By Amber Kinloch
Have you ever felt broken beyond repair?
Fr. J. shared a story of how as a kid he was playing with a ball inside his home. All was fine until the ball collided with a vase. In an instant, the precious vase his mother had brought from South Korea was shattered into a thousand pieces.
As Fr. J. observed, he could have fixed the vase, but to no avail. Even if every piece were glued back perfectly into place, everyone would still see the multitude of cracks running through the vase. No, it was broken for good.
Our Own Brokenness
Not so many years back, I grappled with loneliness, depression, scruples, and even suicidal thoughts. My world was narrow and constricted. My focus was fixated on myself. Why did no one notice me? Couldn’t they see what pain I was in? But no, they didn’t. Well then, if they couldn’t figure it out, I wasn’t going to tell them. I didn’t need people. I could handle this.
Yes, that’s really how I thought. I felt stuck. I was doing the best I could. Why didn’t God fix everything? What had I done to deserve this?
Maybe you feel the same. Maybe you come from a broken family and question whether you could ever have a happy marriage and family life. My dad faced that. Maybe you’ve been scarred by an abortion or struggle with an addiction to food, drugs, or alcohol. Maybe anxiety or fear plagues you, or a personal defect like laziness or a quick temper. You’ve dealt with this problem for years, and it seems you can’t overcome it.
God’s Not Just a Repairman
God doesn’t just repair things. He restores and transforms them, making something even more beautiful than before. We rejoice precisely in this truth at the Easter Vigil when the priest or deacon singing the Exsultet proclaims: “O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Were it not for Original Sin, God never would have taken on a human nature, suffered, died, and risen from the dead in order to redeem us. Happy fault, indeed!
It took me years to heal and to understand what a gift loneliness and the associated depression were. Amid the darkness, I sought God, and He drew me closer to Him bit by bit. I learned to lean on Him. I also learned compassion. Before, I’d thought that the only people who struggled with issues like these were weak or had undergone severe trauma. Things like depression just didn’t happen to a “normal” person like me. God humbled me and showed me the truth.
These days, I wake up and am so grateful to be alive. I ask God to “tap me” (like when you tap open a wine cask). I want to share all the graces He’s lavished on me—graces I never would have but for the sufferings I’ve endured.
I’ve seen it with other people too. Despite my dad’s difficult family background, he and my mom got engaged within six weeks of meeting each other and have been happily married for thirty-three years. I also read this Guideposts story about a doctor who became addicted to prescription drugs. He hit absolute rock bottom, only to become a beacon of hope for others.
What of the saints? Ignatius of Loyola, an arrogant, lustful soldier-turned-saint, was plagued by scruples, depression, and suicidal thoughts after his conversion. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute for seventeen years. Bartolo Longo is an even more dramatic example—raised Catholic, he fell away from the Faith and became a satanic “priest.” Eventually, he returned to the Faith, married, and promoted devotion to our Blessed Mother and the Rosary.
If God can work such changes in all these people, why not you? Anything is possible. We need only ask for His help and try.
The First Steps
Every person struggles with different problems, but there are some basic things that can help us all. The first piece of advice that always springs to my mind is gratitude. Gratitude takes you outside of yourself. By its very nature, it focuses you on God and others.
Is it easy to practice when you’re crushed by suffering? No. But if you stick with it, it will become easier and ultimately bear great fruit in your life.
The trick with cultivating a spirit of gratitude is to focus on specific things. What has happened today that you are grateful for? Did something turn out better than you expected? Did someone say something you needed to hear? Was a problem resolved? God’s always at work in our lives. Gratitude teaches us to take notice of His Presence.
Living in the present is also important. Too often, we get stuck in the past or are overwhelmed by fear of the future. Living in the present anchors us. All we have to do is handle what’s going on right now. Trust God to take care of the rest.
Seeking God’s forgiveness is essential. Why? Because unless our lives are lived in tune with God, we’re not living the Truth. Without Him, we’ll continue to chase after vain and sinful things. We need to recognize how we’ve failed to be who He’s called us to be. When we do that and seek His forgiveness, especially in the sacrament of Penance, we open the door of our heart to Him and He is able to help us.
Lastly, we need to set our minds to begin again as often as we fall. I struggle with this. Some days, I just don’t feel like trying. Or I wonder, “Does it really matter? It’s not that big a deal, is it?” Or there’s the haunting doubt, “Will God forgive me? I’ve fallen so many times. How can He forgive me again?”
Pitch those doubts and press on. Resist the temptation to impose human standards on God. He knows how weak we are. He will forgive us again and again if only we’re truly contrite.
No one alive is broken beyond repair. Our wounds can be healed and transformed into marks of love like the scars left by the nails on Jesus’ Body. We need only let the Divine Physician minister to us.
Will we accept His treatment, even if it hurts initially? Will we let Him heal us?
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.