It’s hard to know what to do with a one-winged angel. She’s just concrete molded into yard art, but I don’t feel right about discarding her. The serene young lady faithfully watched over my wife’s flower garden for years, standing with her head slightly bowed and hands pressed together in prayer.
How she lost her right wing has escaped me if I ever knew. Maybe she was toppled in a storm and had an awkward landing. Or there may have been a hairline fracture which time and weather exploited. A tiny crack left unattended can become a gaping hole.
Last summer I took the angel to the farm, planning to toss her into a gulley which rain has patiently dug. But I changed my mind and put her under the shelter instead. I’ve left her there because she helps remind me that we’re all broken to some extent. Sometimes the breaks are insignificant and only minor inconveniences. In other situations, they’re severe and not always repairable.
As I was writing this column three areas came to mind where brokenness is frequently manifest. The first and sometimes most obvious is physical. Just like the one-winged angel, health issues can leave deep scars or even wounds that won’t heal.
COVID-19 has viciously demonstrated how quickly life can change. Countless other illnesses, diseases, and physical problems were here long before this pandemic and will be around after it’s no longer front-page news. Physical brokenness ranges from the invisible to being highly pronounced.
In the latter part of 2020 I had some sporadic foot pain that was quite annoying for a few months. Then I saw a picture of a group of ladies who had lost one or more limbs while serving our country. Despite their tragedies they were all smiling. I don’t know the stories behind their smiles, or how readily they cope with ongoing challenges, but that photograph helped remind me I don’t really have any problems, just small nuisances that don’t merit complaint.
Emotional brokenness is another area that’s common yet sometimes unseen. Jane and I have been reading daily devotionals in Guideposts for decades. She read them several years before finally convincing me to give it a try. One of the longtime writers is a lady whose husband and children suffer with depression and other mental health issues. I read her short biographical sketch in the 2021 book which said she enjoys the “solitude” of taking the subway to a new job. Finding gratitude in subway trips to work is almost more than I can fathom. I hope on the days when there’s standing room only, someone will offer her a seat. Opportunities for much-needed kindnesses are all around us just waiting to be claimed.
A third area of brokenness is spiritual. It continues to worsen, even though a cure is available to all who will accept it. A primary difficulty in resolving spiritual brokenness is our tendency to put our own desires ahead of everything else. Some say there is no God, so self-gratification in the present moment is all that matters. Others acknowledge the possibility of God but have no interest in knowing Him personally.
But perhaps the most troubling are those of us who comfortably tread in lukewarm water. We believe in God and may even profess Christ as our personal Savior, but then we settle for the tepid waters of personal preferences, offering God only a small part of ourselves.
In Revelation 3:15 Jesus told the church at Laodicea, “I wish you were cold or hot, but because you are neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Spiritual brokenness comes in many ways, but a half-hearted approach to our faith is among the most problematic. Lukewarm water is inviting. It tempts us with the allure of temporary comfort and safety.
Someday I’ll probably do something with that one-winged angel, but for now I’ll just leave her under the shelter. Her missing wing reminds me to pray about the brokenness around me and within me, especially about that which is of my own making. Too many times I’ve chosen the lukewarm water, venturing only to the edge of unfettered service.
I don’t know what to do with a one-winged angel, but my faith is in the One who does.