Not long into our trip, our team sat down for a team meeting. We’d had a few days of camp under our belts and had started to acclimate to our new surroundings (at least as much as one can after only a few days in another country). We’d each had the American in us challenged at some level – for some it was the spiders, for others the different food, for the control freaks it was the relaxed sense of time, and of course there was the different approach to driving that had most of us on edge. We’d been exhausted and shocked out of our comfort zones, but we’d also begun to bond as a team and with the Zambians. We’d experienced the thrill of leading worship for a people who know how to sing – seriously, Sioux Falls, these people would open their mouths and go for it. Let’s see a little of that sometime. But that’s another matter. Suffice it to say that the trip was off to a great start.
But on this night, Micah asked us to open up a bit. His question was something to the effect of, “what’s been your high, and what’s been your low?”
And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t come all the way to Zambia to have some fun, meet some nice people, and play rock and roll. I came because I knew that there was a part of me that was not yet wrecked. There was a part of me that couldn’t yet join with John the Baptist and say, “He must increase; I must decrease.” And I’d hoped that coming to another country and being around poverty would somehow work like a heat seeking missile or something – that it’d find that little stronghold somewhere in my heart and then blow it up.
And I guess I was a little frustrated that night because it hadn’t happened yet. But as I think about it more, I slowly start to realize that maybe I was being selfish. Or, more accurately, I was being lazy. I wanted one face melting encounter with poverty, assuming it would melt my heart just enough to turn me into a super saint. Well, I got my face melted, no doubt, but I think I also learned something about what it means to be broken.
I was wrecked at the hospital that day. I was cut to the heart during my visits to the compound. If getting shocked out of my American middle class bubble was what I wanted, then I got it. But here’s the catch: I got to come back here. It was all just temporary. I remember it like it was yesterday…but it’s still only yesterday. Tonight I lie beneath piles of warm blankets. Broken? I don’t know. Maybe I was. Or maybe it was just a flesh wound.
Or maybe brokenness is more than just a moment. Maybe brokenness is not only falling at Jesus’ feet…but it’s never getting back up, ever. Lord, I don’t want to get back up.
Being broken – which, I think, is probably the most fundamental ingredient of discipleship – can happen in a moment, as I imagine it might have for Peter when he heard the rooster crow. But here’s the deal: being broken is easy – in fact it’s usually done for us. I didn’t have to try to be broken that day as I held the hands of dying babies – there were forces much stronger than me which were doing the crushing from the outside.
Staying broken is hard. Those forces seem far away now. The memories, no matter how near they seem, will grow more and more distant with every passing day, month, and year. This is the part that comes from within. God will not force me to take up my cross daily and deny myself for his sake. These forces must come from within.
It means deciding now to follow a man who lived a long time ago and taught some pretty crazy stuff. Stuff like how the last are really first, and how we should sacrificially help those in need, and how we should reach out and love the people who hate us in real, concrete, tangible ways (not some ambiguous conceptual way). It means It means centering my life around what he taught and who he was and never getting off that bus. It means more than going to church – it means knowing this man intimately. It’s taking his words seriously…like the part where he says, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” It means letting him decide what I should look like when I’m finally put back together.
I was broken in Zambia, and I don’t want to be fixed. At least, I don’t want to be the one to do the fixing.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…