Bill, sweet man, I just met him. Honest, open, friendly, kind. Shares a bit about himself and his family. Got three kids, “all medical,” he says. “The oldest used to be a doctor, but he quit.” “Says quitting is the best thing he ever did.” “Says, now he gets along with his wife…” Bill shakes his head, “Our health care system, it’s so broken.”
Bill may have said other things after that but I didn’t hear them. Broken: how do we know when something’s broken? It spills out into the rest of our lives. It pours out all over what we love and what we care about.
If the flow is unhealthy, it can extinguish what was once wonderful and pure and beautiful. Like the insidious oil of a punctured tanker, the evidence of the puncture doesn’t come first as a drop in volume, it shows itself in sheen and then surface-floating fish, disabled otters, and struggling seabirds, their feathers coated and useless.
We know brokenness by its damage. The spill. The despoiling. The carnage. The ugliness.
Now, call that ship on its misdeed and it will deny it all day long. It will gird up its loins, even as it goes below deck to patch the leaky spots. Not me. I am strong as they come. I am not responsible for this nastiness. Unavoidable. Not my fault.
Yet, when the ship is righted, the system mended, and the cargo tended to, that tanker sails on its merry way, delivering what it was supposed to, where it was supposed to, to whom it was supposed to. All systems go. Ecosystem maintained.
So many broken systems. So many people plugging holes with all their might. But the spill, it keeps coming. Because we humans are leaky. And feeble. No match for the tanker’s tons. But call us broken and we rail against it, blind to the drippings that puddle at our feet, coat our hands, and threaten to overcome our hearts and our lives.
In our humanity, we are broken, but also fixable. We’re clay, putty in the hands of our Maker. Pulling ourselves from the plug we once were, the spill may keep on, even gush a bit at first, but the evidence of brokenness begins to mend. We get along with the wife, the kids, the neighbors. We are whole again, and filling back up, we may even spill over in generous overflow.
Yes, there are many systems broken in our world today, but I refuse to be an unwitting funnel. It is amazing, just by taking one step out and two steps back, how one can welcome a new solution and a different approach.
Clear-minded and self-controlled, our adjustment does more than mend; it makes.
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15:11-13
We, the prodigal people, are squandering our earthly inheritance.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (v 14-16)
When will our hunger leave us desperately longing, even for food fit for pigs?
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (v 17-20a)
When will we come to our senses?
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (v. 20b-21)
There will be a sensational celebration that day!
In our new sensation…
We will see,
shade by shade and color by color,
without presumption or conclusion.
We will hear,
word by word and sound upon sound,
without any hint of assumption.
We will smell,
scent by scent and odor by odor,
without recollection or revulsion.
We will taste,
bitter and sour, salty and sweet,
without hunger or apprehension.
We will touch,
soft and tender, harsh and painful,
without reluctance or anesthetization.
What will I do when I come to my senses? What will you?
For only then will we, the prodigal people,
realize just how far we’ve gone,
and decide it’s time to come home.