“There’s a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in.”
— Leonard Cohen, songwriter.
I know about cracks.
I suffer from a seriously disabling disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. My body is helplessly weak and twisted. People know that I am physically cracked, flawed, just by looking at me. Even so, I used to hide the degree of my weakness and dependency. When I wasn’t feeling well, or even hospitalized, I wouldn’t tell anyone, so that only my parents and sister knew. I didn’t want anyone to think that my disease was that bad, because I didn’t want anyone to pity me. When I began writing this blog, I didn’t even show whole pictures of myself.
I was too proud to let my wounds show.
We humans often think that looking vulnerable and needing help makes us weak. We are proud and don’t want to be exposed and vulnerable—hence the fig leaves grasped tightly by Adam and Eve, who, through pride, became frightened to be both literally and figuratively naked. Far too often, we try to deny our mutual dependency. We try to cover up our cracks, hide our wounds, because we don’t understand the beautiful power of our littleness, our brokenness.
Think of it. If we were all perfectly sealed and polished in pride and independence, then what need would we have of one another? What need would we have for real love, the kind of love that causes humans to give of themselves completely for the sake of the other? If we are broken, then only by coming together are we made whole.
Be Not Afraid
God Himself came to live among us as a helpless infant, child, a poor man, and a victim. God became one of us in our poverty, in our weakness, in order to heal us, but the healing wasn’t to make us perfect here and now, completely self-sufficient and needing no one. That would be our ruination, not our salvation. The kind of healing that God in the flesh came to bring is the salvation of divine love.
Christ Jesus Himself suffered, was whipped, nailed through, and pierced, killed on a cross, and after His resurrection, His wounds remained. As the incarnation of truth itself, Christ did not hide the truth of His suffering. Blatantly showing His wounds to Thomas drew forth from the lips of the doubting disciple the great exclamation of faith, “My Lord and my God!” Truth Incarnate, Christ shows us the true way of life: be real, honest, vulnerable, and open; be compassionate, receiving and giving real love so that the light of God may be seen and we may live the life of divine love eternally.
The Muslim mystic and poet, Rumi, wrote that wounds and brokenness are the places “where the light enters you.” What is this light? God is the light. And God is love. God is the light that seeks the chinks in our armor of pride, that breaks through our hardness of individualism, enabling us to glow with the receiving and giving of divine love. Love renders the broken beautiful and heals each and every one of us by binding us together in sympathy and self-giving, making us more than what we would be alone.
Let the Wounds Show
Now that I have grown older and, hopefully, more mature, I write in this blog about my brokenness, rarely holding back anything. Accepting my wounds in the fullness of my humanity and hoping that we will learn together to be less afraid of our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and pain, I let you, my dear readers, know that I am cracked—boy, am I cracked, in more ways than one. Why hide it? I am terribly far from perfect. And so are you. But we’re in this together, all of us: you, me, and God.
People respond most openly and generously when I am open and generous with the reality of my life, letting the light enter in through my broken places and shine back out to them. And I’m continually amazed by how my woundedness can contribute, even in the smallest ways, to helping others heal, including myself. It isn’t so much that God has given me the gift of a disability with which I can be an inspiration, it’s more that, through the unashamed brokenness that happens to be most obvious in my disability, God’s love shines through and draws people — including me — to His divine light.
Be Broken and Beautiful
All of this clicked together for me at Mass one Sunday, through a young woman with autism (a young woman whose name is also Christina) who was sitting just a few pews behind me in the church. I had heard her familiar, cheery, if not frantic, little voice offering greetings to people before the Mass began. During the Eucharistic celebration (in which Christ again gives Himself utterly and completely to us in divine humility through the breaking of bread) I saw her particular gift clearly in my heart. I realized that what is most powerful and beautiful about the other Christina, or others who may have an intellectual disorder or brain injury, is that they don’t hide their brokenness. Some people might say that they don’t know enough to hide it, but that brings me to my point. We are so puffed up with pride and arrogance that we think we “know enough” to cover up our wounds. Frankly, we don’t know that it is so much better to be honest, to be true, with no pretense, no pretending.
I am inspired by this younger Christina. She is broken and can’t help it, but I don’t pity her. I can’t help being broken either. And neither can you. The only help that we have is the light that shines through our cracks and wounds when we are true about who we fully are, the light that heals us in bonds of sympathy, compassion, and love.
Pretending we’re perfect, covering up, will not bring us closer to discovering true love. The cruel-minded and hard-hearted of the world may take advantage of our vulnerabilities, but they could also be overcome by the brightness that shines through us from God and be converted through love. We need to be brave enough to take the chance.
Let’s all be brave—broken and beautiful—together.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.