By Jalen Gooch

It was the start of what I had been told over and over again would be the hardest academic year of my life. What better way to start it than to miss two days of school to go on my third mission trip to Bishop, California to work with the Paiute Native American Reservation? What could go wrong?

After arriving at the reservation and realizing how out of shape I was through putting up tents, I laid in my cot wondering what God would place on my heart on this trip. 

As sophomore year drew to an end with finals and AP Testing, I helplessly felt myself get further from God. I specifically remember my first night there, being disappointed during worship simply because I did not feel God’s presence as strong as I had in the past or as much as the people standing around me. 

The next morning, before heading out to each of our respective work sites, Lauren Collins, a senior at OLu at the time, led the team in a devotion. Hearing her devotion about how much God loves us and is waiting with open arms forced me to come face to face with the truth that had created the divide between us in the first place.

Why hasn’t God stopped loving the broken mess that I am?

Immediately after devotions, we had alone time to reflect and read the Bible, and the first verse I found was Psalms 7:1, which talks about being God being a refuge for those who are broken. From that moment on, the word “brokenness” played constantly in my mind and left me numb.

I hated the idea that I was broken and that the only way for me to be loved by God was to have him come into my life to “fix” my identity.

Following a long day of work, I remember hopping into the back of the truck and having nothing in my mind other than the thought of my desperate desire for a shower. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but all of the sudden, the window next to me shattered.

We immediately pulled over, and I sat speechless in the shards of broken glass for what felt like an eternity. As if the clouds in my mind had suddenly been cleared with a fierce shock of lightning, all I could utter was, “Should I move?”

After brushing away glass and making a few phone calls, we continued on our way back to camp. 

Now sitting in the middle seat of the car, I watched as my friend put the radio back on and my heart immediately dropped. The Christian radio station was not playing Hillsong’s “Oceans” or the iconic “Reckless Love,” but a song by the title “Beautifully Broken.”

Little did I know that from that point on, I would not only continue to wrestle accepting my own brokenness and God’s unexplainable love, but I would experience the beauty in the brokenness of those around me through the many laughs, difficult conversations, and tears shed. 

This year, I hope to dive deeper into finding peace in the brokenness of life through my own experiences and through the powerful stories of those we may pass in the hallways every day.

Artwork by Jalen Gooch