A Broken and a Contrite Heart by Jan Wood

Kudzu is a fast growing invasive species that snuffs out the plant life in its path.  To folks’ dismay the plant that was imported for its usefulness, quickly covered everything in its path covering roads, cars, trees and buildings and killing off plant life by shading it from the light.  It takes constant vigilance to keep it at bay.

The national conversation in this election season has illumed that we Americans have become blind to and smothered by violence and self absorption.  Our national heart has been rightfully broken.  We know that enough is enough.  Things must be done.  Yet the words, opinions, the self justifications of every sector of our society pour over us like a tsunami.  We feel both angry and numb.  Broken and belligerent.  Hopeful and helpless.  But mostly helpless.  This is so much bigger than any one of us.

The spirit of self-idolization and its default servant—violence—has spread over and through our American culture muting and smothering the multitudes of individual goodnesses in the world.   

The webs of a violent, self centered culture enwrap all of us.  They shape us.  They enlighten us.  They blind us.  They shade us from the Light.  Violences are pleasantly deceptive.  There seems to be no direct connection between what we are immersed in and what we do.  No direct connection between what we do and the pain we cause others.  And we never notice that our souls—individually and nationally—have gradually become dimmed to the acute, unfiltered radiance of goodness and Light.  We are totally unaware that we have stopped following Jesus of the Gospels.

Changing culture seems as impossible as trying to catch a cloud.  Yet cultures are constantly changing.  We have all seen this happen before our very eyes.  As Americans we have spun a web of violence as our ally and friend, our pleasure and entertainment, our safety and our inalienable right. It has become part and parcel of our worldview, our words and actions, and ultimately, our delusions.  We have made all other lives and futures dispensable when violent suits our aims.  And this part of our culture is destroying our souls, our relationships, our communities and our nation from the inside out.  It is the kudzu of our souls.

There is something deep that is calling God’s people to the prophetic, voluntary standing-with and repenting-for a deeply corrupted American culture.  It isn’t enough to just try to be better than the culture.  Deep compassion and broken hearts compel us to call out to God on behalf of our culture.  As folks as lustily calling for their rights, their pleasures, their freedoms, their safety, their profits, let us simply stop inwardly justifying our own choices and sink into the broken heartedness that is called for.  The list of what-everyone- else-should-and-must-do goes silent.  In that space we can feel a deep well spring of repentance.  A broken and contrite heart that simply collapses before God and cries out,  Oh God, forgive us!!  We don’t know what to do.  This is much bigger than us.  Yet, we echo the Psalmist by praying

Create in us a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within us.

Cast us not away from thy presence

and take not thy holy Spirit from us.

Restore to us the joy of they salvation

and uphold us with a willing spirit.


May it begin with us.


Jan Wood is the Executive Director of GOOD NEWS Associates. She is also an Associate with a ministry of speaking, writing, consulting and spiritual direction. She is the author of Christians at Work, Not Business as Usual and co-author of Practicing Discernment Together, Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making. She resides in Seattle and can be reached a janwood@goodnewsassoc.org.