One of the things that I dislike the most about motherhood – and there are a lot to choose from (cleaning up during and after a family stomach bug is definitely high on the list, for example) – is brushing and flossing my oldest son’s teeth. Every time, he pitches a fit. He wiggles and squirms and cries. He tells me I’m “horrible at” brushing his teeth and he hides under the bed. And yet, I persist. I do my very best to brush the teeth of a child who is screaming, crying, kicking, and resisting. Brushing the teeth of a dog or an antelope or a gorilla or pretty much any other creature suddenly seems more appealing. And this happens every day. Theoretically, twice a day.
At the dentist this month, we found out that he has two cavities. Two cavities that need expensive and painful fillings. Two cavities, despite my very best efforts and attempts and all the persistence I can muster.
And this just seems to be one thing in a long list of “I’ve tried my best, but________.” I try my best to pack healthy snacks, but forget to grab half of them from the fridge. I try my best to learn my music well, but show up at rehearsal to realize that I learned the wrong movements. I try my best to pray through my envy, but my jealousy seems to rear its ugly head higher instead of dissolving into the heavens. I try my best to be on time, but forget my gloves, wait for Jacob to use the bathroom, go back to find the magic wand, need to change a diaper, leave my keys at home, arrive at the station right as the train is leaving, wait forever to switch trains, get off at the wrong stop, walk in the wrong direction for two blocks. Whatever it is – so often, my best is not enough. I try my best, but the world is broken.
It is because of the brokenness of the world that the trains get delayed and favorite toys get lost and kids get sick and healthy snacks grow moldy in the bottoms of backpacks. It is because of brokenness that we want to treat each other well but end up screaming and want to do the right thing but are haunted by our bad decisions. It is because of brokenness that we should all love each other and serve each other and sacrifice for each other, but instead are filled with envy and hate and bitterness and insecurity and doubt and self-loathing and hypocrisy. It is because of brokenness that I do my very best to brush my son’s teeth but they still rot away. The world is broken.
The world is broken because of sin. Because long ago there was a man and a woman and a garden and a God and they couldn’t manage to resist the temptation that they might know better than God what was good. The world is broken because if everything was perfect and we could do it all ourselves, we wouldn’t need saving, we wouldn’t need a Savior. The world is broken because if we didn’t need saving, we wouldn’t need God – and without God we would surely annihilate ourselves.
I usually feel burdened by ALL of these things: the train delays and the forgotten backpacks and the lost watches and the broken toys. By the missed opportunities, by the hard conversations, by the jobs not won, by all the neverending needs that I just cannot meet. And it’s overwhelming and exhausting. It’s hard to live this way, carrying the weight of it all – the weight of the broken world – on my shoulders.
But what if there was another way? What if I didn’t have to carry it myself?
Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Jesus said. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I saw my counselor, a very wise woman, a few weeks ago. I sat down, and I listed all the things that lately had been hard to handle: the broken pasta sauce jar, the expensive (over-priced) rice, the blueberries on the ground, the expectations of neighbors, friends, and family, the way it felt like everyone was trying so hard – myself included – and it just wasn’t enough.
She looked at me gently, and said, “Well of course all those things hurt, Leah. You’re forgetting that the world is just very broken. And that you feel all the brokenness so strongly – that’s who you are, part of how God made you. But it’s a broken world. These things that go wrong – you don’t need to blame someone for them. It’s not your fault, or Harrison’s fault, or Jacob’s fault, or your neighbor’s fault. They just happen because the world is broken.”
I really needed that reminder. It’s not my fault that the world is broken. It’s not someone’s fault every time something goes wrong. And I don’t have to carry any of it. So these days, I have a new mantra: #brokenworld.