Blessed Broken Given: How Your Story Becomes Sacred in the Hands of Jesus
:An influential pastor and thought leader invites readers to find beauty and meaning in the ordinary and imperfect aspects of their lives; not as a call to settle for less, but rather as a way to mysteriously participate in God's...
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:An influential pastor and thought leader invites readers to find beauty and meaning in the ordinary and imperfect aspects of their lives; not as a call to settle for less, but rather as a way to mysteriously participate in God's power and purpose.
Glenn Packiam wants to empower readers to find great joy, purpose, and passion in their daily living. While bread may be one of the most common items on our dinner tables, Jesus chose to take it at the Last Supper and invest deep, wonderful, and transcendent meaning in it. Like the bread that was blessed, broken, and given, readers will see how God uses ordinary experiences to cultivate their mission and their brokenness to bring healing to the world.
The ordinary is not the enemy; it is the means by which God accomplishes the miraculous. Through clear biblical teaching and practical steps, Packiam leads the reader into a more purposeful, directed, hopeful future.
GLENN PACKIAM is an Associate Senior Pastor at New Life Church, a multi-congregational church in Colorado Springs. He also serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life Downtown, a thriving New Life congregation in downtown Colorado Springs where millennials and empty nesters, seekers and seasoned believers, gather to worship in a Christ-centered, gospel-shaped way, inspired by the ancient practices of the Church and full of the life of the Spirit. He has completed a research doctorate in theology from Durham University in the UK. Glenn's life stands at the intersection of several spheres: an immigrant from Malaysia educated in America and married to an Iowa farm girl, Packiam brings a global perspective to current issues; a well-known worship leader and songwriter before becoming a teaching pastor, he blends "heart" and "head" in an approach to faith; an ordained Anglican priest serving in a non-denominational church, he treasures practices that are both ancient and modern.
Is there anything more ordinary than bread? It’s a building block of a meal. The French have baguettes and croissants, Chinese have steamed rolls stuffed with delicious meats, Indians have naan and chapati, Mexicans have tortillas, English have scones, and Americans have sliced white bread.
I grew up in Malaysia, where roti was my daily bread. Roti is technically just the Malay word for bread, but the word is often used to refer to a specific kind of flatbread—a more buttery and flaky version of naan, which is like a thicker, fluffier version of a tortilla. Roti can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and there were days when I proved it.
In my teen years—when I was completing high school via a distance-learning program with an American Christian school—I would get up in the morning, walk around the corner to the nearby restaurant, and have roti and dal (basically a lentil curry) for breakfast. And if I was hungry again at lunchtime, I’d repeat the ritual. I suspect that next to rice, roti is the food that Malaysians eat more than any other.
For all its different names and various forms, bread is the global common meal.
It is the very commonness of bread that accounts for its appearance again and again in Scripture. It isn’t bread’s spectacular or unique features that contribute to its prominence. It is its ordinariness, its “mere-ness.” It is just bread.
And that’s what makes it the perfect metaphor for our lives. Because if we’re honest, most of what we do is ordinary. The everyday sleeping, waking, teeth-brushing, cleaning-the-house activities are common to everyone. We all get up, go to work—paid or unpaid—tinker at our hobbies, and try to do our best. We all shuttle kids around, mow the lawn, and shop for groceries. We all try to make sure the accounts balance and the checks clear. Not much about our daily lives sets us apart from the people around us. It’s just life. Like bread. Is there anything more ordinary?
Most of us respond to the ordinary and mundane repetitions of life in one of three ways.
Some of us resign ourselves to second-class existence—to being among the unlucky masses who lead merely ordinary lives, who participate in meaningful work only marginally, and who show up at church just to cheer on the holy and the called. We applaud influential and remarkable people, while quietly admitting that will never be us. There is nothing uncommon about our lives, so what’s the point in trying?
