The past couple of days, I have talked about the gift of being busted and the power in owning your heart. But I know when I said busted, I also thought about being broke. And there's a certain value in that, too.
Broke, as in - a complete lack of funds or resources.
Broke takes us to a place of dependence. Embedded in that is an invitation to deeper living because you're forced to rely on something outside of yourself. You meet people when you're broke that you might have previously walked right by. You come to know people in a new way when you're depraved, and somehow, it deepens your connection to the community around you so that when you're the most uncertain, you're still certain that there is this greater scheme that's taking care of you beyond what you could have prepared for yourself. It's fantastically awesome.
We learn a lot from the eyes, the hearts, the hands, even the signs of the broke...and we learn a lot from being there, too. A friend posted a status on Facebook yesterday about a woman she saw downtown in her city, standing next to the local taco shop with a sign that said, "Will Work for Tacos." An empty stomach in a life that's broke still knows what tastes good, and it sets itself up to have some. Someone commented on that status and said, "I'd probably buy her a taco, then."
My church serves a meal to families in need every Tuesday night. Many others come to enjoy the meal with these men, women, and children. One man has come to Sunday services here and there. I didn't recognize him when I first saw him, but at the end of the service, our preacher made an announcement that this man, who had found us through our Tuesday meal for the hungry, needed a ride back home - a good 20-30 miles away. He'd come without having a plan for returning because something in his heart told him that for this Sunday morning, his place was in that pew. (Ok, purple church chair.) And someone stepped up and took him home.
Several Saturdays ago, I had the chance to visit the free clinic run by another church in my county. It's the only clinic in this county for the broke. The room was filled with people patiently waiting their turn for the chance to see a medical professional donating their time to serve them. They came humbling themselves and hoping for healing, trapped in sick bodies but unbroken in love. The way I saw doctors, nurses, volunteers, and patients interacting with each other like old friends meeting in a bar for the first time in twenty years - it's inspiring.
And I'm currently reading Seth Barnes' new book, "Kingdom Journeys" (available now on Amazon.com; get the first chapter for free here). It's about people choosing to be broke for a chance to travel the world, and it's about the relationships they find that sustain them through difficult times on tough treks. Like a missionary who lost her debit card and spent her last cash to get to a town where she could buy toothpaste, only to run into another foreign couple in a coffeeshop who then gave her enough money for quite an extraordinary amount of toothpaste and bus fare back to her station. Or the woman who left everything behind and went to Africa, where she formed a bond with a glue-sniffing street kid that she eventually placed in an orphanage...and returned to visit only to find him evangelizing his community with a wide smile plastered on his face. They both started out broke; they both emerged so much more.
It was the relationship. We make it pretty easy in this country to be broke, still get your needs met, and never have to put yourself out there. We make it easy to sit by the mailbox waiting on a check to arrive or waiting for word that your debit card has been filled up, and you never have to talk to anybody. But there's a greater need we're failing on, and that's the need for relationship. It's the greatest blessing of being broke. The chance to meet people, depend on people, and weave yourself into this community story that maybe you feel like the beneficiary of but nor is it lost that the greater story is grace. Nothing makes up for that.
As an author, I'm fairly familiar with broke. (Surprised?) Someone asked me the other day what I did for a living, and I told them I'm a writer and they said, "Oh. So you're rich then?" with kind of an elbow. My answer is: Yes and no. I don't have any money, if that's what you're talking about. But my life is blessedly rich. Because I'm meeting a lot of really cool people and finding a way to be a bigger part of this story and you want to know something? Most days, I forget that I'm short on funds. It's not the thing any more.
Broke shows you what the thing is. The thing is that you can get by on a lot less than you ever believed you could, but you couldn't give up relationship. It's the heart that keeps you going and the people you get to journey with that make life worth living. It's just that. That's the thing.
If you get the chance in your life, go for busted and go for broke. It's worth it.