I sat playing with my granddaughter by the fireplace. She handed me a soft, stuffed doll dressed in a velvet snowsuit. I cradle the doll like a newborn and said ‘Hello, Peter! I’m so glad I get to hold you!” To which my grand says, very seriously, “Mim, that’s not Peter. She has a different name.” “Oh, really” I respond, “and what might that be?” She whispers “She has your name”.
Names are a tricky thing, aren’t they? Say a certain name and it can conjure up all sorts of feelings: good, bad or otherwise. We may like certain names but because someone in high school was a total jerk and had that name we won’t give it to our child. I wanted to be something other than grandma because that is my mother-in-law. I refused to be Nana because of so many negative feelings associated with that name. I chose Mim purely by accident-someone had mentioned it as a diminutive of grandmother and I fell in love. I am Mim.
Going back to renaming Peter…I looked into that sweet face and said to my grand, “Did you know Mim has two names?” She responded by asking what my other name was, but in her furrowed little brow I could see the wheels turning. I said, “Emma”. I explained that I had two families when I was little and my first one called me Emma, the second called me Susan. I didn’t go on to tell her that I actually had three families because how do you explain to a three year old that your mother abandoned you? And that your first real name was nothing? She doesn’t need to know. Her safe world doesn’t need to know what that means.
I know that her little mind is processing this information and she will come up with a question, out of the blue, when she has thought it through. This little thinker will want to tease out the facts, but only when she is ready. I, too, want to tease out the facts but it has taken nearly fifty years to be ready. Even now, I am not sure I really want to know.
The other side of the conversation involves my daughter. She quietly asks if I think my early years have impacted me. Of course they have. I struggle with attachments, I have trust issues and walking away from the past is something I am quite skilled at-I can block out bad things, hurtful words, hateful people, and all manner of memories. The downside of this skill is that with it comes hardness. I’d like to say it is a form of self preservation. The distance I have mastered protects the broken pieces; wraps them in cotton the way someone would protect a delicate, but broken, relic. It insulates, guards and guarantees against further damage.
I have just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s, The Broken Way A Daring Path into the Abundant LIfe. I always love how God works things around a theme. Brokenness has been a state of being lately and it’s my own fault. I have prayed for brokenness-asked to be shattered in so many pieces knowing that my walls are hiding me from myself. On a lark, I applied to be on the launch team for this book, never thinking that I would ever actually be selected as part of the team. My excitement the day I got the yes led to a celebratory dinner out. Yes, I was that excited.
Turning over the last pages I have that deep, heavy ache in my chest that fully possesses both sadness and joy. Ann’s story is very real and while it may be easy to see only the glossiness of who we think she is-when she tells of yelling at her children, of calling her mother a witch, of failing even the small things her story opens into my story. I feel. And I don’t feel quite so alone. I have never seen my brokenness as something beautiful, as something to learn from. I may have taken lessons along the way and tried not to make others feel the way I was made to feel-but to see my brokenness as something beautiful, something Godly? This is antithetical to what I know-what I have been taught to be. Ann’s story makes it OK to be broken, to pour out through that brokenness and be filled again and again. She shows that it is OK to have hurt etched into your life and that you can live all that much better because of it.
“You are most loved when you feel broken and falling apart” The Broken Way, p. 150
The Broken Way is a redemption story. It is a calling out of all the potential we keep hidden because of our fears, our hurts, our isolation.
“What seems to be undoing you can ultimately remake you” The Broken Way, p. 146
Through her words she brings together the ageless truth of our being-ness in Christ and the realness of the broken be-ing. If I could I would paste all of chapter 14 here for you-Breaking the Lies in Your Head. Here she captures the very essence of the great lie and shatters it into dust. I have reread it twice and this chapter is so marked that the color bleeds one page to another.
Briefly back to names. Susan. This is the name I have had since I was two. This name means hurt to me. It holds in its five letters the pain of my past. I remember back in junior high reading an article about how names impact who you are and that by adopting a nick name you could change how you were viewed. So, in seventh grade, when the teacher called roll and told us we should tell her if we go by anything other than what was in her grade book we should speak up, I said I go by Sue. The article clearly stated that Sue was more fun loving, light hearted and friendly so that’s who I would be or, at least how I would be perceived. I didn’t really change anything but the letters. I was still me. I still hurt. I was still worthless and I still had to go home at the end of the day. The Broken Way lays it out there. The lies we tell ourselves. The lies others pour over and into us that distort the image we were created in. I learned I can have a new name. I don’t have to be Susan, or Sue, or even Emma (which I would have much preferred anyway)-I don’t have to be any one thing other than “Beloved”, which is the name He gives each and every one of us.
“Nothing can break your life like not knowing who you are in Christ, and there is nothing that needs breaking more in life than the lies about who you are in Christ. The Greatest danger to our soul is not success or status or superiority—but self-lies. When you listen to the self-lies hissing that you’re unlovable, unacceptable, unwanted, that’s when you go seeking your identity in success or status or superiority and not in your Savior. Self-lies are the destroyer of the soul because they drown out the sacred voice that can never stop whispering your name: Beloved.” The Broken Way, p. 185
This is, perhaps, the longest review I have written, but there is so much in The Broken Way. I haven’t even touched on the challenge Ann includes to be the G.I.F.T-Give It Forward Today-to live outside of ourselves and serve those around us. There is just so much! No one book, no one author can reverse or erase all the pain-only Christ can do this. But, God can use someone to tell, to speak in such a way that you hear the story refreshed. You hear it spoken in your language and suddenly it makes more sense-it is less garbled, like the fine tuning of an old time radio. You turn the knob gently back and forth as the static crackles until you land in that sweet spot and suddenly, everything is clearer.
. My sincerest thanks to Ann Voskamp for her words and book and thank you to Zondervan Publishing for providing me with a review copy. As with all my book reviews I have received no compensation other than a review copy. My opinions and stories are mine alone. I believe life is too short to waste my time on anything I don’t love so I won’t post anything that will waste your time either.