“I’m nearly sanctified; I’m nearly broken.”
This lyric keeps me in a pensive and somber yet hopeful mood every time I hear it. When the rock band Needtobreathe first released their album Rivers in the Wasteland, I was a month away from finishing my senior year of college. I spent most of my time in the building where I went to my architecture classes, and much of my remaining time I used for my duties as a village leader for Resonate Church. Both of these demanded much of my energy and required me to focus more than most other roles I had assumed. I was rushing around from one urgent matter to the next, hardly remembering to eat and frequently forsaking sleep. Moreover, I didn’t think there was any better way to live at that time. I was content to feel frustrated.
It was in this time that I heard the lyric. The lead singer sang it in the last few moments of the album, and I would have ignored it if the soft and serene music hadn’t distracted me from my studies. After listening to the entire album in one span of time, I was ready to stop the music and go back to school (or my house–either way, I was almost always scurrying to one from the other). In the closing moments of the album I was likely leaning forward in my chair, shifting my weight reaching with one hand to grab my backpack to exit wherever I was and using the other hand to pick up my water bottle–those two items were my life support, I always had them with me. I’m confident my stance was exactly like this when I heard the singer croon the simple phrase through my computer’s speakers.
I stopped. I pondered. And I realized.
What he sang was happening in my life at that moment; indeed, it had been happening for years.
For most of my life I have considered myself a patient person. Now I am learning that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Being around other people is tough. I’m not referring to walking around on a busy street, passing hundreds of people but speaking to none. I am talking about spending day after day in coffee shops listening to someone you barely know explain endlessly problems about his relationships, his college studies and how he wishes people would be as smart as he is. I’m talking about taking in a friend for four nights after he has bugged you about how annoying his hour-long commute to and from work each day is and how if he stayed with you it would be immensely better for him because you live only twenty minutes from his job. I’m talking about giving someone you barely know a ride to the church service because he doesn’t own a vehicle and getting annoyed by his apparent unwillingness to hold a conversation, and doing this every week because he keeps asking you.
These are the times that try us. These are the times when we find out how far our patience and willingness to put up with other people goes.
Yet these are also the times when we see our own actions irritating other people. You see, in each situation I spoke of, I was the person asking the favor. I was the one who was pushing the limits of people’s graciousness.
Yet each time the people doing me the favor smiled and helped me. They gave me themselves at the cost of their comfort, money, time and gasoline.
They loved me.
We should do the same for the people we know.
When we care for people by sacrificing our own advancement in life, we grow. When people push us to the limits of what we can handle and yet we continue to stay with them, we become more whole. And when we feel exhausted from taking care of people yet continue to give them everything we have earned through our own blood, sweat and tears, we increase our capacity to care for people.
When we let God break us by loving our neighbor, we become complete. In other words, we become sanctified.
It is fitting that Needtobreathe placed these words at the end of a song in which they sang lines such as, “Be the wheels//Not the track; Be the wanderer that’s coming back//Leave the past right where it’s at//Be more heart and less attack… Ever growing, steadfast//And if need be, the one that’s in the gap//Be the never turning back//Twice the heart any man could have.” It is this way of living that will cause us to break, and will cause us to become sanctified.