Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
February 1, 2009

 When times are hard you can sometimes smell the fragrance of the broken


          Recently I read again about the accidental death of Maria Sue, the five-year-old daughter of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. That tragedy reminded me of a profound idea I had gleaned from an earlier story about this popular Christian singer.

          The idea was capsulated in the phrase, “The fragrance of the broken.” The words came to Chapman during a walk in the woods. He had gone into the woods to pray, desperate for release from a drought in his soul. Pleading with God for a breakthrough, he gathered some rocks, stacked them into a makeshift altar, and began to pray.

While praying he began to smell cedar, so strongly that it distracted him from praying. Opening his eyes he soon spotted a little cedar tree that he had snapped in half by stepping on it. The broken tree was the source of the smell that Chapman felt was a sign from God. Quickly he wrote down the words, "The fragrance of the broken."

God does provide a "fragrance" that we may learn to cherish as we wrestle with our brokenness and that of our loved ones. Like the little cedar tree, it may not be easily recognizable.  We have to look for it as Chapman did. Finding it, we begin to enjoy what may be called the "aroma of grace."

Each of us must learn to handle brokenness of one kind or another. How we deal with it determines whether we live well or merely endure life until it ends. Misfortune can make us better or bitter. The good thing is that we have a choice.

         My friend "Miss Jimmy" was a poet. In retirement she became legally blind. But she declined to complain. Instead she chose to think of her blindness as a blessing. “There is so much I would have missed had my sight not failed,” she said.

 “I had not bothered to read the Bible very much," she told me, "but when I became blind, I began to listen to the Bible on cassette tapes. Only then did I understand why it really is the greatest book every written." My wife and I enjoyed tea with Miss Jimmy many times. While we admired her poetry we admired her spirit even more. She was not a whiner.

Fanny Crosby and George Matheson were blind hymn writers but refused to complain about their blindness. Both composed beautiful songs which millions still enjoy singing. They refused to let their brokenness "blind" them to their opportunity to live useful lives.

Alabama’s famous Helen Keller became blind and deaf as a young child. Her attitude was profoundly inspiring. She regarded her handicaps as “mere impertinences of fate.” She said, “I resolved that they should not crush or dwarf my soul, but rather be made to blossom, like Aaron's rod, with flowers.” Can you say “Wow”?
         A good friend made a trip out west one summer. He and his wife drove their motor home through Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and California to see the sights. He explained why, "I had been diagnosed with an eye disease which could result in blindness in a few years. I wanted to see all that I could see while my vision was still good."

He could have stayed home fretting about the question, "Why is this happeningto me?" Without complaining he began to adjust to the possibility of brokenness. Instead of whining he used his time to design a plan to cope with blindness if it happened.

Brokenness comes soon or late to us all. Whining about it, or asking "Why me?" gets us nowhere. Pain is inevitable but misery is a choice. As we face the pain with honesty and hope, something wonderful can occur. Character can happen. We can become finer people because we have faced our troubles with courage. Courage is contagious. Deal with your brokenness bravely, with a positive spirit, and your example is bound to encourage someone else.

Thankfully you have a choice. You can refuse to whine. You can find a way to smell the "aroma of grace" in your pain. Then the fragrance of your brokenness becomes a sweet perfume to all who savor the essence of your life. + + +