When I was eight years-old, my mother took me to a luncheon at the local Baptist Church. I was dressed up in taffeta, wore little white gloves, and black patent leather shoes. At the end of the meal, our speaker stepped up to the stage.
She was beautiful, with smooth short hair and red lipstick. A blue silk suit fit her slim figure, shiny nylon stockings and beige heels – a color mother preferred to call “bone” – completed the outfit. She sang with the voice of an angel – high and clear like a Disney princess – and gave an encouraging talk about God’s faithfulness to those who obey him. Then and there I decided I wanted to be her – a Christian speaker and writer – beautiful, kind and likeable. Perfect.
Well Joyce Landorf later on in life became divorced, depressed, and after My Blue Blanket, a washout as a writer and leader. I read that book in college and wept for her, her lost ministry, her forgotten beauty.
The myth of the pretty and perfect Christian woman persisted into the 1980’s, when my mother suggested that I join Campus Crusade for Christ because “they have grooming classes and teach you how to wear nice clothes.” In some areas of the country that value persists to this day.
Elisa Morgan lived up to that external image for decades as the president of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) helping young mothers cope with the overwhelming task of raising tiny children in a world with expectations of perfection. She provided guidance, wrote books, spoke to hundreds of women each year and brought understanding and reality to millions of women in this country and in several additional countries around the globe.
Her latest book, The Beauty of Broken: My Story and Likely Yours Too, (Thomas Nelson, 2013) reveals a deep crack in such a porcelain-doll façade. For the first time, Morgan lets loose with the truth about her broken family, biological and adoptive, her drive to fix them, and her need to create the perfect family of her own, hand-picked adopted children. Little by little, she shows how God drove home the truth that he loves the broken, including her pregnant teen daughter and her son’s struggle with addiction, her alcoholic mother, and her father who abandoned them all. God loves sinners. We all know that, but it’s so much easier to think of sinners as someone else. The realization that his love includes you because of your identity as a sinner can come as a shock.
“I wasn’t “enough” after all. I was never intended to be enough: good enough, all-powerful enouht, special enough. “Enoughness” wasn’t within my grasp, nor was it God’s goal for my life. God so desires that we embrace and accept our not-enoughness—because then we see our need for him.”
Chapter by chapter, Morgan describes God showing up and intervening at the same time he reveals his plan of brokenness and reconciliation. Don’t expect a neatly packaged “how-to” book or a simple 1-2-3 formula for getting through brokenness. The shared pain is real, the shards cannot be repaired or smoothed over. Bit by bit, Elisa goes over the details of her life again and then again until the full extent of the damage is laid bare. We see her reality – powerless to fix any of it and surrendered to the plan of her father.
Maybe you know some women who think they are supposed to be “perfect” Christian women. Maybe you’re still trying to hide the cracks and keep the pieces intact. Maybe some of your Christian friends expect you to try harder. Don’t. Stop trying at all.
Let go, let the pieces scatter in fragments across the floor. Elisa Morgan did and shared the path to authenticity in this remarkable and moving book. Let the doll break and let God put the pieces back together in the order that he wants them to fit. The result may not be perfect, but it will be beautiful.