Exploring Stories of Brokenness

This blog post is Part 6 in a 14-part blog series on discovering and living your mission. (If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.) In this blog post, we will explore an exercise that can help you discover and clarify your purpose: exploring your stories of brokenness.

Maybe it has to do with my Christian faith, but I believe that our most painful experiences can be redeemed. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for an unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky approach that tells people “everything will work out for the good.” I think that perspective can be damaging and hurtful when people are dealing with pain. As a counselor, I have sat with clients who have described terrible things that have happened to them, things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s not helpful to force a painful story into a lesson. Some experiences are bad and hurtful, and there isn’t any way to get around that fact.

However, when I have helped people work through their painful stories, I have often found that our stories of brokenness can help fuel and clarify our purpose in life. In our most painful stories, there is often a high level of energy. We know deeply what it is like to feel hurt in a particular way, and this can drive our purpose. Out of our brokenness, we want to create a world that ensures other people won’t have to suffer the way we have suffered.

One of the most powerful talks I ever heard was from Wes Stafford, former president and CEO of Compassion International, a humanitarian aid child sponsorship organization dedicated to the long-term development of children living in poverty around the world. Stafford grew up as the son of missionaries in West Africa. Between the ages of 6 and 10, Stafford attended a missionary boarding school, in which he suffered from physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse. He told one particularly heartbreaking story about how the people who ran the missionary boarding school punished him by making him stand in front of the other kids and hold a candle until it burned his fingers.

The things that Wes Stafford endured in that missionary boarding school were horrific. We wouldn’t wish those experiences on anyone. But his stories of brokenness did fuel and clarify his mission. During those years, Wes Stafford made a commitment that he would dedicate his life to serving the needs of hurting children. He didn’t want any child to suffer the way that he did. Out of his story of brokenness grew an amazing mission and calling to serve needy children.

What about you? Spend some time thinking and reflecting on your childhood and growing up years. What were some of your most painful experiences? If one or two stories come to mind, spend some time thinking and journaling about these experiences. What happened? What thoughts and feelings came up for you during that time? What thoughts and feelings come up for you now? Can you see any connection between your story of brokenness and your purpose? How might your story of brokenness inform your “why?”

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