On Sundays one of my favorite things to do is take a slow morning. I make a nice batch of coffee in the French press, I piddle around the kitchen, but not too much. Eventually I make my way out into nature, into God’s creation, into the stillness and quiet of a Sunday morning.
This Sunday morning I made my way out, coffee in hand, bundled in a hat and jacket. I found myself on my neighbor’s swing overlooking the shared pond on the property. Usually it feels a little easier to meet Jesus in the peace and quiet of nature, the beauty of His creation all around.
What words would you have me write today, sweet Jesus?
What burdens would you like me to lay at your feet?
What prayers would you have me lift up to you?
What friends in need of encouragement?
I began to list out some friends who have been heavy on my heart.
As I was writing and reading a word came to me: contrite. I remembered a few words from a verse: a broken and contrite spirit from Psalm 51:17.
What does contrite mean?
I googled: ‘A bruised and broken spirit… crushed, crippled… humbled.’
A bruised spirit, I thought. So many of my friends have bruised spirits.
The infidelity, the divorce, the accumulated trauma doing cross cultural work, those in helping professions, the heaviness and reality of pain in this world. The job that didn’t work out, the future that doesn’t look like you hoped.
Crushed. Crippled. Broken.
David is speaking of his great sin in Psalm 51 and in this context the word ‘contrite’ refers to an awareness of our sin, a brokenness within ourselves, a humility, a repentant heart.
But today, I thought of my friends who have a bruised heart from the pain of living in a this world: the wounds accumulated from someone else’s sin, the punches taken when working with the poor, addicted, traumatized. Those are the bruises that come to mind today.
God does not despise our bruised souls. In fact, he welcomes them, invites them, and offers His healing. He says he’d rather have a contrite and broken spirit than our sacrifices.
He encourages us to bring our bleeding hearts to him. It doesn’t matter if they are bleeding from our own sin or the result of the bleeding world we live in, He welcomes. He opens His arms. He invites.
And here’s the coolest part. He doesn’t shame our broken, crushed, bruised hearts.
He doesn’t tell us “dang you screwed up.” He doesn’t respond to this pain we’ve acquired with a “well you knew this is what you signed up for when you decided to be a missionary.”
He doesn’t give us the “toughen up and pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” talk.
He draws near to us and saves us. Psalm 34 says the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the contrite (bruised, crushed, broken) in spirit.
When we encounter this healing God, this God who holds our bruised and broken heart and heals it, something within us is transformed.
When we know He heals us in our deepest places, there is a fear that is lost. A fear that slips away. This protective fear that tells us we must avoid the pain of this world, the mess of this world, the poverty and the trauma, and the sickness, death, and violence.
When He walks us through the process of healing our deepest places, He ushers us back out into the broken world. We move about our lives, entering the pain of our neighbor, the discomfort of disease, death and dying, robbery and violence, knowing we co-labor with a great God who will heal our bruises, heal our brokenness.
Our God prefers our contrite spirit as a result of entering into Kingdom work rather than an untouched spirit from a comfortable life of protection.
Do you have a bruised spirit? Have you taken it to Him?
Psalm 51:17 NIV
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Psalm 51:17 Contemporary English Version
The way to please you is to be truly sorry deep in our hearts. This is the kind of sacrifice you won't refuse.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and humble of spirit, to restore the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.
He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?