The Broken Reaching Out to the Broken

Six years ago, Ann Voskamp took the dare to dive deep into a lifestyle of gratitude.  Could she record one thousand gifts from God and let her heart be changed by the knowledge of all the ways that God loved her?  She wrote about the dare in her first book, and suddenly the Greek word for thanksgiving, eucharisteo, was on everyone’s lips.

In 2012, I began my own gratitude journal.  By Thanksgiving Day, I will have recorded my five thousandth gift, so the release of Ann’s book about another dare is timely for me, especially since I recently heard Katelyn Beatty’s quip on a CT podcast that writers should “go vulnerable, or go home.”  Without a doubt,  The Broken Way jumps into the deep end with Ann’s memory of cutting her own skin with shards of broken glass as a young woman, her own makeshift release valve for all the anguish that had nowhere else to go.  This latest offering chronicles Ann’s living her way into the answer to the question we all ask from time to time:

“How in the world do you live with your one broken heart?”

Her answer?

“You give it away.”

This is a strong argument, because hurting people are not interested in hearing about anyone’s “perfect” life.  They are not encouraged by the knowledge that I’ve checked off every single item on my to-do list (I haven’t) — or that my boys all do their chores without complaining.  (They don’t).  They want to hear about how I handle disappointment and about all the times I have had to apologize to my kids for losing my temper.  Offering up my own brokenness kills perfectionism and opens the way for a true communion in Christ — who redeems everything.

When gratitude has paved the way to acceptance and peace, but the broken world rubs up against the rough edges of your own broken heart, the broken way, the cross-shaped life, becomes the way of abundance:

“If eucharisteo had been the first dare, the first journey of discovery into a life of letting God love me and counting all those ways, could this be a dare for the next leg of the journey, the way leading higher up and deeper in, daring me to let all the not-enough there in my open hands – let it be broken into more than enough?  A dare to let all my brokenness — be made into abundance.  Break and give away.  The broken way.”

The truth is that relationships on this planet are a matter of the broken reaching out to the broken, and Ann’s message tumbles out in a series of personal stories supported by poignant metaphors:

  • We remember Christ in communion, and in coming together around His broken body, we affirm that we are a “remembering people,” and in the gathering, our own broken hearts become re-membered.
  • One day, on a whim, Ann picked up a pen and inked a cross over the scars on her arm.  Daring to live a cross-shaped life reveals that the “bad brokenness is broken by [the] good brokenness” of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The Beatitudes gently reinforce this beautiful truth about an Upside-down Kingdom:  dare to be poor in spirit, to mourn deeply over your sin, to meekly come to Jesus with a hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied with His righteousness.
  • An old blue Mason jar full of wheat kernels becomes an image of our span of life, our one container of days.  Just as the grain must first be broken before it becomes bread, “the way to break time’s hold on me is to be broken,” to live an inconvenient life in which I may be called upon to be sown into the broken ground of another of God’s image-bearers.

One of my favorite features of Ann’s writing is her ability to riff on gospel themes in ways that take me right to the core of the Truth — but in a new way.  Let this one soak into your tired heart:  “The wondrous order of Christianity isn’t ‘go and sin no more and Jesus won’t condemn you.’  The order of Christ and Christianity is ‘neither do I condemn you — go and sin no more.'”

Ann’s celebrity has taken her into hundreds of personal stories about gratitude and the positive changes that have grown from “eucharistic living.”  She has also been invited into the deep hurts of this world, and she responds by opening her own life and allowing readers to sit with her in her brokenness: a parking lot disappointment over a careless son’s failure to love; a broken-hearted mama loved Velveteen with tears running down cheeks like wrinkled silk; a texted rebuke — the faithful wounds of a true friend who doubted the reality of Ann’s highly polished love.

To “live given” is to live with vulnerability and humility — but out of that risk grows a harvest of true, biblical fellowship.  The message of The Broken Way  is that there is great yield from our yieldedness.

From the moment of conception, with the first cell division, the broken way begins.  Because tender hearts get scarred, coping mechanisms are implemented early on, and we seek warmth and light around our own small self-ignited flame — until, by grace, we learn the daring path into abundant life. The koinonia of mutual burden bearing,  forgiveness of the unforgivable, and the turn-around-in-your-tracks of repentance, Jesus first word of the Gospel, become the broken way home to God.

“Out of feeling lavishly loved by God, one can break and give away that lavish love — and know the complete fullness of love.

The miracle happens in the breaking.”


