So I missed you last week! But we were in the mountains for fall break, and it is impossible to write with little boys bounding around all over. It was a lovely time. Restorative if not restful! We came home a day early, which was wise because when would I have time to buy groceries for an empty pantry if we didn't return until Sunday night? Monday morning comes so swiftly--
Turns out it was a blessing. We got to worship in our own familiar sacred space, and God had much to say to my restored heart. The message that morning closed a series called "Pieces: When Broken Becomes Beautiful." At the beginning of the series, several weeks ago, the congregation was asked to write their brokenness on a shard of pottery, to bring it forward and surrender it to the altar. This Sunday all of those broken pieces had been gathered into a mosaic, a new picture of wholeness emerging from the remnants of shattered vessels. Just to walk into the room, to lay eyes on this work of art, was moving.
During the message our pastor spoke of the process--going from scattered remains to beautiful mosaic: one has to touch the raw materials, hold them; give the process time; quiet meditation is needed, guidance seeking; finally the design comes, but only after asking how the pieces reflect purpose. Our pastor's punch-line: "Broken becomes beautiful when it is used to help others."
I sat in my seat stunned. My pastor had just recounted to me the process of God's work in my life for the last two and a half years. Two and a half years ago God moved me unexpectedly out of a ministry I believed I would be in forever. It was a hard, painful time. Yet in the time since then God has done a work in my heart, healing it, binding me up, bringing me step by step to a new place. Lately I have felt a joy and contentment coming from deep within, a satisfying sense that everything is coming together. My memories are no longer painful or wistful or bittersweet. There is no anguish of loss, simply gratitude. And a surging hope that all my endings have given me everything I need for what is opening up before me. I go forth blessed by the very thing that I thought had the power to destroy me.
It didn't. I am not destroyed. And the roaring pain of that moment had no power in it to speak a word that final over my life.
God's words are always stronger.
Our pastor closed the service by speaking of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold. It is process that makes the piece more durable and exquisitely beautiful than it was originally. Screens usually filled with song lyrics showed pictures of delicate china, spider veins of gold coursing through them. Each evidence of vulnerability transformed into proof of something better emerging from brokenness. It was like God showing me to myself, this new self, the unveiling of beauty I had not guessed at. Really, God? That's how You see me, and all that has happened?
The invitation of the morning was to come back to the altar. Not to lay something down as much as to be commissioned for the new purpose that emerges from our brokenness: to use what we have been through as the raw material for making the world a better place, to participate in bringing forth the Kingdom of God into the heartache of a world that needs a Golden touch, to embody the hope that is possible when we simply surrender our shattered pieces into Hands that can really heal. How could I stay in my seat? I am ready for this new life, this new calling, to be commissioned--
As I made my way to the altar, the worship band began to play a song so familiar, but something I had never heard in our services before. And then they got to the chorus I recognized it: "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle. It is the song I heard just a couple of days before my good china sugar bowl broke. It is the one that summed up what ministry meant to me-- that my heart would be vulnerable to the pain of losing those I loved, but always holding the sweetness of that love close. And it also showed me what it means to give and be given life through brokenness, as a mother and as a child of God. This song is so personally meaningful that I knew God was moving powerfully in me, and that He was giving me a new picture of what it means to be "Sweetly Broken," one where brokenness is not the last word. So I came to the altar in tears, not because of a broken heart that would not mend but because of a new hope that cannot be deterred. God speaks a better word over us that the world ever can.
It's Wednesday. Since Sunday morning I have been a little sad because I didn't save that china bowl. How could I have known in 2010 that I would hear about Kintsugi in 2013? Those broken pieces are long gone. This morning in the middle of fantasizing about how I would send those pieces to Japan to be fused together with gold, I took a moment to look down at the cup of tea I was enjoying with my quiet time. It is from my last tea party spent with the Wesley Foundation, two and a half years ago. I gave all of my young lady college students a tea cup as a parting gift from me. And there was one left over which I kept for myself. The pattern is that of a mosaic, a colorful picture that seems to be fused together from other vibrantly colored pieces of tile. A bunch of smaller pieces coming together to make a beautiful new whole. New life--born at the closing of the old.
I think I heard God whisper, "See, you didn't need that china bowl after all."