God Uses the Broken
by Elisa Morgan
Most of us don’t want to talk about the not-so-pretty stuff of life. We’d rather focus on loveliness. But I’ve discovered a beauty that God brings in the unseemly, unexpected, broken things. He brings beauty into broken relationships, shattered dreams and painful realities.
I come from a broken family. When I was five, my father sat in a white easy chair in his home office and told me my parents were getting a divorce. My broken family moved across the continent where my days started with the sound of my mother’s alarm down the hall in our home. I placed “breakfast” on her nightstand—Coca Cola and chocolate chip cookies—turned off the alarm and began the process of getting her up and ready for work. As a single mom, she needed to work and it was my daily job to wake her up. My mother struggled with alcohol.
When I was about sixteen, I gave my life to Jesus. I began a journey to what I hoped would be wholeness. I looked longingly at the seemingly perfect families of my friends and wanted what they had. I determined that one day I would make a family immune from the breakage my first family had experienced.
I met and married my husband, Evan. Because he had incurred and survived cancer a few years prior, we knew we’d be unable to have children biologically and so immediately began the process of adoption. I continued my determination to make a whole family, one not marked by the pain and brokenness I’d experienced, though postponing it for a while.
The forever process of adoption dragged on for nearly 5 years until as last we received our baby girl and then 2 years later our baby boy.
Several years later I was stunningly called to become the first president of an international mothering organization, MOPS International. During these decades Evan and I both invested our professional lives in nonprofit, cause-driven work. We went to church and Bible studies. We held Jesus time every night and read from Ken Taylor and counted the ladybugs. All of them. Every night. We did it “right.”
One night when my kids were in their teen years I had a dream. I was walking with Jesus through a home under construction. Jesus turned to me and said, “These rooms are for your daughter and her baby.” I laughed and said, “She isn’t pregnant. She’s just a teenager!” To this Jesus responded, “Yes, she is.”
When I awoke, I shook it off. But a few nights later the dream repeated itself. Even more concerning, a few days later as I sat in a meeting listening to research on teen moms with our team and considering the creation of Teen MOPS groups, I heard God heart-whisper again, Elisa, you are going to know more about this subject than anyone around this table.
I decided I should probably check in with my daughter. I asked, “Is there any possibility you could be pregnant?” She nodded. To me it seemed that my family fell and broke into a thousand pieces. Again. I wondered what I could do to fix my family now.
But it wasn’t just my daughter who surprised me. During those knock-me-off-my-feet years, my son began to leak out his pain. Perhaps because his sister’s teen pregnancy became the screen on which he watched his own intrauterine development play out as his birth mom was fifteen when she’d conceived and then relinquished him. Maybe his addictive genes were at work or maybe his own anger issues. For whatever reason, my wry-witted delight, and tenderhearted son started down a slope of surprising choices: pot, alcohol, truancy, troubled relationships, legal and money issues . . . until he veered off the road, losing himself.
There’s more. Oh so much more to my story. And for 20 years of this time I as serving as the CEO of MOPS International. Really?
It’s time to talk. I can see now that I swallowed a myth that needs to be exposed for me—and for others who have also fallen under its power: that it’s possible to create a perfect family. I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.
Problem is, I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken. So no matter what we do, we all end up making broken families. In one way or another.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality—and failing—God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty he brings in the broken.
I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “broken family values.” He understands that no one is perfect. He knows the unique journeys of loved ones. He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.
God doesn’t sweep the broken up into a dustpan and discard it. In order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us. He brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken.
I come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure that my story is likely yours too.
Elisa Morgan (www.elisamorgan.com) is a speaker and the author of The Beauty of Broken (Thomas Nelson). A graduate of Denver Seminary (MDiv), she served for twenty years as the CEO of MOPS International and now is President Emerita.