• Jo

Chapter 2: The egg-stent of the problem

two children on an easter egg hunt in a field

When my son Jake was young, he loved Easter egg hunts. I would write clues, making them tricky but not too difficult, each year revising them as he got older and looking for new places to hide the eggs. I loved the challenge of writing the clues and setting it all up just as much as he enjoyed solving them and finding the chocolate. His enjoyment of this family tradition has not diminished over the years and, even at his ripe old age of 23, it is still an annual event.

For me, the joy was in watching him solve what I had carefully set up and laid out. Likewise, God enjoys setting out a trail of clues through life, for me to discover. Like a detective in my favourite crime dramas, I love deciphering each clue and putting all the pieces together like a jigsaw. God has wired me this way and uses it to help me work out solutions to problems I face. Sometimes I wish he would give me a direct download of the answers, but most of the time I enjoy the investigative challenge.

That Sunday night in church, he had given me the initial clue and knew I would go off and seek out what it meant. Several years before I had come across the verse Proverbs 25:2:

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. (ESV)

At the time it didn’t make sense, but over the years I learned that God uses the joy I get from researching and solving puzzles, to connect with me. God has hidden or concealed all manner of things in the world for us to discover. From theology to neuroscience to geography to art, God has hidden treasure, not from us, but for us. There is no sacred/secular divide in God’s world; it all belongs to him. He wants us to go looking and exploring where he is at work in the world.

I needed a starting point for the quest given by God that evening in church. So, I went to the most logical place a Christian can go: the Bible.

Biblical brokenness

It is easy to think that the bible is out of touch with our modern, complex world because it was written so long ago, but a word search soon revealed that God had been writing about brokenness thousands of years ago. He had dotted clues within Scripture. Just as in English we use two words – broken and heart, Hebrew does the same: shabar and lev.

Shabar means to break or break into pieces. There are also a range of alternative words, many of a forceful nature: burst, shatter, wreck, crush, destroy, quench. Shabar seems to be relevant from breaking a plate to destroying a life.

The synonym "shattered" resonated deep within me.

Many of us, probably most of us, have experienced heart ache at some point in our lives and are familiar with that pain, so hard in your chest it takes your breath away or the nausea deep down in our stomach. Most can recover and move on with their lives, albeit achingly slow. For others it is so severe and intense that it is like the wind has been taken out of their sails; they inwardly shutdown or collapse. The impact is so severe that they are left unable to move on, debilitated by the experience.

What had happened to me over that summer had felt explosive. At the time I was watching the US legal drama, The Good Fight; their opening credits visualised my inner angst:

The word lev/leb means heart and is used over 500 times in the Old Testament. In our modern world the word ‘heart’ links to either the physical blood pumping organ or our emotions. In biblical times it meant the centre of a person’s being. We would now use the word soul or inner world. Lev however includes our feelings, mind ,intellect, imagination and the sources of our actions (will, values, motives, desires). It is our whole inner world. We like to separate out our feelings into our heart and thoughts into our mind. The bible knew no such distinction and neuroscience shows that there is no such neat distinction either.

In the Old Testament The exact phrase "broken hearted" is used a few times, with a consistent theme. (emphasis mine)

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

These verses made it clear that I was on the right path: "broken hearted" is a biblical concept and more importantly God cares about those who have been internally shattered and wants them to be healed. This was a comforting starting point.

Bigger isn’t always better

easter egg wrapped in foil

As I was delving into Scripture, God spoke to me again. This time to help me begin to understand why I felt so inwardly shattered. He revealed that I had lived life like an Easter egg – a chocolate shell all wrapped in shiny foil but hollow on the inside. Recent events had smashed through my thin chocolate layer so that I was now in pieces and the façade had been revealed. I had tried to project a false image of myself – because of events the year after I contacted the M.E. when my mental health had spiralled down as never before. To cope with the feelings of rejection I had constructed unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to be liked and socially accepted, having no tool kit to deal with the stigma surrounding my mental health struggles. I was trying to “fake it till you make it” and not only was it not working, but the illusion of it had also been well and truly shattered.

cadburys creme egg unwrapped

God said, he wanted to make me like a Cadburys crème egg. Much smaller than Easter egg, with thicker chocolate walls and filled on the inside. Plus he knows how much I love crème eggs!

This was a lot to take in. It made sense given what I was learning, but also challenging to know that my carefully constructed persona was such a thin veneer. It was hard to take in how emotionally wounded I was. I thought I had done well rebuilding my life after the onset of the M.E twelve years earlier but here was God telling me I had built on shaky ground and it was now all tumbling back down again.

Armed with the next important clue I went back on my treasure hunt, this time finding answers in the world of neuroscience.

Pause and ponder

1. A huge part of my healing journey has been learning how God and I communicate best with each other, building a personal relationship based on how God wired me. A friend who had a head injury cannot stand or cope with this way of relating to God. She needs direct downloads which in turn I find too intense and overwhelming.

I wonder how best you learn and hear from God?

2. Do any of the words for shabar resonate with you? If so can you take it to God to find out more about why it speaks to you so powerfully?

Please feel free to share your insights below.


Recent Posts

See All