Monastic Strategies: Living Into Our Broken Places

Monastic Strategies: Living Into Our Broken Places March 28, 2019

Our Broken Places

Many of us believe spiritual life is about helping us feel joy.

We like to think spiritual life wants us to be happy. I remember singing about the joy down in my heart. Some of us believe spiritual life is about experiencing safety again.

Spiritual life is not about making us miserable. I do not believe, though, it is about making us feel comfortable.

We do not start over as if we had never experienced being broken. Spiritual life is not about making us as good as new. We look forward to when our lives will be better than they were when we were new.

Spiritual life’s healing restoration will make our lives stronger than before we knew they could be broken.

Each of us experiences ways in which life breaks our carefully ordered worlds into pieces. We gather our broken pieces and look for someone who can help us.

We cannot erase the past or wipe away the pain and suffering we have experienced. Our lives are mosaics made of broken pieces. Spiritual life is about sorting through our broken places and finding ways they fit together.

Our suffering is not magically transformed overnight. We cannot cast a spell or wave a wand to take away our pain. Spiritual life helps us become whole again in new ways, stronger in the places where we have been broken.

Spiritual life does not merely anesthetize us so we no longer feel the pain. We do not want to be numb, but to be healed.

Living Into Our Broken Places

Spiritual life is like the longstanding Japanese tradition of Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi, golden joinery or golden repair.

The philosophy behind the tradition is based in an appreciation and embracing of the flawed and imperfect. Broken pottery is repaired with lacquer dusted or mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. Repairs are not hidden, but illuminated and celebrated.

The tradition treats brokenness and repair as part of the story of an object rather than something to disguise.

Many of us view our own brokenness as something to be ashamed of, something we need to hide. We push ourselves as hard as we can to exceed expectations and feel responsible when we become exhausted.

I know people who sincerely believe they need to be perfect to deserve spiritual life. Their attitudes toward spiritual life often leave them shattered, broken into many pieces. They are not designed to hold together under that kind of pressure.

Spiritual life is not about not making any mistakes. Being broken is part of our stories. We live our lives and the ways we become worn or broken are filled with gold and we become stronger than we were.

There are places where we have been broken. They are often more tender, more painful than they were before we were broken there. We live our lives and develop aches and pains where we have been broken.

We feel the places we have been broken. My wrist tells me when it is going to rain where it was broken. Spiritual life is about our broken places being transformed into places of deep strength.

Our first step is to stop trying to put brokenness behind us or trying to forget we have been broken. We discover the gold of spiritual life when we live into the broken places of our suffering.

Spiritual Life in Our Broken Places

Even when it hurts and even when we are afraid spiritual life is alive in our broken places. Spiritual life finds our broken places no matter how we try to hide and protect them.

It is not magic and it does not happen overnight.

Again and again, each time we are broken, spiritual life shows us there is gold in our broken places. We realize we are all broken. Spiritual life is at work to help us become stronger where we are broken.

We begin to appreciate our broken places are not weaknesses and not faults. Our broken places are not about being fragile or being wrong. We get broken because we are human.

Spiritual life is all about restoring and healing our broken places.

It may take us some time but we come to understand our broken places are beautiful.

My broken places show me more about spiritual life than all the perfect moments I ever experienced. The irony is when we discover the joy of being restored by spiritual life.

There is infinitely more joy and wholeness in our restored broken places than in trying not to make any mistakes.

Spiritual life helps us look and listen to what our broken places have to teach us. The pain of our broken places is transformed into the gold which helps restore us.

There is nothing beneficial about feeling pain. Pain pushes us toward where we want to be.

Joy in Our Broken Places

There is no joy in being broken. We feel pain and embarrassment when we are broken, even when someone else breaks us.

Our broken places are more than physical or emotional injuries. We experience spiritual aspects of being broken which can often overwhelm us.

Our relationship to spiritual life grows as we learn to trust its healing presence in our lives. We give our consent to the ways spiritual life will heal our broken places.

Each of us responds to our broken places in our own ways. We can choose to search for joy. Spiritual life helps transform how we respond to the pain of being broken.

It takes courage and willingness to work as spiritual life helps our broken places become stronger.

If we were to give up our broken places would simply remain broken. We would not heal or become stronger, only more and more broken.

We celebrate our broken places because they are part of our story.

How will spiritual life help us live into our broken places in new ways today?

Where are our broken places which could be restored this week?

[Image by Ervaar Japan]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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