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The Beauty of Falling Apart

How Having It Together Keeps Us from Having It All by Lieutenant Stephanie Pavlakis
Broken Heart lollipop

I am one of those people who always got it right. I did the right things, received good grades, worked hard and always went above and beyond. I became known as responsible, detailed, organized and maybe a bit of a perfectionist—all things to be proud of, all good things, until they weren’t.

There came a time when it began to feel like even perfect wasn’t good enough. I had strived my whole life to be good and work hard for others. But one day—after a traumatic encounter—I found that no matter what I did, it still wasn’t enough. No matter how much I tried, I would never be enough for some people. I had said this before and knew it mentally, but it seemed like something that applied to other people—and not to me. Suddenly, it was too real for me to handle and the whole persona that I had built up seemed to have lost its foundation.

Through this time of wrestling, crying, discovering and uncovering, I learned something about falling apart. Falling apart is associated with failure, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In trying to have it together for everyone else, I had closed off a part of my soul that was parched and crying out for the Lord to fill it with living water. When I was broken apart, I found I had never fully been put together. I was the broken cistern of Jeremiah, everything I tried to fill myself with slowly leaking out the cracks (Jeremiah 2:13).

But here is the beauty of falling apart: Holiness. Falling apart is not the end. It is the start of being cracked open to be filled with an exquisite pouring of grace and love.

Completely Broken Heart lollipop

The Beauty of Community

Maybe the scariest thing about falling apart is how other people will respond—not knowing how they’ll respond, what they’ll say, what they’ll tell others or even what they’ll think of you. Falling apart is being vulnerable, and being vulnerable takes a whole lot of bravery. You’re telling the whole world that you can’t hold it together anymore. But the whole world is not a trustworthy, God-centered place to honor your bravery. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable and brave and fall apart in a community of safe, faithful believers, God can use those persons for your holy healing.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” This is what the body of believers is meant to do; this is why we exist in community. God could have left our faith and personhood to be worked out in isolation, but instead He placed us in community. This community can only do what it’s meant to do when we let them in, when we fall apart and allow God to use them to build us back into something more beautiful. Let them use their gifts of encouragement, wisdom and mercy. “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5 NIV). How can this be if we will never fully be our broken, fragile selves with one another?

As if this were not enough, Paul tells us that supporting and encouraging one another when we struggle and fail is not just a nice suggestion, it’s a command. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 NIV). The burden can be crushing and it’s too much to bear alone. However, the beauty of falling apart is discovering the necessity for community and the holy healing it brings.

The Beauty of Grace

In my time of working to be “good enough” to earn love and respect, I preached grace to others while still not having fully experienced it myself. When we try to hold it together, we miss out on the beauty of grace. We deny grace access to the part of ourselves that needs it the most. It’s as if we’re saying to Jesus, “Thanks for dying on the cross, but I’ve got this bit handled. I’ll take care of it. No need for grace.” In truth, we’ve closed the door on the rooms in our heart that are craving grace the most. We’ve shoved the mess into the closet and have locked it shut. But when we’re falling apart, the door bursts open, the mess comes spilling out and we come to know grace in a deeper and more real way.

Paul struggled. I’m not sure if he ever tried to hold it all together, maybe he did pre-Jesus encounter, but we do know that he struggled and he shared this struggle with the Church. He shares, “Three times I pleaded the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:8-9 NIV). I hear these verses most often used in the argument of the importance of sharing our testimonies, but I find it equally true for when the testimony is still in the making. It’s only when we come to the Lord messy and broken that we can fully come to know the meaning of the Gospel and the depth of grace. 

His grace is for me. He doesn’t ask me to be good enough or to earn His love. He doesn’t ask me to be perfect in my human sense of the word. He asks that I let His grace be enough and it is. It is more than enough.

Heart lollipop

The Beauty of Being Loved

There are always underlying motives to keeping it together. It could be maintaining a reputation or a fear of failure that is holding you back from God’s grace. Beneath all these motives though is one greater terrifying thought: “What if I am not worthy of love?” I know the truth is that we are deeply, unexplainably loved. I thought I believed it before, but now I don’t think I ever truly believed it in my heart of hearts, at the core of myself. I’m not sure my soul agreed with it.

In falling apart, I saw for the first time what I had been filling myself with. It was a faulty love based on others and busyness and responsibility, but not in Jesus Christ. To know you are so deeply loved by the Creator of the Universe is easy to say and hard to explain. To believe I am loved by God’s heroes of faith in my community requires an abundance of grace. And it requires me to remind myself of it over and over again until this truth has made its way into the broken places of my heart. To fall apart is to come to terms with who we have deemed ourselves to be and to exchange that for who God has truly made us to be.

“Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death,

jealousy is fierce as the grave,

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

the very flame of the Lord.

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house,

he would be utterly despised.”

The Song of Solomon 8:6-7 ESV. 

Lieutenant Stephanie Pavlakis is the Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary and Divisional Youth Secretary for the Northwest Division. Throughout her time in the Army, Lt. Pavlakis has provided resources for human trafficking victims and coordinated Christian education for youth at a summer camp in Alaska. Lt. Pavlakis and her husband, Steve, have three children: Evelyn, Harper and Olivia.

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