In the spirit of Christmas, I wrote this a few days ago during a road trip. I was actually writing my last blog post about joy and somehow this allegory of the gospel started spilling out. I definitely don't think of myself as a fiction writer, or much of a true writer at all, but this story honestly wrote itself. So here's to a Merry Christmas and to celebrating its true meaning. The birth of our Savior, our Perfect-One, that has come to give us His Great Name.
The broken-one miserably closed his eyes and breathed in. Would that be the last? He hesitantly, slowly breathed out again, despite his heart beating wildly. He was terrified, but there was nothing he could do. It was too late. He breathed in again. How many more times would he be able to breathe in and out? It was such a simple action he had always taken for granted. Who knew that life or death would make each breath seem so precious?
Welcome to death row, he pathetically thought to himself. I deserve it I guess.
He didn’t deserve to live, he knew that for sure. He’d never deserved it. He was born broken and the penalty for brokenness was death. It was all he’d ever known. Nothing about him had ever quite worked right. He would try and try to get it right, over and over again, but eventually the result would always be the same—failure. It just didn’t make sense though. Other people seemed to get it right, with their flawless efforts. They were praised for how well they lived, how they never got any answers wrong or stumbled over the blocks that the broken-one always seemed to stumble over. They were perfect. Or at least they looked that way from the outside. But somewhere, deep in his heart, the broken-one knew they were broken also. Maybe not in the way he was, with flaws out in the open for everyone to ridicule as they pleased, but he knew their act would not hold together for long. They would face the same fate he faces. Even though it didn't look like it now, he knew that somehow, he was not the only one broken.
He breathed in again. When would they just shoot and get it over with? Would it hurt for long? He’d heard that gunshots felt like fireballs hurling themselves through your flesh. How long would he feel this fire before his broken body died? What does it feel like to finally stop living? Does it feel at all? He breathed out again. Possibly for the last time, but he really wasn’t sure at this point.
There was only One who ever lived that was perfect. Or at least legend spoke of someone who didn’t just pretend to be perfect, like all the other pretenders the broken-one knew in his lifetime. The truly Perfect-One wasn’t just a good actor that put on a good show. Somehow he really was perfect, there was nothing broken about him. How is that possible, the broken-one thought to himself as he breathed in again, to be completely perfect? To never have to face the firing-squad for being born broken? To never have to count the breaths you take, simply to get your mind off the fact that it could your last? This Perfect-One must have been born perfect.
He breathed out. That was four. Right when he was about to begin his fifth, maybe final breath, he heard someone speak. Who was that? It sounded like the voice had called his name. He held his breath and waited.
There it was again. The voice was definitely calling his name. But for some reason, this voice had no trace of ridicule or condemnation that the broken-one always heard in the other voices. Who did this voice belong to? And where was it coming from? It sounded like it was coming from above him, but at the same time below him. It sounded like the voice was behind him, but also right in from of him—staring into his closed eyes.
Oh no. Why don’t they just shoot and get it over with? This is no time to have a conversation.
The broken-one slowly and curiously opened his eyes, still shaking in fear, still holding his breath. The man who had called out his name indeed stood before him. He had taken the gun from the man in the firing squad and was holding it at a position where the broken-one wasn’t sure if he was planning on shooting him or letting him go. The broken-one searched the man’s face. He had never seen this man before, but there was a comforting familiarity about him that he couldn’t put his finger on. The broken-one looked at the way the man was handling the gun, trying to interpret his intentions, but it made no sense. The man’s eyes looked so soft and loving that the broken-one was almost tempted to think this man had come to pardon him and declare him innocent rather than shoot him to death. But at the same time, the man’s eyes were firm and resolved. There was no question about it.
The man knew.
He knew of the broken-one’s brokenness and of his inability to fix himself. No matter how much love seemed to be in his eyes, this man was a man of justice. No matter how kind he seemed, he would not declare the broken-one innocent or perfect. He was born broken, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Just as the broken-one was about to close his eyes and await his death again, the man now holding the gun spoke out:
“Broken-one. Open your eyes.”
He did. He opened his eyes and gazed into his. He saw love, but he didn’t know how or why. All he knew was that the deeper he looked into those eyes, the dimmer the reality of his broken nature became. Those eyes were full of love, but they also knew the broken-one deserved death and knew the high price he must pay.
If only I could do something to please this man. If only I could do something to prove myself. Yes, I could try and prove myself. If he saw how well I could walk, how well I could jump, how well I could speak, maybe he’ll think I’m good enough. So what if I usually stumble when I walk, fall when I jump, and stutter when I speak? Maybe if I try hard enough, he will think me worthy of pardon.
As he was thinking and planning his performance of perfection, the man spoke again.
“Oh, my broken-one.”
At the sound of his name, the reality of the broken-one’s own identity hit him. The pain of the blow was almost worse than the bullet searing through his skull. No matter how well he attempted to walk without stumbling, jump without falling, or speak without stuttering, he was still “broken-one”. That was still his name—his identity. The broken-one dejectedly hung his head as he realized there was nothing he could do to change who he was and the broken condition he was born with.
But wait. Why did this man call me his broken-one? I don’t belong to him. Do I? Well, he does hold the gun. I’m the guilty one deserving to die.
The man’s finger was frighteningly close to the trigger. He held the broken-one’s life, literally, in the palm of his hand.
The broken-one slowly drew in a shaky breath and lifted his eyes just high enough to meet his, and finally whispered a reply.
“Yes. That’s my name. And who are you?”
“I am the Perfect-One.”
He blinked and quickly drew in a breath. Did I hear him correctly? There was no denying the invisible but evident radiance that seemed to surround him, and the love in his eyes and his voice. Could he really be the Perfect-One? But why was he here? Visiting me, the broken-one, on death row, moments, breaths, before my own execution?
“What do you want with me? The broken-one. Why have you come?” I asked
With a voice that made him want to both melt in peace and shudder in fear, the Perfect-One said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”
The broken-one tried to speak, but no words formed. Instead of spoken words, silent tears came. He couldn’t comprehend what this man was saying, but he understood one thing. The Perfect-One was not here to pull the trigger, even though he deserved it—even though this had been his fate for his entire life. Even though his name was Broken-One.
The Perfect-One put down the gun and dismissed the firing squad. He then walked closer, his loving eyes never leaving the broken-one’s. Before he knew what was happening, the Perfect-One had knelt before him and held his hands.
“Broken-one. No longer do you deserve to die, because long ago, I took this very punishment upon myself. I was shot in your place. Justice has already been served, and now I’ve come back to save you, and give you the same eternal life that resurrected me.”
“How? Why would you love me enough to die in my place? For someone broken like me.”
“My son, I’ve come to give you a new name—a new identity. No longer are you orphaned—you are my child, adopted into my house. No longer do I condemn you. No longer does death rule over you. No longer is your name Broken-One, but you will take on My name. From now on, your name is Perfect-One.
And, Perfect-One, you are Mine.”
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” 1 Peter 2:9-10
“For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another. But when the goodness of God and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out His Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I have also been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.” Philippians 3:10-13