inside at that point. Your hips are not all one bone, friends.) And now I have to fix them.

I got this idea from Desiree Rumbaugh at a workshop in 2008. She said that she knows a lot about the body because she’s injured herself so many times and then had to learn how to make it right again.

Unfortunately, the best solution for my SI joints right now is time. Bummer. But at least I know what they need! Before I knew I had SI joints, I was in really weird pain that I didn’t know what to do with. In grad school, I’d sit through three-hour evening classes in silent agony for the last half of the class because I had a quarter-sized dot of pain inside the back of my left hip. I blamed it on my stick shift Honda. I wrote poems about it… until I found an article in Yoga Journal that taught me about the SI joint. Gradually, I learned that I damaged my hip through yoga.

Oops. But then I learned a lot about it. I mean a lot about this little important joint. But I overextended yet again this week—so apparently I didn’t learn everything.


Last week, I wrote a post about teaching your children that they are whole and about how the theology of edifying brokenness broke me more than it perhaps should have. As a disclaimer at the end, I mentioned that there is a role for brokenness. Today I’m addressing that role.

After reading my post last week, my husband said, “Brokenness and whole aren’t opposites. For example, if you break a vase and you have all its pieces and you glue it back together, it’s both broken and whole. Or, even if you just have all its pieces in a box, it’s wholly there.”

I saw his point, but the vase isn’t meant to live in pieces. And even if you could put it all back together to work again, the analogy doesn’t work with what I want to say about brokenness. Brokenness might not be the opposite of wholeness, but it’s not a permanent space.

Brokenness is a temporary space. A learning space.

In yoga, I break something and then learn more about it. I learn how the hip works, the knee works, the shoulder tendons work.

When I took antidepressants, I learned more about brain chemistry, what my brain wasn’t making, what I was putting in my body in pill form, and how I could change my life so that my body would begin producing the brain hormones it needed again.

When I broke my theology, I had to learn how to rebuild it. Scratch that: I let God rebuild it. This process has been taking a very very long time. I expect it won’t ever be done. I’m still finding pieces of my theology that are broken or not working.

When I broke a friendship, I had to learn to let the friendship go, learn about what was wrong in me that broke it, and then how to rebuild the friendship.

We humans, we’re fragile. We’ve got fragile bodies and fragile souls. We break. We lose things—lose friendships or people or identities or…  well, anything. We attach to things, and our attachments are broken.

And then we learn. We learn so much—about the relationship, about love, about our need for security, about our need for God.

We are not defined by our brokenness, but by what comes after the brokenness. That’s where God makes us whole again, even if it takes a very long time.

The reason why I didn’t like my husband’s vase analogy is this: When God rebuilds the vase, it’s a new vase with a new, whole shape using old and made-new pieces. 

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