Or we strive, press, and push—trying to will our best future to reality. We read books about making our lives count, discovering our purpose, and becoming the heroes of our own stories. There’s an adventure we were made to live, and we’re going to embrace it in order to leave our mark on the world. We want God to be our agent who believes in us, promotes us, and makes our dreams come true. We want the Holy Spirit to be our super-caffeinated drink that fuels our frenzied pace. Life is an uphill climb, but doggone it, we don’t want to climb—we want to fly. That is, until we come crashing down in sheer exhaustion because it’s all just too much.
The third approach is even more dire. Rather than settling or beating relentlessly against the wind, perhaps we see ourselves as stained and flawed, messed up and imperfect. We’re not just ordinary; we’re less than that. There have been too many failures, too many disappointments, too much pain. Others seem to shine and succeed; everything they touch turns to gold. But not us. Nothing seems to work quite right for us. We always seem to come up short. And there’s a gnawing in our gut that we’re trying to ignore, a voice that gets louder each day: It’s too late. I’ve missed my moment and missed the mark. We can’t help feeling as if our life has passed its use-by date, like stale bread.
How do you see yourself? Have you settled for a life that may not matter much? Or are you living with an unsustainable manic optimism? Are you striving and straining, grasping and grabbing for something that always feels just out of reach? Perhaps you’re wrestling with an unkind and deeply troubling voice—the one that says that you just don’t matter, that you’re “less than” and “never enough.”
I have good news for you. There is more to this life than what you see. There is more to you than what you see. Nothing in this world is as common as it seems.
Even bread is really more than bread.
In the Bible bread is not simply a dietary staple, a common food consumed daily. Bread is a picture of God’s provision, the sustenance that arrives from His hand. In the wilderness it fell from the sky, providing day-to-day nourishment for the people of Israel. But even when they entered the Promised Land and began to cultivate the ground, planting and harvesting, raising crops and livestock, they were to see God and not their own effort as the source of their provision. As every mealtime Hebrew prayer reminded them, God was the giver of bread.
Bread also became a guiding metaphor for the Torah—the law of the Lord. Just as bread came from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert, so the instructions of the Lord came to Moses on the mountain. The people were to feed on these commandments; they could not live on “bread alone” but on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Daily manna was a metaphor for the practical guidance as they walked continually as the covenant people of God. They were to consume the scroll of the word of the Lord as one consumes bread.
Bread is also the way Jesus demonstrated compassion to the crowd hanging on His every word. He fed them, spiritually and physically. In fact, Jesus went so far as to call Himself the “Bread of Life,” the Bread that came down from heaven. This imagery reaches its fullest expression when Jesus, on the night of His death, took bread, gave thanks to the Father, and said to His disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).
Bread became the way the church commemorates and remembers, experiences and encounters Jesus—Christ, the crucified, risen, and returning one. The sacrament of the Lord’s Table is one of wine and bread.
Bread, as it turns out, is far from merely ordinary.
And so it is with our lives.
God works with the unspectacular and common, the imperfect and inadequate. That is His specialty. If God were to take the seemingly ordinary stuff of your life and fill it with His glory, He would not be working against the order of the world; He would be making your life what it was designed to be—a carrier of His glory.
Filled with Glory
Malaysia is a swirl of cultural influences, from Portuguese and Dutch hundreds of years earlier to the British only decades ago to traders from India and China. The Southeast Asian–Euro fusion shows up in food, languages, and architecture. We lived on a row of terrace houses, houses that all shared a brick wall to the left and the right and yet had iron gates at the entrance of each individual driveway. Our house had no backyard, just a patio of sorts with an outdoor kitchen to prepare fragrant Asian meals and a place to hang up laundry to dry. The patio looked down onto an alleyway that few people chose to walk through.
We had a small front garden with a papaya tree, a little red palm tree, and a variety of vibrant tropical flowers. Across the street, beyond our iron gate, there was a half-uprooted tree stump that lay almost parallel to the ground. And there was a large stone nestled near it, which seemed to be a perfect seat. The first time I took my place within the stump and stone, I knew it was no ordinary spot. I was sitting in a spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, actually. Many afternoons in my boyhood were spent flying at warp speed through the galaxy, dodging enemy fighters and rescuing fellow pilots.
