Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beautifully Broken

I remember years ago when I was a child living in College Park, one of the things that we enjoyed doing was beating each other with a tube sock filled with other socks until it was quite a weapon.

We didn't indulge in this when there were parental figures around. This was something we would hide and drag out when we were left alone.

Ok....I'm stopping here to clarify. I don't believe I ever actually wielded the sock against my brother or sister. Thinking back, I think my brother just used it against us.....

But, my parents were gone one night and we happened to be in the kitchen with the sock. There was a shelf in there by the door and at some point I bumped into the shelf and it tilted and rattled. The crash that followed was the breaking of my great-grandmother's butter dish.

All the pieces were cleaned up and discarded, but my father was very disappointed to lose something that was of value to him. And, I feel bad to this day.

When troubles come into our lives we respond.

There are many ways to respond, and each response is associated with the type of trouble we are facing.

We can rationally devise a solution.

We can lash out.

We can seek counsel.

We can cower and cry, awaiting someone to rescue us.

Or, as I did when my sock waving brother was looming my way, we can back away looking for a means of escape.

Troubles will always come, no matter what. And, our response can either help or not.

But, when troubles come into our lives, no matter the source, we never leave the other side of the experience without some evidence those troubles existed in the first place.

Just for a minute, I want to discuss how we view that person in troubled times, not how they are dealing with the troubles, but how we deal with them.

One of the most bitter pills for me to swallow during my own recent troubles was the response of those people in my life that I cared for and counted on. I learned a lot about things that I really had no desire to even deal with in the middle of my own *mess.*

One instance in particular comes to my mind. I was talking to someone about my present situation. I was in the lowest point I believe I have ever been in. Just to open up to someone and share where I was spoke volumes about the state of my being.

I sat there completely shattered, the pieces of my life in shards around me. I cannot even describe the place I was in. Just to think on it makes the darkness of that moment swirl around me.

And, I sat there, trying to pour out what was left of my heart, receiving a response I had never counted on.....

No matter what else was said during that entire conversation I heard nothing beyond the fact that my broken vessel was an inconvenience to them, that the pieces of my life, of my family were a hindrance, in the way, and instead of taking a vessel that had once been of use, seeing that it was repaired and fit for use once again, at that moment I was swept up in the dustpan and discarded, obviously not worth the effort to repair, of no value any more.

My response to that was to take the pieces and find another way to repair my life. And, I have.

I'm not blaming the other person, I can't. They didn't cause my brokenness. They simply didn't understand that even broken I had the potential to be more valuable than ever before.

There was a concept within the Japanese culture many centuries ago. That concept was wabi-sabi - an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. They valued those vessel that you could see the wear on, the ones that you could tell had been used. Those vessels were honored and treasured.

And when one of their vessels became broken they would use gold, silver or platinum dust to repair the damage. Whereas our modern culture sweeps up that broken thing in the dust pan and throws it away, allowing themselves only the memory of what the vessel once was, the Japanese would literally "highlight" the damage. This event in the life of the vessel became what made that vessel special.

One place I read stated that "the bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped."

Oh, if we could understand that when we look into the faces of those broken people we see every day. If we would take the time to mend the pieces instead of discarding them, if we would look at their past and the problems they faced as though it were what made them beautiful instead of only seeing their brokenness.

Psalm 31:12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

When I was thinking on this today, thinking on the people in my life that I love, people that are broken, damaged, hurting, still bearing the scars of past mistakes and still suffering the condemnation of others I thought of that person in the hands of the Potter, the One who made that vessel, the One who knows the true worth of someones life, even when it appears to others that person had no value any longer, and any usefulness they had is dead. 

And, I allowed myself to see that vessel as He sees it when He puts the pieces back together and seals each broken place with gold, causing those cracks in their lives to become the most beautiful things about them, and placing them where all can see, giving honor to what they have overcome and proving they are more beautiful for having been broken. 

I looked in the mirror this morning. I really looked at the woman staring back at me. She has been broken. It's there for all to see. But, when no one else thought it worth the mess her life was in and discarded her, someone dug the pieces out of the trash. Standing in the lights of the bathroom, gazing back at me from the mirror was someone who has been beautifully broken. 

So, remember when you find someone with their lives in jagged shards around them.....YOU can respond to their troubles. You can embrace them in their flawed imperfections. And you can help them to understand that their true life has just begun....brokenness is not the end.....

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