Post Author: Sara Anne Berger
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
The pastor read these words from Isaiah: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench…,” and suddenly I was listening.
I hadn’t paid attention to any part of worship that day, overwhelmed by demands of college life, but when I heard that verse, it hit me powerfully, and I started paying attention.
In college, I always felt I was lacking in every way, that I was behind and would never catch up. I had standards set which I constantly failed to meet. I never felt I could be or do enough.
My greatest desire was to make up for that lack, to finally catch up, to be complete, to be enough. But, I didn’t feel that way. I felt like I was barely getting through the day, barely getting through my life. And I berated myself for that failing, treated myself roughly and without any grace. I set an impossible bar of perfection higher and higher, and beat myself up for failing to meet it.
I made a lot of little checklists in an attempt to “improve” myself, be the person I was “supposed” to be. A plan, I thought, a way to catch up and get ahead and fill in all the ways I was lacking. A plan to finally be enough. But they also became a means to track ways I had failed, what I lacked and hadn’t done, ways to be rough with myself.
A checklist is, honestly, probably why I was in church that day. I confess I wasn’t much of a church goer in college. But I felt guilty about it, because it was one more way I was falling behind. So I had little bursts of time where I was a regular attender for a few weeks, before deciding that I – mess that I was – wasn’t supposed to be in church with all of those put-together people.
But I was in church that day, distracted and weary and worn down. Feeling, in fact, just like a bruised, brittle, little reed. Like a dim, flickering flame. And that famous verse from Isaiah comforted my embattled spirit. That verse, describing the Suffering Servant, describes someone who is gentle. Someone so gentle, in fact, that the easily broken, bruised reeds are left intact, that the sputtering wicks and dimmed flames are allowed to shine – tiny and inconsistent though their light may be.
And though this prophecy was made many years before Jesus Christ, Jesus is that kind of servant – someone who would not break a bruised reed, who wouldn’t quench a dimly burning wick, someone who is gentle with us when we feel bruised and dim and lacking, and not enough.
That verse struck me and challenged me that day in worship. It challenged the mindset that I was always behind, that I wasn’t enough, that I needed to catch up, and get everything right before I could stop and breathe and be in the Lord’s presence. It challenged the idea that my Savior was just as tasking of me as I was of myself.
I realized that at my weakest and most bruised, I was not something to be broken and tossed aside. I realized that when my light was most dim, I was still not something to be snuffed out and discarded.
In the years since that moment, many things have changed. Many things have even, shockingly, improved. I know myself better. I’m better at balancing my life and the demands that come with it. Yet in other ways, I am still a person who gets weary, and worn down. A person who berates myself for the ways I am lacking, even when it is not of importance. And, absolutely, there are days when I have truly not done my best, I have dropped the ball and made real mistakes.
But I come back to that verse, and know that either way, my Savior is gentle with me. Jesus is not waiting for me to figure it out and get it together before he pays me any mind. He isn’t waiting for me to shape up and catch up and make it up before I can turn to him. When I am bruised like a reed, when my light is dim and flickering, when I have failed, and when I am weary, and all the other times, he wants me with him. He is gentle with me.
Whatever you’re struggling with, whatever ways you feel you’re not enough, whatever ways you have actually failed, be gentle with yourself, but even more, remember that our Savior is gentle with you. He is not here to break your bruised spirit. He is not here to snuff out the tiny light you have left. He gives us rest, his burden is light, and he is gentle – a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
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