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In my non-writer life, I’m a graphic, web, and software designer. I get to spend the majority of my time creating cool things that people use every day.
One of my partners on a current project is new to the software development process, so he often finds himself impatient with how things progress. Many times I’ll get a message from him that our software broke, that it doesn’t work or that he can’t get anything done and that the sky is falling.
Now, while this can get annoying, I sympathize with the fact that he’s new to this, so his expectations aren’t always correct. Still, when this happens, it always rubs me the wrong way. I never knew why…until today.
In recent years, my wife has taken to referring to me as ‘broken’ because of my mental illness. I’ve never been offended by this because she’s never meant it offensively. That’s just the word she uses to describe her depressed husband.
To her, and me, ‘broken’ has always just been a word to sum up all of the struggles I have due to my mental health. It’s easier to say, ‘I’m broken’ than explain the extent of my depression or even to go so far as to detail how anxiety and anger intertwine to create some super villain of a mental illness. ‘Broken,’ just always seemed like an easier way out.
And, to be fair to my positive, loving and encouraging partner in crime, I much rather have her use that word to describe me as opposed to ‘my severely ill husband who’s depression has screwed him up beyond anything I could have ever imagined.’ I think we all agree; I’d rather hear her call me ‘broken.’
But, in all the years she’s used that word to describe me it’s never felt right. Whenever she would call me broken it always just seemed a little off. Like it wasn’t correct. I mean I agreed with her, and I still appreciate the reasons she chooses to use that word, but every time I hear it, it doesn’t seem right. But I never understood why…until today.
I’ve always held on to hope that there was something better after this depression. For whatever reason, I was broken, and it could be God’s doing or not. It didn’t matter to me.
But I’m indeed broken, right? Like my brain chemicals, my neurotransmitters, we know they don’t fire like the average person. I have clinical test results that prove that. So I must be broken, right?
And then there’s the depressive episodes I go through. The emotional outbursts, the pain, the rage, the fire of despair inside me. If that’s not broken, man, what is? Certainly I’m busted all to hell and in need of desperate repair.
But even then, all screwed up, I’m positive that this isn’t it. I believe that I’ll one day get fixed up again, that there will be a repaired Adam someday soon. And, even if I don’t see that repaired Adam here on Earth that doesn’t mean it’s over.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
So if that’s what I believe, then why do I feel weird when my wife refers to me as broken? After all, that’s what I am, right? Broken, but fixable through God, was what I thought I was…until today.
I’ve always known from scripture that God created me and that he has a plan for all this crap in my life. There you go, that’s theology a la Adam. But I’ve trusted it, and I’ve known it in my heart.
God created me in his image and has a big plan for me, and it doesn’t matter if I’m broken he can still use me. But wait a second? If God created me, and God clearly knows his crap, then why did I come out all jacked up? Is it sin? Is it, nature? Is it just luck? What is it?
I’ve always believed that God created me and, even though I came out all broken and wonky, he still loves me and wants to use me. That’s what I believed in my heart. I believed it, but it never made total sense to me, and I didn’t know why…until today.
Today these questions all make sense to me. These seemingly random little thoughts I’ve taken you through have all collided because of a single realization.
I’m not broken.
Do my neurotransmitters, do the chemical levels in my brain, match up to yours and that of everybody else? Nope, but that doesn’t mean I’m broken.
Has life shaped up for me the way you or I ever thought it should? Not at all, but that doesn’t mean I’m broken.
Today I figured out why I hate it when my business partner refers to our software as broken. She isn’t broken. We’re still building her. Cut her some slack and let’s just keep working on her so she turns into the awesome thing we know she can be. Our software isn’t broken, she’s still in development, dude. Calling her broken is negative and grossly inaccurate.
On top of that, it’s dismissive of how far she’s already come in her development. To say nothing of the fact that it just really annoys the guys who created her.
That’s me. I’m not broken. That’s why none of this ever made sense to me. God created me for a reason and for his glory, so of course it never made sense to me that I came out all wrong, that’s not the intention of my creator.
God designed me this way for a reason, and nobody has seen the finished product yet. I’m still in development. The Finished Adam will be amazing. Even better than any versions you’ve seen in the past. But we have to stop looking at the current version of me as broken. I’m still being built. The finished product is still in the designer’s head. You haven’t seen anything yet.
My partner has to trust me if he wants our software to be as awesome as we designed her to be. I find myself always saying to him, “Trust my vision, trust my skills. Nothing I’ve done in the past has ever led you astray, and it’s always turned out better than you ever imagined. So just trust me to do what I always do.”
Today I hear God saying the same thing to me and my wife. God’s saying, ‘Look at the scoreboard Adam, I’m never wrong about this stuff so just let me keep doing what I always do.’
Today I no longer believe that I’m broken. I’m just not done being built. You can’t call something that’s under construction, ‘broken.’ Doing that is not fair to the builder or the thing being built. I realize now that if I hate when my partner calls our software broken, it must really annoy God when we refer to me as broken too.
To assume I’m broken is to assume he’s done with me and things didn’t turn out right. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phillippians 1:6
I’m not broken; I’m in development so let’s get that straight once and for all. To assume otherwise is dismissive of God’s creative process. And as someone who respects his own creative process dearly, I’m not showing anything but respect for God’s.
Does this all hurt? Absolutely. Do I hate every second of it? I’d be insane if I didn’t. I would never wish this on anyone. But you know what, God’s doing something brilliant over here. And he’s never screwed me before. I know he won’t start now.
“For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever.” Psalms 37:28a
I’m not some busted up reject of creation that’s been cast aside. God hasn’t left me in my despair.
“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
We know from scripture that our entire life is preparation, it’s the first chapter in a long freaking book. In fact, it’s probably just the Forward. Because of that, we must look at life as the ultimate development process.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
There are going to be ups and downs, celebrations and disappointments, but it’s all part of a master designer’s creative process, and this all ends up with the masterpiece version of YOU.
Does life suck a lot? Of course, it does. Do we wish for this pain in our lives? No, we don’t. But we need to trust that good will come from it.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
We have to believe that this is not all there is. But it starts with recognizing that we are not broken. We’re just in development.
I truly believe behind every great person; God puts an even greater and stronger person to keep them going.
For a man named Billy from North Carolina, it was his loving wife, Ruth. You see, many know Ruth Graham because of her evangelist husband who brought millions to the Lord. How could they not, after all, the ministry God gave Billy Graham is one for the ages.
Many who knew Ruth were aware of just how instrumental she was in that ministry from the very beginning. In fact, her significant role was later recognized in 1996 when both Billy and Ruth were awarded the honor of the Congressional Gold Medal together. It was evident to all that this was a partnership worthy of celebration.
I don’t know Ruth Graham for any of the reasons noted above. Sure, History proves her impact on millions of lives, and I know Heaven will be all that fuller because God created her. But Ruth’s impact on my life came long after the first chapter closed for her and she left this world.
She changed my life in April of 2013, the day my mother shared with me Ruth’s final message to the world. You see, even in death, Ruth’s intelligence and faith in God is a lesson, and it can be a life changer for us all.
I want to leave you with Ruth’s final message that changed my life. It’s the period she put at the end of the last sentence of her chapter here on Earth. It’s the note she left on her tombstone.
Ruth Graham got it. She understood God’s development process. She knew her final version was still being built and that her entire life was merely a work in progress.
May you someday, like me, learn to see your illness not as a symbol of failure, but as a sign that you’re still in development.