Sunday, October 4, 2015

Being Broken

     When I was about six years old, I did something horrible. My mother had this beautiful lead crystal vase that she kept in the kitchen window. The vase caught the light no matter what time of day it was and cast a prismatic rainbow over the entire kitchen. I knew she loved it because she had given me the "don't touch it" speech. Long story short, I touched it. I touched it so much that I broke it. The bottom was still in tact, but there were four pieces of glass where one beautiful piece of perfection once was.
     I had no choice but to gather up the pieces and take them to Mom. She was upset... upset that the vase was broken, upset that I had touched it when she had explicitly told me NOT to touch it, but mostly upset that I had picked up the broken pieces and brought them to her. "You could have really hurt yourself by picking them up," she said to me as she gingerly took the pieces from my hands. "The edges are sharp." 
     I got grounded for touching the vase - totally deserved it. And I helped Mom glue it back together. It took hours, putting glue on one piece and holding it until it bonded with the piece that would stabilize it, then adding another piece and holding it until it bonded with the two other pieces and so on... Finally, it was back together. We set it in the window and sure enough, the light still caught it. But the brokenness of the vase, despite the fact that we had put it back together, had changed the way the light reflected. It was almost twice as bright with new patterns of light bouncing both inside and outside of the vase. Mom stood back and looked at it... a pattern of blue and yellow prisms on her face and she smiled. "The seams where it was broken, they are letting the light through into the glass." 
     I've thought about that incident a lot lately. Mainly because of my brokenness. I never realized, when it was happening, that my mother was teaching me about living in that moment. The brokenness is where the light comes in. I have embraced that and there is no freedom like the freedom that comes with realizing that you are going to get hurt, that it is inevitable. You are going to be broken... it is a certainty. But it is what you do with your brokenness that matters. Will you hide it from the light and make it a crack that just collects dust? Will you set it on the window and wait for the sun to rise so that it can help make the light dance? 
    I often think about brokenness in relation to the church. Churches, the body of Christ, even in this day and age, doesn't accept brokenness well. Television commercials show perfect little hipster families, websites are slick and modern, worship services are more like mini-concerts... and these are wonderful advancements. Unless you are broken. When you are broken, you don't want to see that. You want to see people who might understand you. You want to know that when you enter into a sanctuary you are going to be accepted for your brokenness, not gossiped about or held up as an example of what not to do. 
     When my mother passed away almost a year ago, I stopped going to church. I'm not sure why. My faith in God was at a new place in its growth, a place I had never considered. But I couldn't do church. Maybe it was because the fellowship I needed at that point wasn't with people but with the Lord... maybe I was subversively angry at God and just didn't realize it. I look back now and I think that I didn't go because I was so broken and I couldn't bear the idea of no one addressing my brokenness because I was wearing it, I was living it and I was speaking it but it made me difficult to be around. I needed some light to shine through the cracks... I needed someone to recognize my brokenness in a loving, caring, Christ-like manner. Not with self-righteous indignation. Not with judgement. But with love, unconditional and firm. 
     Then it occurred to me that there is no wonder that most people are put off by Christianity as it stands today. We want perfect. We want perfect people to come to the perfect service. We don't seem to want to upset the applecart of Christian. We are the city on the hill, the problem is that the hill is one that we have built by turning the church into a country club for part-time sinners, a social center where the only outreach we perform is reaching out for more money, building, adding on, etc. The only currency that we need as the situation grows more and more desperate is courage and acceptance. And honesty.... oh to be able to enter a building full of human beings to whom I could open my brokenness, share it, allow them to carry it for me and with me. That, more than anything, more than a building or gathering of people, is what the church should be. We should be seeking out the broken and helping them carry the pieces. They are sharp, those pieces of brokenness and as much as the breaking hurts, carrying the pieces is even more dangerous. We should be offering to carry them. And it seems that we are not. 
     So I will start. I am broken. But there is light inside of me. And the light, should it ever shine on me again, might bounce right off of one of my broken pieces and blind you into believing that it is the broken who need what we have to offer... the broken among us and the broken outside of us looking in, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that might offer them healing.

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