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51 thoughts on “The Broken Reaching Out to the Broken”

  1. Michele, I love your review of this new book by Ann Voskamp! I was reminded of the Henri Nouwen book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, in which he writes, “To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use four words: ‘taken,’ ‘blessed,’ broken,’ and ‘given.’” Many blessings to you!


  2. Ann’s words quoted and reviewed by you call us all to account for remaining humble before the Lord and each other. The condemnation we so often feel from the enemy’s devices as well as far too often our Christian brothers and sisters can pull us back from that. Your reviews keep adding to my book list, my friend!


  3. Michele, I’m reading this book right now and loved how she started it off from a place of vulnerability on page one. I’m a slow reader, but this one is easier to read than “One Thousand Gifts”, which I also loved. Your review is perfect praise for her work. Well done.
    Blessings ~ Wendy


  4. 5,000 gifts counted, wow, Michele! I counted my 3,000th gift this week and will continue counting for the way it’s opening my eyes to God’s goodness. I look forward to this next journey of see the beauty and abundance in brokenness. Thank you for sharing your heart. xoxo


    1. Someone challenged me recently to sit down soon and read through my gratitude journals over the Thanksgiving holiday — so many gifts counted, and it will be wonderful to give thanks for them all over again! Congratulations on reaching #3,000!


  5. Michele I am deep into the book now, sitting in the quiet, absorbing Ann’s words, tears falling. You amaze me with how fast you read a book and how much you can absorb and then present in your blog. I think you are the best reviewer of books I know!


  6. I’m on the wait list at the library for Ann’s book. But I know that I’ll end up buying my very own copy. I learned the importance of gratitude at her knee. My life has changed upside down because of that emphasis.

    God bless her. And you, my friend. 5000 is a spectacular testimony of His never-ending love …


  7. I think I may be living under a rock, because I haven’t read anything by Ann. I’ll have to add her books to my reading list. Thanks for sharing this review with Thankful Thursdays.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great review. I am listening to this book on Audible, it has touched my heart deeply. I appreciate how much you have shared here. It is a great book that makes you do a lot of soul-searching, and you have highlighted so many important parts! Thank you for this beautiful post!


      1. No, Ann doesn’t read it. A woman named Jaimee Paul reads it and does a very good job. Ann is coming out with a study guide for this book later this month. I am looking forward to going through that! Have a day full of sweet blessings. May your soul be refreshed in the Lord!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Michele, here is our weekly visit. This week I was before you on the #GraceandTruth linkup. I cannot wait to get this book. Ann is another Canadian author so I’m extra proud of her 🙂 This weekend I’m going to visit a girl who is in the hospital for cutting too much again. I am going to get her Ann’s book. She so wants to be healthy but is just so broken and needing healing. I was meant to read your post today!
    Much love,


  10. I have been learning so much about my own brokenness. The chance to sit down and acknowledge what the brokenness is and then invite God to sit with me. It has been eye opening and a big part of my journey this past year. I know that Ann’s book, The Broken Way, is a must read. It is on my list to dig into. Thank you for the beautiful review as always. You have a gift for this.


  11. I’m reading The Broken Way right now too, Michele. I love watching an author’s voice and writing change and develop from book to book, and what I’m enjoying about this one, in particular, is Ann’s openness. The message is strong, of course, but she is practicing what she’s preaching by showing it from her own life and, as you say, “allowing readers to sit with her in her brokenness.” To me, that’s really powerful.


  12. Michele — you always do such a great job of reviewing books! I love to read your perspective and your thoughts and I appreciate how you cover each book thoroughly. Oh and WOW! over 5,000 things to be grateful for by this Thanksgiving!?! That is fantastic and definitely creates an attitude of thankfulness. I am your neighbor at #SpiritualSudays


  13. Michele, this definitely sounds like a book that needs to be on my list! Thank you for a great review, and for being a part of our Recommendation Saturday community. Heart Hugs, Shelly ❤


  14. Love this Michele. I’ve been wondering about her new book and wondering if I should put it on my christmas list. I’ve actually not read the first one either, but have wanted to for some time. It sounds timely, for me. I’m adding to my wish list!
    Stopping by from Inspire Me Monday


  15. well done, michele – it’s a slow read for me – it has to sink down into the marrow and I’m flighty and distracted. so thank you for the overview and I will continue on down into the beauty of its truths. xx


  16. I am reading my way through this book right now-SO GOOD. I have to force myself to put it down. One line that still resonates with me (I’m paraphrasing) “My bad broken is healed by Jesus’ good brokenness.” Thanks for sharing your insights from the book with #DreamTogether!


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