Broken Legs

I walk on broken legs.

It’s a start of a poem, perhaps. But I don’t have those words yet.

When I first wrote the sentence, it was early in the morning; I woke with the words in my mouth. I had unclear images – the pain of walking on an unsupported broken bone (which I know from experience) – the thought of having a cast that is taken off too early, perhaps broken in pieces by accident or malevolence, leaving the bone to hurt and heal unaided – the struggle of having to walk when feeling unequal to the task.

Sometimes when I sense my limitations, when I long for what I lack, I feel as if I am walking on broken legs.

Then I thought about the expression, of course, for actors to break a leg. When working with drama as art, I’ve realized that sometimes a character can be more honest than a person can be. I’ve seen (and experienced) the catharsis of pouring out the honest feelings of a character within the safe space of a scene. Even though I’d read and taken notes in classes and conversations about theater, the resulting release, the unlocking of hidden doors, the appropriation of deep truth, surprised me. When I woke up thinking about walking on broken legs, at first it was because I was dealing with pain and loss. But then I thought, “What if? What if actors really did break legs?”

What if a character telling the truth onstage is only able to do that because the actor is broken?

This matters, you see, in practical terms, not just philosophical ones. Because of fear and shame, in one sense I have been acting for most of my life, even though I’d thought I could never act, but only tell truth.

But there was one more important image: The Good Shepherd, who, when bringing in a lamb who wanders, may need even to break its leg to keep it close to him. Perhaps it is important for me to remember that I am always unequal to the task. Maybe I’m better off without what I lack. Could it be that in order to be most effective in life, I must be broken?

So I walk in continual pain, continually cognizant, continually faithful, continually hopeful, on broken legs. And when I am weak, He is strong.

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