Feeling Bent. Feeling Broken.

Feeling Bent. Feeling Broken.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. 

– Charles Dickens

I spent about 26 years of my life feeling pretty good about myself. I was always a good student. I didn’t get in too much trouble in my teen years. I was active in my church, and in my community. I went to grad school. I worked out regularly and tried to eat healthy most of the time. I had a “good” relationship with God. I had quiet times. I volunteered. The list could go on.

Point is, I had all the things. All the accolades. And I dusted them and shined them each day and placed them neatly on my mantle.

Then one day, someone (a counselor) slid a blank piece of paper in front me and told me to imagine a picture of myself on it and what defined me, what I was made of. Then she asked me to imagine striping away all of those things, all of the accolades on my mantle. One by one, she said. Strip them away.

Now, she said, looking at me. What’s left?  What is left at your core? What is left at your center? 

I looked down. I stared at the blank piece of paper. I squinted really hard, but I couldn’t see anything. All I could see was a question mark.

Who am I at my core, you ask?  I knew the Sunday school answer, but I didn’t believe it.

Who am I without my things? Who are you without your things?

The thing with things is this: things go away. At age 26, all my things had to be going well in order for me to feel good about life. Because if one area suffered, my identity suffered.

That day with the counselor I began to learn that the alternative to living an exhausting life of keeping your accolades nice and shiny is living a life of feeling broken, bent and empty. Seriously, there is no middle ground. There is no other alternative.

In the Christian life, you either secretly believe you are everything and, therefore, see little need for Christ. Or, you think you are nothing and, therefore, believe all that you need is Christ.

Option one causes us to “fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we save ourselves,” says Brennan Manning. Option two gives us a “deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at his mercy.”

You can be still be a Christian and adapt a life dependent on things with little need of a savior. You can be. I don’t think it’s a matter of salvation we’re talking about here. But I think the option one life greatly misses out on the truth of the gospel. I think that life misses, completely, grace.

I was on a road toward missing it. I get it. I had to break open (part of that story is here) after 26 years of holding myself together.

And guess what. The breaking wasn’t a one-time thing. It just keeps happening.

I recover, I’m feeling good and put back together and then boom, something happens and I break all over again. We are all broken hearts trying to navigate a broken world. But broken spirits searching for wholeness in a broken world are not going to find it.

So now I’m learning what it means to live broken. To walk this life as someone who really has nothing to offer. To look at people and hold out my palms and shrug. Nothin’ there, I say. To go home at night and stare at a blank mantle, the accolades all thrown away.

But if it’s between living a life of things and a life of nothing, I now know to choose nothing every time.

It sounds worse than a life with lots of things, and it certainly looks more pathetic. But it feels real. It feels free. It feels like my core is beginning to find its shape. It just needs a little more bending and a little more breaking.


  1. higherpowerliving on June 2, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Exactly! The brokenness, the stretching is scary, but it is so amazing when we truly see what following God and obeying His commands is really about. It is so freeing and life giving, even though it is difficult and scary at times. Praise God! Thank you for your thoughts. Blessings

  2. Ann Burk on June 2, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Your thoughts and feelings are so beautiful and so honest. Even at my age, I sometimes struggle with who I am and what God is calling me to be and do. You are a beautiful young lady and I love reading your writings. You are indeed a blessing to me and others.

  3. Marilyn on June 2, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Wow, so beautifully expressed! Thank you for sharing your journey to wholeness with us

    Sent from my iPad


  4. caseyfast on June 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    When I read an honest message such as yours, I often feel inclined to jump in with advice. But basically, I am in the same boat as you and have nothing to offer but open hands and gratitude to God. Love your journey.

  5. Tim Branch on June 3, 2015 at 1:18 am

    I like this a lot, Andrea!

    I feel like you’re tapping into a deep sense of identity in people—who we really are, without what we’ve done. Thanks for offering an avenue to help us cast off our false identity so we can better see what we’re truly made for.

  6. Debbie Irizarry on June 3, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself Andrea so that you could reach out to those of us who desperately need to hear this and realize we are not alone and our brokenness can turn into something beautiful and worth living. God has truly blessed you with a precious gift….<3

  7. Christine on June 4, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I had to face that same reality the hard way. When everything gets stripped from you involuntarily, you cannot help but realize that at your weakest state, God is all you need. All the accolades don’t count at that point.

  8. Life Lately. - eBunite on June 14, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    […] Andrea’s post on feeling bent, feeling broken is speaking to me in various degrees. 2. John Steinbeck on falling in love: a 1958 letter is […]

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