I finally did it. I watched the first episode of Jimmy McGovern’s drama ‘Broken’ – a series focussing on the work of a priest in a deprived community in Sheffield, played by Sean Bean. I’d heard people speak about this series and decided I had to catch up with it, but knew I’d had to work my way up to it.
And so I watched it. And I wept.
As I watched this broken man entering into the brokenness of others with whatever light he could call upon, I simply started to see the faces and hear the voices of so many whose lives are now forever entwined with mine.
I remembered the young teen telling me her uncle had raped her.
I remember the prisoner in the padded cell making his confession.
I remember the pregnant prostitute hoping for a break.
I remember the mum sitting in a Glasgow high-rise on a plastic garden chair and a one bar fire, her baby eating dog food in the hall.
I remember holding the hand of a young woman lying beside her dying mum in a nursing home bed and singing ‘You are my sunshine’ with her.
I remember taking the drug-addict young couple shopping for clothes for their unborn baby.
I remember the mum with mental health issues begging for a tenner for her gas meter.
I remember the tears of the supposed falsely accused.
I remember the homeless woman at the train station, sharing the Lord’s prayer with her, and returning the following week to see bouquets of flowers in her spot.
I remember the food parcel taken to the young lad living in a damp caravan in the middle of a Highland field.
I remember hearing the story of the trauma of violence recounted from under the sleeping bag of a man on the streets of London.
I remember kids coming to the service in their pyjamas with their cereal bowls because their parents failed to care.
I remember the look on the guys face as he walked off down the street with bags of Christmas presents we’d prepared to give to the elderly and again when he came back later asking for a loaf of bread.
I remember the elderly lunch club member telling me he probably won’t see anyone until he comes back next week.
I remember sitting on the couch beside parents who’s 11 year old son died the day before his medication arrived.
I remember the look on the boyfriends face when he tells me his girlfriend we’d be supporting took her own life.
I remember the numbness of the teenagers face as she sits on our sofa because if she was on her own she’d likely hurt herself.
I remember every wound, insult, curse, stare, outburst, slander and dismissal projected from every broken life, and knowing just a little of the sense of the prayer of Jesus ‘my God, why have you forsaken me?’
And I remember that, for a time, all those memories and more led me to a season where I found it too difficult to enter into others lives for a while because the heartache was too real, and because, whilst my work carried on, my own deep woundedness that I’d carried all my life wasn’t being attended to.
And I remember the depths of the sense of the presence of God, who delights to place the light of his treasure in the fleshy lumps of clay that we are, and how when we hold the wound before him he touches it with his very presence.
And I remember that my brother, Jesus – my Lord, Jesus – was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, and that to follow him often means entering into the brokenness of others. And it is because I know that he entered into my own brokenness that I know he will enter into that of others and do the work only he can do. We simply hold the candle of hope and point towards his coming.
I know that Jesus truly is the hope for the world and that, at all costs, we must strive to invite people into an encounter with him. It’s a passion. And you know what? The word passion in its original language setting means ‘to suffer’. We’re not always ready for that bit.
And so I’ll watch the rest of the series and maybe weep a bit more. But by the grace of God, I’ll get up each morning and go about my Father’s business and wait for grace to unfold.