Redeeming a Broken Dashboard

In his book, Voice of the Heart, Chip Dodd refers to emotions as tools. God equips us with these tools to acknowledge and understand our feelings as a dashboard of sorts, telling us where we are. But what if the dashboard and these tools are rendered ineffective by brokenness and injustice?

After my parents divorced when I was 4 years old, my mother moved us to a trailer court in rural Pennsylvania. Unemployed, my mother leaned heavily on my father’s child support and my stepfather’s low-paying welding job. To put it simply, we were poor.

When I was younger, being poor wasn’t all that big a deal. We still had food, a place to live, and the people my age in school and the trailer court didn’t treat me any differently. Once middle school hit, things changed.

In middle school, my off-brand clothes combined with the fact I lived in a trailer were like chum in the water. I grew to realize that bullies and predators prey on the most vulnerable. With a lack of finances, rampant mental illness, drug abuse in my family, and no friends, I felt like a loser. Bullies reinforced this belief over and over and made me feel like a freak, like I was abnormal. Quickly, I bought into these lies.

Believing these lies, I suppressed my feelings for the purpose of self preservation. Suppressing emotions and feeling like you can’t talk to anyone feels like a private hell. In many ways, it also renders these God-given tools useless and unreliable. Whenever I faced a crisis, I tried to use my broken ‘dashboard’ to get out of turmoil and ignored many warning signs. Instead, I drove in circles. I felt hopeless.

In 2010, I became a Christian. God and His family brought healing to my heart, and continues to do so. I found out that my emotions were gifts and that the pain I felt was normal and restorative. So was my sadness. One of the most powerful attributes about God is His ability to do things that people can’t. He can perform miracles.

By all logical thinking, I shouldn’t have survived. Research shows that exposure to poverty, physical trauma, psychological trauma, and household substance abuse can result in a higher likelihood of “risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, and early death”.

It makes me think, “Why me? Why was my life spared?”

My personal experience shows me how God can redeem our brokenness and heal beyond human comprehension. When I get bogged down and distracted by earthly frustrations, I always think back to who I was and where I was as a young adult and how God can get beyond statistical probabilities and redeem the seemingly unredeemable.


John works as a health educator and has lived in Atlanta for over 8 years. He is married to his lovely illustrator-wife Natalie. Both he and his wife are members of Blueprint Church.