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Beautiful Brokenness

“I hope nothing’s wrong with this one,” my friend brazenly blurted after my pregnancy announcement during our monthly women’s Bible study. A few cringed following her comment, and I caught their discomfort in my periphery. Somehow, as calloused and cruel as that statement could be, I knew my friend was well-intentioned, so I politely thanked her and changed the subject.

Still, my heart was torn in the aftermath of her blunt statement. It wasn’t even like she attempted to package it with consolation or preface it with an explanation. It was just spewed out of her mouth without warning or thought. I knew the truth could hurt sometimes, and I prefer brutal honesty to saccharine diplomacy. But what she said stung only because it was something that had crossed my mind on occasion this third time around. I’d dismiss it before it swelled into full-blown fear.

The truth is I’d grown to loathe it when people would ask me, “Boy or girl?” And I’d respond matter-of-factly, “Another girl.” Their response was typically a deep sigh, coy grin, and follow-up remark, “Well, as long as it’s healthy.”

This comment, much like the hoping-nothing-is-wrong-with-this-one, is like a lance to the heart or a punch in the gut. As a mother who was knee-deep in specialized care for my older two daughters, what was I to think? That somehow their lives were a mistake? That the fact that they were developmentally delayed meant they were flawed, imperfect, “less than?”

I’ve become weary of the insinuation that beauty and intelligence equal perfection in a human life. When Sarah dresses up as a princess with glittery, frilly gowns and a tiara adorned with plastic jewels, am I to dissuade her from believing she is beautiful? Is the reality of her facial condition such that she should not aspire to become the image of what beauty truly means?

I’ve become weary of the insinuation that beauty and intelligence equal perfection in a human life. Click To Tweet

We live in a society that is beguiled by aesthetics and repulsed by suffering. Yet suffering is pervasive. We try to eschew it, but no one succeeds. And my older daughters’ very real struggles are evidence that each of us must confront the truth that perfection is not comprised of symmetrical facial features or a high intelligence quotient. Nor is beauty “in the eye of the beholder.”

Beauty, while subjective to the human eye, cannot be contained in a rash judgment based on quick observation. Authentic beauty reflects the soul’s purity: is it kind? Humble? Brave? When will we live in a world that does not emphasize the value of a person based on performance or prettiness? It cannot be soon enough, not for me.

Beauty, while subjective to the human eye, cannot be contained in a rash judgment based on quick observation. Authentic beauty reflects the soul’s purity: is it kind? Humble? Brave? Click To Tweet

So imagine my mixed reaction when Veronica was born as the epitome of health: 10 fingers and toes, a beautifully proportioned head, and silky baby skin. My first response was relief, then guilt. I felt guilty for secretly wanting her to be “normal,” to somehow not be the challenge her older two sisters were. And I was angry at myself for buying into the fallacious belief that beauty is manifested in the body or mind.

Despite Veronica’s seeming “perfection” from a worldly stance, I know she is still human – a little wee girl, yes, but still fallible like Felicity and Sarah and me. I don’t usually view my girls in light of their flaws or weaknesses, because I am so starkly aware of my own. Instead, I see how their struggles have somehow created a deeper understanding of the suffering, wounded Christ. Their brokenness – my brokenness – provides a space where love blossoms beyond the superficial and superfluous.

It is a beautiful brokenness.

Love is what vanquishes those stereotypes and fears that still reside in my heart. Love is the virtue that makes me capable of seeing my children and myself not as superior or inferior, but as beautiful, priceless treasures. And what was “wrong with them” becomes perfected and is made into something more glorious by grace.

Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2018, all rights reserved. Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

Jeannie Ewing

Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who focuses on the topics of grief, redemptive suffering, and waiting. Her four books include a meditation journal, a devotional, and two books on the topic of discovering joy in the midst of grief and waiting with expectation. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic periodicals. For more information, please visit her website lovealonecreates.com.

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