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Six years ago, Ann Voskamp took the dare to dive deep into a lifestyle of gratitude. Could she record one thousand gifts from God and let her heart be changed by the knowledge of all the ways that God loved her? She wrote about the dare in her first book, and suddenly the Greek word for thanksgiving, eucharisteo, was on everyone’s lips.
In 2012, I began my own gratitude journal. By Thanksgiving Day, I will have recorded my five thousandth gift, so the release of Ann’s book about another dare is timely for me, especially since I recently heard Katelyn Beatty’s quip on a CT podcast that writers should “go vulnerable, or go home.” Without a doubt, The Broken Way jumps into the deep end with Ann’s memory of cutting her own skin with shards of broken glass as a young woman, her own makeshift release valve for all the anguish that had nowhere else to go. This latest offering chronicles Ann’s living her way into the answer to the question we all ask from time to time:
“How in the world do you live with your one broken heart?”
“You give it away.”
This is a strong argument, because hurting people are not interested in hearing about anyone’s “perfect” life. They are not encouraged by the knowledge that I’ve checked off every single item on my to-do list (I haven’t) — or that my boys all do their chores without complaining. (They don’t). They want to hear about how I handle disappointment and about all the times I have had to apologize to my kids for losing my temper. Offering up my own brokenness kills perfectionism and opens the way for a true communion in Christ — who redeems everything.
When gratitude has paved the way to acceptance and peace, but the broken world rubs up against the rough edges of your own broken heart, the broken way, the cross-shaped life, becomes the way of abundance:
“If eucharisteo had been the first dare, the first journey of discovery into a life of letting God love me and counting all those ways, could this be a dare for the next leg of the journey, the way leading higher up and deeper in, daring me to let all the not-enough there in my open hands – let it be broken into more than enough? A dare to let all my brokenness — be made into abundance. Break and give away. The broken way.”
The truth is that relationships on this planet are a matter of the broken reaching out to the broken, and Ann’s message tumbles out in a series of personal stories supported by poignant metaphors:
- We remember Christ in communion, and in coming together around His broken body, we affirm that we are a “remembering people,” and in the gathering, our own broken hearts become re-membered.
- One day, on a whim, Ann picked up a pen and inked a cross over the scars on her arm. Daring to live a cross-shaped life reveals that the “bad brokenness is broken by [the] good brokenness” of Jesus’ sacrifice. The Beatitudes gently reinforce this beautiful truth about an Upside-down Kingdom: dare to be poor in spirit, to mourn deeply over your sin, to meekly come to Jesus with a hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied with His righteousness.
- An old blue Mason jar full of wheat kernels becomes an image of our span of life, our one container of days. Just as the grain must first be broken before it becomes bread, “the way to break time’s hold on me is to be broken,” to live an inconvenient life in which I may be called upon to be sown into the broken ground of another of God’s image-bearers.
One of my favorite features of Ann’s writing is her ability to riff on gospel themes in ways that take me right to the core of the Truth — but in a new way. Let this one soak into your tired heart: “The wondrous order of Christianity isn’t ‘go and sin no more and Jesus won’t condemn you.’ The order of Christ and Christianity is ‘neither do I condemn you — go and sin no more.’”
Ann’s celebrity has taken her into hundreds of personal stories about gratitude and the positive changes that have grown from “eucharistic living.” She has also been invited into the deep hurts of this world, and she responds by opening her own life and allowing readers to sit with her in her brokenness: a parking lot disappointment over a careless son’s failure to love; a broken-hearted mama loved Velveteen with tears running down cheeks like wrinkled silk; a texted rebuke — the faithful wounds of a true friend who doubted the reality of Ann’s highly polished love.
To “live given” is to live with vulnerability and humility — but out of that risk grows a harvest of true, biblical fellowship. The message of The Broken Way is that there is great yield from our yieldedness.
From the moment of conception, with the first cell division, the broken way begins. Because tender hearts get scarred, coping mechanisms are implemented early on, and we seek warmth and light around our own small self-ignited flame — until, by grace, we learn the daring path into abundant life. The koinonia of mutual burden bearing, forgiveness of the unforgivable, and the turn-around-in-your-tracks of repentance, Jesus first word of the Gospel, become the broken way home to God.
“Out of feeling lavishly loved by God, one can break and give away that lavish love — and know the complete fullness of love.
The miracle happens in the breaking.”