We’ve just started a new school year. For some parents, it is a welcome relief, when open-ended summer days come to a close, replaced again by the rigor of routine. For students, it is a season of excitement, often mixed with some measure of anxiety. In my own home, our firstborn, a boy named Bryton, entered first grade while our second, a girl named Cameron, started kindergarten.
Like many parents, when gathered at the dinner table, I ask my kids how school was that day. I’ll get the typical response of “good”, but little else without persistence. I think it’s common for us to feel ordinary and uninteresting, devoid of anything worth saying. If we are not careful, we can begin to feel about ourselves as contemporaries of the Savior felt about him: as “[having] no form nor comeliness…[without] beauty that we should [be] desire[d]...esteemed...not” (Isaiah 53:2-3).
But I digress—back at the dinner table, if I try and pry, I am rewarded with something more from my children. They’ll regale me with their adventures of the day. Their tales are simple, often relatable, but nonetheless remarkable.
My first grader, Bryton, had his first day of soccer practice a week ago. He had previously participated on swim and baseball teams, but never more than kicked a soccer ball around. At the dinner table, he reported that before going to practice, he was nervous that he wouldn’t be able to play as well as the other kids on his team, because he knew that they had played on soccer teams before. How do you react to performance anxiety? I’ll tell you what Bryton did. He went out to the field. He tried, learned, and had fun. Do we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a child? To constantly encounter something you’ve never seen or done before? When was the last time you’ve trusted and tried?
My kindergartener, Cameron, related the following when I asked what she did at recess on her second day of school. Cameron said that when she went out on the playground and was deciding what to do, she saw a girl off by herself. Cameron went up to her and asked, “Are you looking for someone to play with?” The girl replied that she was. Cameron asked, “would you like to play with me?” The girl did, and they spent recess together. For Cameron, this was an ordinary story. I don’t think it is until we “grow up” to become less friendly and/or more lonely that we start to view such a story as remarkable.
After Cameron related this story, my wife, Elisabeth, related it to song lyrics that Cameron had recently latched on to: “I like that you’re lonely, lonely like me. I could be lonely with you” (Lovely.The.Band). Elisabeth explained how Cameron had fulfilled the lyrics of the song. I had not heard the song before, so I had to look it up. The chorus reads:
I like that you're broken
Broken like me
Maybe that makes me a fool
I like that you're lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you
The lyrics have stuck with me recently, and I’ve been thinking about them as they recur in my head. What does it mean to be broken? I have another son, a two year-old, named Dane. One of the first words a little person comes to understand is the word broken, because little people activities often end with something—or worse, someone—breaking. Broken is quickly associated with bad, while whole is affiliated with good. We learn that many things can be fixed, though thereafter may still bear tell-tale signs such as cracks or scars.
As we grow, we become more careful to keep things whole and tend to prefer others who do likewise. We keep a wary eye for those tell-tale signs, those historical records of breakage that inform us. We know that others are also on the lookout, and so we may cover up to appear whole. Despite our best efforts, mortality takes its toll. If nothing earlier, age ultimately pulls back the curtains and reveals us for what we truly are: broken. And so we hope, hope in the promise of eternal life and eventual perfection, when there will be nothing broken, nothing left to loathe.
Once you are finally whole, what will it be like to meet someone new? Would you still feel insecure about revealing your past? About ever having been broken? Standing there in your “perfect frame” without a “hair of the head...lost” (Alma 40:21) wearing “spotless...garments” (Alma 7:25), would you still cover up?
In the resurrection, there will be only one who still bears the signs of ever having been broken, and He is not ashamed. On the contrary, given the opportunity, he is more than likely to draw attention to them and invite, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I...have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14). No one was more broken than Jesus Christ.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). He was broken in exactly the same ways each of us is. Knowing this, I ask you to consider: who could look disdainfully upon another broken soul and yet hope to stand before Him who is eternal judge and just so happens to have been broken in the same way? We must be able to look upon others and say, “I like that you’re broken, broken like me. [Anything else] makes me a fool.”
Now, of all the ways that Jesus was broken, I’d like to focus on one in particular. The Psalmist wrote “reproach hath broken [his] heart” (Psalms 69:20). John, in his account of the Savior’s death, notes that “one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). This curious note has led physicians and apostles to conclude that Jesus ultimately died of cardiac rupture, a rare and literal broken heart. But it is the figurative broken heart Jesus suffered that compelled Him toward that end.
Anciently, the heart was believed to be the seat of thought, desire, and will. Still today, we use such phrases as “follow your heart” to mean, “do what you want”. If we think of a functioning heart in that way, what then does it mean for a heart to be broken? Jesus taught it best in his prayer to the Father, “not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). He taught us to likewise pray to the Father, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), and he demonstrated through his actions, that he “suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Nephi 11:11).
He asks of us the same: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit...him will I receive” (3 Nephi 20:20-22).
Paradoxically, the way to becoming whole is developing a broken heart. “For the natural [heart] is an enemy to God...and will be, forever and ever, unless [it] yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit...and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble...[and] willing to submit...to his Father” (Mosiah 3:19). We must learn from little children and become like them. When was the last time you trusted and tried? I doubt that it was an ordinary story. “I like that you’re broken, broken like me.”
Recalling our own struggles and successes, our divine nature, and our divine help can produce what President Eyring refers to as a “powerful blend of courage and meekness...a humility which is energizing, not enervating” (Henry B. Eyring - A Child of God). Like our Savior—with our Savior—though broken, we can persist. We can trust, and we can try.
Brothers and sisters, I bear you my witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that he has the power to heal, and that he intends to heal all but one thing. Hearts are made to be broken. “I like that [he was] broken, broken like me. [I don’t think] that makes me a fool.”
I offer these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.