On a stretch of sand extending nine miles ahead of us lay hundreds of thousands of shells. Shells of all shapes and sizes littered the shoreline for as far as the eye could see. Our family strolled along the beach with the family dog in tow. I reached down to pick up a palm sized orange shell to add to my daughter's collection. I showed my three year old and said 'isn't it beautiful?' Her immediate innocent reply was "it's broken". "It's still special" I said. As those words left my mouth I felt like God said to me 'you may be broken but you're beautiful, and I love you.'

For some time prior to this I had experienced brokenness. During that season of my life I was convinced that God was the one doing the breaking and the single word 'broken' became the theme of my life. Looking back, I am not sure God ordained it. What I am sure of is that circumstances forced me to become immensely aware of just how much I needed God. I discovered, with great difficulty, that self reliance had reached its limits.

James C. Wilhoit says that, "To be broken means we recognise we are personally powerless to manage our life in a way that will bring the kind of pleasure we most deeply long for. To be broken is recognising that we face problems we cannot overcome by willpower alone." Like the rich young ruler who encountered Jesus, I was confronted with a choice- give up something to gain the kingdom of God or continue as I was.

In Matthew16:24-25 Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." Brokenness was my catalyst for change and the revelation through which I came to realise that I needed to deny myself in order to give my undivided attention and affection to God. There is promise and hope in brokenness. What I found as I came through this journey of self denial, as promised by Jesus, was that I found life. And Jesus promises life in abundance.

Jerry Sittser has said "Brokenness forces us to find a source of love outside of ourselves. That source is God." Some of us may feel like we've been washed up during rough conditions or dragged in with the tide. We may feel as though we have been pounded time and again by the relentlessness of life's challenges. We may feel that we're only a fragment of what we once were. Maybe people, situations and life events have gotten the best of us and piece by piece we feel we're a shell of the person we used to be. Perhaps there is an element of loneliness, despite being surrounded by a sea of people. Washed up. Fragile. Beaten. Broken. Those are heartbreaking, heavy words to write let alone feel. So maybe, just maybe, these are the words you need to hear from God as you read this; "you may be broken but you're beautiful and I love you." 

Captain Jodie Pethybridge - Australia Eastern Territory