The Art of Brokenness
Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the Kings horses and all the Kings men, couldn’t put Humpty back together again. Oh my. Humpty Dumpty broke. Cracked. Smashed. To borrow from Monty Python, "he is no more."
No matter how hard they tried, no matter how much glue they used, or technology they threw his way, they just could not put him back together again. So goes the life of poor Humpty Dumpty.
I'm not sure why we tell this nursery rhyme to our kids. Perhaps it's to keep them from climbing on walls, or doing something stupid to post on YouTube. I guess if Humpty's story teaches us anything, it’s that “things break” or “nothing lasts forever.”
This was made all clear to me during our family trip last week. Among the ruins of ancient temples that dot the Italian landscape sits a living witness to human frailty and vulnerability. Civilizations and economies that were perceived to be invincible, now nothing more than crumbled rock piles, broken artifacts, and a great lesson in life. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. War. Progress. Life is filled with unpredictable events that cause us to crumble.
We don't have to look very far to see how the world is full of brokenness. A broken home, a broken heart, a broken relationship, or a broken dream. Sadly, each one of us eventually will play our part - whether we are the ones doing the breaking or the one being broken. Sometimes we are both.
I am far from perfect. In fact the day before we left Sicily, we received a call that Colleen had been left behind at the place we had stopped for lunch. To make matters worse, an hour had already passed and no one in our group noticed; including me. I tried to stay calm, but the fear and guilt I was feeling began to bubble and brew within me. Instead of trusting in God, and relying on my faith, I allowed these emotions to get the best of me.
Fear overwhelmed me. And eventually I erupted. All that I had shoved deep down came spewing out on my niece and my wife. At the end of my meltdown, my daughter was still missing, and now two more important people in my life had been damaged – scared like the landscape around Mt. Etna, the active volcano we visited that very morning. More guilt. More shame. More tears in my well-tarnished veneer.
Sometimes we are the cause. Sometimes we are the recipient. And sometimes we are both. One thing’s for sure we are all like Humpty Dumpty in that we are all fragile, and easily broken. Our reading this morning reminds us to never give up. Our help and hope is always within reach.
"Is anyone out there crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, God is there to mend; if you've been kicked in the gut... God will help you catch your breath." God knows even the best of disciples get into trouble, and yet God is there every time...working around the clock…fixing up and lifting up the beaten up and downtrodden.
The bible is littered with stories of restoration and redemption. In fact, the entire scriptures could be summed up in those two words. In the gospels alone, we are given 31 distinct accounts of Jesus who hears the cries of God’s children and is moved to heal them of their physical and spiritual ailments. There are even a few incidences where he raises the dead and restores broken communities.
Each one of these accounts has one thing in common. Faith. It seems like everyone who asked Jesus to heal or help them did so by simply trusting that he cared for them enough to restore them. There are no other preconditions required other than taking that single step of faith. Richard Rohr writes, "God's restorative life and love flow through you as soon as you dare to... trust that God could, will, and does have an eternal compassion for you."
There is, of course, no greater compassion then the sacrifice which Jesus made for our benefit and understanding. Through this great gift, forgiveness, mercy and grace are at our disposal. (Which is why it's so hard for me to fathom why so many people still chose to remain broken.)
In his book A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway writes, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Hemingway recognizes that being broken is an unavoidable part of living, and yet he reminds us that we have a choice about how we handle those breaks.
I often illustrate this point by talking about an ancient art form called Kintsuji, which in Japanese literally means “golden joinery.” (see illustration above) The idea of the art form is basic and simple. Imagine a bowl that has broken into large pieces. The artist then takes these broken pieces of ceramic and "rejoins" with a special lacquer that has been mixed with either gold or platinum.
As a result the original creation restored, and now the once broken object has been visibly transformed into something more aesthetically complex and more valuable than the original. The golden scared bowl has a new story and begins to create a new history.
I believe this image gives us a way to visualize what God’s grace and redemption looks like with us. God, the divine potter takes our shattered life in his hands, and uses the gold of Jesus to remake us - more beautiful, more beloved, and valuable to God than ever before.
By his words and deeds, Jesus assures us that we are worth mending and fixing. The scars of the cross, which he received on our behalf, give testimony to this notion.
As we trust in his word, and to put our faith in his deeds, our healing and restoration renew and redefine our salvation. Because of God's love for us, our brokenness is not the end of the story. Instead it is beginning of something greater than we could ever imagine.
We don't have to be perfect. Not even the best disciple will remain flawless in a broken world. It's okay that we're chipped and cracked, or even shattered beyond recognition. For there's nothing in our lives that the love of God cannot fix.
Despite all of what we've done in our past, we are all worth more to God simply because of what Christ has done for all of us...taking upon himself all the broken parts of this life and transforming us all into beautiful, eternal, holy works of art.
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has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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