When my son Alex was around three-and-a half years old, he followed in his older brother Clay’s footsteps and started building with Legos in earnest. One day, Alex asked me to join him in playing with some “machines” he had created at the breakfast table. He proceeded to blast my characters because my guys were only allowed to “walk” around according to his game rules.
A little while later, Alex found me in another part of the house and held his creation in his hands. “It broke,” he announced. “Well, did you put it back together?” I asked. “Yeah, but now it’s different,” he said. He didn’t comment on whether the new one was better or worse, just different.
When Clay, who is three years older than Alex, built with Legos, he would build according to the plans in the instruction books. He would make them perfect. Then, not content to complete the structure as described in the pamphlet, he dismantled them on purpose. Clay continually surprised me with his decision to break things apart to make something new from his imagination.
In keeping with my perfectionist tendencies, I would’ve expected Alex to try to put the pieces back together in the exact same order as he’d had them, to try and replicate the original. At least, that’s what I would’ve attempted and been frustrated if I failed to make it exactly like before. If I were Clay, I would’ve put my perfect creation on the shelf to protect it from harm.
Things break, like hearts, dreams, and expectations. As much as we wish we could, we cannot always prevent brokenness. Sometimes, we know immediately that we are facing a broken situation. Sometimes, it takes time and effort to see the damage to our lives or our spirits. Sometimes, we have to make the break ourselves.
When we realize that we are no longer whole, in the way we were before, we may make every effort to reassemble things like they existed before the break. We try to pinpoint who we were before we were broken and retreat to that person. We want to put the emotional pieces back in the exact same order so that nothing feels strange or uncomfortable or chaotic.
But that’s not how life works. We may want to avoid the fallout from the broken parts of life. We can’t. We cannot go back to the person we were. We must go through the process, the journey, and the grief in order to rebuild.
At times, the road seems too difficult, impossible even. And it may take an excruciatingly long time to make our way. But if we can travel through the difficult times of change with the realization that we are going forward, not backward, we can focus on becoming different. Perhaps, we will discover that the past situation was not as good as we originally thought. Maybe we will decide that a return to what we previously considered normal is not what we need today.
God does not expect us to remain static. He does not require us to return to the past in order to be faithful to him, either on a personal or systemic level. No matter what we are experiencing – the valley of death, the wilderness, the desert – he is with us. (Psalm 23; Isaiah 43). If we are broken hearted or crushed in spirit, he is with us. (Psalm 34:18).
Going through hard times and working to become different is not as easy as putting Legos together after they break, but nothing worth doing or becoming ever is. Whether we had control over the events that caused the brokenness or not, with God’s help, we can take the broken pieces, and build something new and different. The process may be painful and long, but God stays with us every step of the way and will never abandon us. God wants us to redeem the past and rise wiser and stronger to embrace the future in front of us.