Broken

God’s taught me a lot through broken things.

In high school, it was the family nativity set. It crashed to the floor when my little brother accidentally overturned the table.

Life was already shattered enough – Mom was in the hospital, and Christmas was just a few days away. Broken pieces of porcelain lay scattered on the rug.

Broken.

But the shepherd piece didn’t break, didn’t chip, didn’t have a scratch. As I held that porcelain shepherd in my hands, the Good Shepherd held me in His.

The Good Shepherd held us together. He spoke to my heart, “Trust me.” And Mom came home for Christmas – our own Christmas miracle.

* * * * *

After college, at the beginning of graduate school, it was my dishes – not the practical everyday ones, but the ones I treasured: mugs I’d received as gifts or bought as souvenirs, teacups passed down through my family.

Alone in my new apartment in an unfamiliar town, I wept as I unpacked the box and saw the damage. Shards of memories lay scattered on the carpet.

Broken.

Broken cups can’t hold anything, and I felt empty. But when God poured out His love, my cup overflowed.

* * * * *

This time, it was a teapot.

I’d admired that teapot in a quaint shop in Texas, and my husband noticed. He secretly ordered it and had it shipped to my grandma’s house for Christmas.

But the box was too small. The bubble wrap popped, the paper didn’t help, and the pressure broke the teapot. When my husband opened it to wrap it, he was crushed. His first Christmas gift for his wife, broken.

My heart leapt when he showed me – what a surprise! – yet sank at how he must feel, and how broken that teapot was.

IMG_1174I picked a pretty new teapot from a fancy department store. But I kept the old one, too.

The fancy one went on display.

The other one waited. It waited until this week, when I bought some glue and decided it was time to fix it.

Gently, I lifted it out of the box, out of the wrinkled brown paper and popped bubble wrap.

IMG_1132As I held that broken teapot, I recognized myself.

Broken. 

I’d cried more in the past few months than I cared to admit. Stress with work, stress with money, stress with life, stress with stress – all had brought out a surge of raw emotion.

The sun shone, the birds twittered, and the leaves rustled in the breeze, but I cried. There were precious good days and beautiful joy-filled moments. But lots of days felt dark, and I didn’t know what to do.

I wondered, “Is this where You want me to be?”

I felt sad, dry, lost.

And thanks to the teapot, I realized: broken.

I set the teapot on the table and examined it.

IMG_1146Unwrapped and out of the box, it didn’t look too terribly awful. The base wasn’t broken, so it could stand on its own. The tape meant to hold the lid on held most of the teapot together, so though a few big pieces came loose and left gaps, it didn’t fall apart completely. Some pieces hung a little, suspended by the tape.

It had the illusion of being held together, kind of. But the reality was, it was still broken. Very broken.

Before it could be fixed, it had to be taken apart, broken down all the way.

Gently, I began pulling off the tape, piece by piece. It left traces of sticky residue I had to clean off. And with each piece of tape I pulled away, the damage became more clear.

IMG_1151It was worse than I thought. I saw cracks that had been hidden before, held together by the pressure of the tape.

Now, all the pieces lay before me on the table.

And I knew I had to lay myself bare before God. I had to let Him take off the tape, let go of the illusion of “having it together.” I had to let Him clean off the residue of my stubbornness. I had to admit the truth.

I surrendered and fell to pieces.

Broken.

* * * * *

IMG_1153 One piece at a time, I started putting that teapot back together. It took longer than I thought – a few evenings, instead of one afternoon.

One piece at a time, God started putting me back together. He’s not done yet, and it’s taking longer than I’d like. But that’s God’s timing, not mine.

Jonah was in the fish for three days before that fish spat him out on the shore. Paul was blind for three days before the scales fell from his eyes. And Lazarus wasn’t healed – he died. But Jesus did something more miraculous than mere healing – He raised him from the dead.

Stubbornness guided Jonah, persecution drove Paul, and death defeated Lazarus. But what sin and death crushed, God repaired.

IMG_1182I fixed the teapot. The lines where the pieces come together still show, but I like it that way. Those lines say that this teapot was broken, but it was too precious to be thrown out.

More importantly, God is fixing me. My flaws remind me of who I’ve been and point me to who I’d like to be. They remind me that in God’s hands, I’m too precious to be thrown out, even when I’m broken.

And God knows something more about brokenness than mere observation and repair. He’s felt it for himself.

Jesus was broken for us.

His precious body was bruised, pierced, crushed, so that we could be put back together. But God doesn’t use glue. He uses Grace.

Out of our brokenness, He does His most magnificent work. All those broken pieces that make up each and every one of us – God shapes them into something beautiful. IMG_1180

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