Several weeks ago, I arrived home from work and found a box of books from Skylight Paths Publishers at the front door. Eagerly I opened the box and grabbed my first copy of the book I wrote, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Purpose with the Beatitudes.
Immediately, I checked the most important page, the one with only two words, “For Wanda.” I wrote a love note there, signed it, and presented it to her when she arrived home after a day of making music at Reinhardt University.
But I must admit it took me a few days before I really looked through the book. Fearing the discovery of terrible typos and egregious omissions, I tip-toed around it. A copy lay on the kitchen table. Like Martin Guerre’s wife, I eyed it warily, uncertain whether that was really my beloved one returned from war after eight years.
The book is, after all, a beloved one who arrived after eight years of strife and liberation. The writing process began with an anguished prayer on my knees one morning.
Feeling at 50 like a domestic failure with no job security and bad credit, like an idiot disciple who must have done it all wrong, a body of death suddenly fell from my shoulders. Gone was any desire to find any security in those things. I just wanted to do God’s will, whatever that was. I told God so. I meant it, with tears.
But I did muster up the boldness to ask God for one thing: To take the pain and reshape it into something good. A gift of healing balm to an aching world and something beautiful to glorify God.
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)? (Talents are units of currency, but I think the double meaning works.) A rich man gives five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to a third. The first two invest theirs and make a profit, making the five talent guy more interesting. The most interesting and sad one talent guy hides his in fear, invoking the wrath of the rich man.
But my point is that I’m the relatively inconspicuous two talent guy: I listen and write well, period.
So when I prayed for a way to convert my suffering into a gift for others, God answered immediately by empowering the listening talent. I drew from inner resources of suffering for empathy, validation, and guidance for patients.
Writing, the second talent, took much more time. An invitation to teach a class on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) at Westminster Presbyterian Church helped me get started. I saw the tremendous value of the Beatitudes for validating my faith amid my depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Moreover, they shone a light on the gifts God bid me offer as God’s power became perfect in my weakness.
Jesus issued these blessings not just for me, but for everyone with the courage to name their pain and bring it before God. So I got to work.
Eight years later, I finally pick up the book, a sacred object. On the cover, Jerie Artz’s beautiful watercolor, “Shattered,” depicts a broken pot spilling brilliant flowers. Treasure in an earthen vessel. Power, indeed beauty, made perfect in brokenness.
I pray that reading Blessed at the Broken Places will bless you as writing it blessed me.
To purchase a copy online,
I will speak on, “How the Beatitudes Changed Me,” at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rome, Georgia this Wednesday, October 5, at 6:00 p.m. You may purchase a signed copy there.