broken egg shell with bird footprints leading away from it

Falling apart from the inside out

Image by Joern Moock from Pixabay

Earlier this summer, I headed out to my car and discovered that one of my side windows had shattered overnight while sitting by itself in a locked garage.

I don’t know what prompted it. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe there was some build up of stress in the frame that finally took its toll.

All I know was that it was fully intact one day and was a spiderweb of cracks breaking the glass into little pieces smaller than a thumbnail the next day with no obvious cause for the brokenness.

The same thing sometimes happens in life.

Most of the time when I think of the broken places in my life, there’s some external event that was the blow leading to the brokenness. I can trace a clear connection between something that happened to me and the broken places that resulted from it.

The broken car window reminded me that this hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes something seems to fall apart from deep inside me all on its own. This inevitably leads to broken places on the outside of my life as whatever has fallen apart inside manifests itself, but there’s no external blow to explain why I fell apart inside.

For example, I remember when my marriage fell apart as a young adult. Over the course of our marriage, my husband had become increasingly adamant that I needed to be more obedient to him, but this is not something that I do well. I was slowly suffocating, and it was causing a lot of tension (both for me personally and for our relationship).

Our counselors, our pastor, and our friends from our church were all convinced that the only problem was my lack of obedience and submissiveness and that if I would just knuckle down and obey better everything would be fine.

The feeling of being buried alive grew and grew inside me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. There was less and less space for me to exist as me.

Something deep inside me finally fell apart, and I realized that I couldn’t not leave if I wanted to survive.

This realization violated everything I believed in and made no sense on so many levels (practically, financially, religiously), but I couldn’t not do it. I had to leave.

The resulting divorce led to an enormous amount of brokenness both internally and externally, but that all stemmed from what was falling apart inside me and not from any single external event.

That’s not the first time I had experienced a moment of internal falling apart like that, and it definitely wasn’t the last.

These moments where something falls apart deep inside and leaves me in a place where I can’t not do something that I know makes no sense on the outside and leads to broken places in my life and in others are defining moments in my life.

In every case, I’ve discovered with time that I have no regrets about following that inner prompting. It’s always led me out of spaces where I was distorting myself in an attempt to be someone I wasn’t into places of greater authenticity and wholeness.

What I do regret in so many of those cases is the way I went about following that inner prompting. All too often, I took the pain and discomfort of whatever was falling apart inside and used it to lash out at the world around me in the process.

Because there was no external event to blame, I often created an excess of drama and upheaval in my manner of going about whatever inner prompting I was following in some misguided attempt to provide an “explanation” for my pain and the brokenness that resulted from my decision to follow that prompting.

Of course, all I really managed to do was add to the brokenness—both my own and any I caused for people around me. That is inevitably the source of regrets (and there are many!), even when I have no regrets about the ultimate decision.

Over the years I’ve learned that a shift in the way I think about these experiences has helped me to move through them with less damage.

Rather than looking for external sources to blame, I’ve started imagining that some new part of me is trying to emerge from its shell deep inside. The only way for it to do that is by breaking the shell open from the inside out.

Yes, this still creates brokenness (sometimes only internally, sometimes also externally). Yes, it still can cause pain and insecurity and risk and fear and suffering and copious amounts of anxiety. Yes, it still is an uncomfortable place to be.

But when I focus on what is being born in me instead of looking for someone or something to blame, I create much less collateral damage in the process.

At the same time, I am able to embrace and live into what is emerging—and thereby claim the gold of this new birth—much more quickly. This does so much to minimize the damage done to myself and to others, while also moving me toward healing with greater ease and speed.

What is trying to being born in you right now?

What is it that you can’t not do, even if you know it will cause broken places to do it?

What is falling apart in order to make room for whatever is emerging?

How can you better nurture this emerging part of you in order to minimize the brokenness that this change may cause?

How might living more fully into this image shift the way you experience and react to whatever is emerging in you?

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