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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Found Wanting: Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken."

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ."

Today, Sarah Torna Roberts writes her story on the blog.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, I dated a boy. He had that all-American, boy-next-door look, a wide smile and kind eyes. He had two parents and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who had thousands of inside jokes, who barbecued all summer long. From the first time I walked through their door at 15-years-old, I was welcomed with warmth and loving teasing.

We dated on and off through all the hormone driven theatrics of high school, falling apart and back together, but I faithfully believed we were in it forever, through all the pitfalls of long distance, through the slow changes that happen in those hard and flashing years.

One night through tears over a crackly landline, he confessed that my life, my broken family, my daddy issues, it was all too much. He couldn’t see a way through it, not with his glasses of wholeness, of one home and two parents and Sunday barbecues.

He took it back almost as soon as he said it, said he didn’t mean it.

It cemented though. I couldn’t stop it from reframing my expectations from then on. I had once hoped that my messy childhood would be the low point in my story, that beauty would rise from its ashes. Instead, I discovered it might hold my wholeness hostage indefinitely.

I grew wary. Our relationship broke.

When I fell in love again, it was with another nice, cute boy. He had parents who were still happily married and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who watched the same movies together every Christmas, who had dozens of inside jokes, and more than a decade of memories at a cabin in Northern California. They welcomed me in and I wanted to believe them, him.

But I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out, surely his history wouldn't be able to handle mine.

He was whole, a man built on the firm foundation of parental security and the same house since he was 3 years old. I'd moved 12 times. How would he deal with my broken places?

He called them beautiful. He said all I'd experienced, all I understood about a harder side of life, it added to not subtracted from who I was, from what I had to teach a man like him.

He wanted me to rock his boat.

And then he looked at my family, the one I thought would hold me back, and he told me he loved them. My mom was funny, my sister was sweet and he’d never had brothers. My dad was a blast. They weren’t a liability, but a blessing to him, to me.

“But, we’re so broken,” I reminded him. “Everyone’s broken,” he shrugged off my reminder.

All of us, in all our different places and experiences.

I didn’t want to be broken. None of us do. But, of course… “that’s how the light gets in.”

* * * * *

Sarah Torna RobersSarah Torna Roberts is a writer who lives in California with her husband and four sons. She blogs at where she digs around her in her memories, records her present, and is constantly holding her faith up to the light. She snacks at 2 AM with great regularity, is highly suspicious of anyone who doesn’t love baseball (Go Giants!), and would happily live in a tent by the sea.