The Christmas season was in full swing, and I was in a hurry. Not only because there were a million and one things to get done before the big day but because, on this particular day, we had been invited to a child’s birthday party. Moreover, I had put off purchasing a present until the day of the event.

We had rushed into a store near our home referred to as an “off-price department store”. You know the kind—the fashions are big name brands, but it’s all last year’s style, and the toys either a year behind the trend or missing an important piece.

I examined the toys carefully, trying to find a complete set to give to our young friend later that day. My ten-year-old daughter’s voice from a couple of aisles over kept imploring me to come see the toy that she absolutely did not want to leave the store without. Several times I told her she would just have to be patient and that I would look at it on the way out.

I finally found an acceptable gift and started for the front of the store hoping to find a gift bag that wasn’t torn, missing one handle, or printed upside down. As I called to my daughter, she reminded me how I’d said I would look at her dream toy.

The Stuffed Giraffe

As I came around the corner to see what had caught her eye, I couldn’t help but stop and stare. She wanted a stuffed giraffe. Not just a cute little stuffed animal she could snuggle up with at bedtime. This was a four-and-a-half foot tall, Pottery Barn photographer’s dream giraffe—aside from the fact that its majestic neck pathetically drooped to one side, so much so it actually looked at me upside down.

I tried not to share my shock with my obviously infatuated little girl. Instead I began to question her as to where she would put such a large animal in her somewhat smallish room, already overcrowded with dolls and doll paraphernalia. I also mentioned that it didn’t really match the décor of her room, which most resembled “early American Girl doll”.

Eventually, I gathered the courage to examine the price tag and decided that the person in charge of pricing had wholly overlooked the obvious flaw of this enormous stuffed toy. The price tag totally belied the reality of the object. I pointed out to my daughter that, not only did we not normally buy such large toys, but certainly not those with such outlandish price tags and defects. She agreed that the giraffe would indeed not be making its way to our home after all.

We rushed to the front, found a suitable gift bag with just a few wrinkles, some tissue paper that didn’t match, and a card with no envelope and finalized our purchase.

As we made our way to the car in the parking lot, I could see my daughter’s disappointment. I knew it had to do with the unbought giraffe. I decided to try and find out why she liked it so much, so I asked, “What made you want that particular toy so much, darling?”

Her answer: “I want him because he is broken just like me, Mommy.”

Broken Like Me

Had she given me that answer just three years before, I probably would have gone throughout the rest of the day (or week) wracked with guilt and shame. Three years earlier we stumbled upon some answers about the health problems that plagued her for years. The discovery buried me under a heavy weight of regret.

I regretted all the years we didn’t know why her stomach hurt after nearly every meal. Sometimes, I even accused her of making up the pain just to get attention after her younger brother was born. I regretted all of the times I argued with her and told her she was lying to me when she couldn’t explain her feelings or what was causing her frequent and intense outbursts.

When she was seven years old, we discovered she had celiac disease and probably Asperger syndrome. All those stomach aches were agonizingly real, and all those “temper tantrums” were brought on by complete sensory overload. I regretted my attitudes and misunderstandings so much that I cried for two days—wishing we would have known sooner, wishing my heart had been softened for my child, wishing we could have a “do-over.”

Why We Value Brokenness

On this day, in the parking lot of an “off-price” store, I had a whole new perspective. Over the last several years we had been attending a church that values brokenness. When we first started attending this church I understood completely the signs that hung in the hall. Or at least I thought I did.

The signs read “Beauty”, “Brokenness”, “Truth”, “Compassion”, “Community”. I saw them as a beautiful way of telling the story of the world. And they are. God created a beautiful world and gave it to man to manage and oversee. Man broke this beautiful gift. Jesus, the ultimate truth, had to come down and enter into his own creation in order to restore the broken world. He showed great compassion in doing so. Because of his incredible gift, we can show that same compassion to others. We can enjoy loving community here on earth as a part of his body, the church.

However, after we had been attending the church for a while I kept hearing that those signs in the hall represented the “values” of the church. I had understood the part about valuing beauty, truth, compassion, and community but valuing brokenness? Isn’t that the bad part? The part where man messes up and needs fixing? Why would that be a value?

Broken for Me

Fortunately, by the time my precious girl spoke these words to me, I had attended the church long enough to understand that we value broken people. Like the person who priced that giraffe, God looks past the brokenness in us. When we accept his free gift of grace, he places the value of “priceless child of God” on us. Not because of anything we can do to fix our brokenness, but because of his righteous sacrifice. We value brokenness because God did first. He valued it so highly that he sent his beloved son, broken on our behalf, to redeem and restore.

I looked down at my sweet daughter who, by the incredible grace of God, no longer has daily terrible stomach aches, hasn’t had a meltdown in over a year, and is improving daily at looking people in the eye when she speaks to them. I said, “He is broken just like all of us, isn’t he?”

As we drove away from the store, she and I had a long conversation about what she had been learning at church about the value of broken things and how God is at work redeeming and restoring everywhere we look. I am grateful for the amazing group of people at Valley Life Church that God has used to teach my daughter (and me) about the incredible value of broken things. Come join my daughter and I and the rest of our broken family this weekend. We’ll find out more about how he does it!

Tonya Schulte

Tonya Schulte

Tonya Schulte is a long-time member of Valley Life Church and currently serves as the connections team leader at Valley Life | Arrowhead.