The imagination of a child is one of the most powerful forces in the galaxy.
But something happens as we grow up. Tree stumps and stones become just tree stumps and stones. The world is not as magical as it once was. Things become ordinary. And the older we get, the more ordinary life seems. Where we once dreamed of changing the world, we find ourselves occupied with changing diapers and flat tires. Where our conversations used to be about the far distant future, we now plan our weekend around our yard work and errands or kids’ soccer games and dance rehearsals. It’s easy to think the problem is the choices we’ve made—we got the wrong job, the wrong house, or the wrong friends.
But it may just be that we’ve lost our ability to see. We no longer perceive the magic around us. The once-active imagination now sputters and stalls. The problem isn’t the house or the job or the friends or our kids’ activities. The problem is we’ve lost a holy imagination.
This is not how the people of God used to see the world. The Hebrew poets and prophets talked about the relationship between God and His world like this:
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers. (Psalm 24:1–2)
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:5)
And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
The whole earth is full of God’s glory. God, the holy God, the God who is above and beyond everything and everyone else—His glory is filling not only the heavens but also the earth!
Think about that for a minute. When we speak about God’s holiness, we tend to emphasize His distance from us. To be holy is to be different from and completely other than anything else. That is true—the Hebrew notion of holiness is a kind of separateness from everything else. It is, in one sense, the very opposite of commonness. But this otherness is not all that is true of God. What Isaiah saw was something more radical than we imagined: God is holy and His glory fills the earth. God is not only above and beyond His creation; He is also somehow within it. God is holy, and He is filling the common with glory. The heavens are open above the earth.
Long before the prophet Isaiah penned those words, a herdsman named Jacob had a dream of the heavens opening up. He was on the run, embarrassed about his deception and afraid for his life. He had just fooled his father into blessing him instead of his brother, Esau, with a blessing reserved for firstborn sons. The blessing was a practice that had come to symbolize a life trajectory, a sense of destiny. And so here was Jacob, on the run with a stolen destiny, wondering what lay before him (see Genesis 28).
As Jacob lay his head down that night to what could only have been a troubled sleep, he found a stone to use as a pillow. One would not guess that these would be the conditions suitable to pleasant dreams. Yet even as a man on running for his life, as he slept he dreamt.
He saw the heavens open up and angels ascending and descending in that place. And he heard the voice of the Lord say to him, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” (verse 13). Immediately, God identified Himself as the God who had called Jacob’s grandfather and father.
With this identification God reminded Jacob that he had not cut himself off from that lineage or that heritage. And then God spoke to him about his destiny and the promise that had been given to his family: “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (verses 13–14). The promise was still in effect.
Then came a promise just for Jacob: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (verse 15). It was personal. God was not simply honoring a promise to his grandfather; God would be present to Jacob.
Jacob woke up and said what may be the truest words he had ever spoken: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (verse 16).
This is the description of a world beginning to awaken to the nearness of God. We are all Jacob. We scheme to enhance our futures and fortunes because we think no one out there is watching over us. We stretch the truth and manipulate the outcomes because who knows if there’s a God or not? Even if there is one, He’s too far away or too preoccupied to notice. If there is a heaven, it’s way out there somewhere.
But then we glimpse something. It may not be a dream or a heavenly vision. It may simply be a spark, a surge of joy, or a flash of awe. We bump against the mystery and wonder of it all. Our imaginations are awakened. And we see it: God is here. God has been here the whole time. The heavens are open. The whole earth is full of His glory.
That’s not just the sun signaling the start of a new day; it’s the witness of the steadfast love of God that will always break the darkness of night. That’s not just a dinner with friends; it’s the music of laughter reminding us we’re not alone. That’s not just the sound of a baby crying in the night and robbing us of sleep; that is the evidence that your child is loved, that she believes you will care for her. These are all gifts from God, ordinary yet extraordinary, earthy and yet filled with glory.