What to do with brokenness

The grandbeans bring me broken things. Threadbare stuffies, dolls with dangling or severed limbs, shoes with separated soles, a broken lamp. I deposit the smaller items in an old blue pottery bowl that sits on a chest in the dining room.

A wandering line of hardened yellow glue reveals that at one time a full third of the bowl broke away from the rest. My fix-it bowl, whole now, but with scars, was itself once shattered.

It happened the day the Preacher took it to church. “I need a bowl to use as an illustration in my sermon,” he said, casting his eyes around the kitchen. They lit on the blue 9” Medalta Polygon.

“This will do,” he crowed, plucking it from the counter and dumping the crimson apples that contrasted so nicely with its indigo glaze. “I’ll be careful,” he added, sensing disapproval from my direction.

I can’t recall why, but I didn’t go to church that day. If I had, I would have carried the bowl back to the car myself. When he returned home, he held out the pieces, looking like a small boy caught disobeying. The antique had slipped from his hands, he told me, and landed with a dull thud on the concrete parking lot. “I’m sorry,” he said, looking so stricken that I didn’t say much more than, “Oh, Hon, I can fix it.”

The broken bowl holds broken toys now. Worthless in themselves, except that someone cares for them. That matters to me, and I don’t forget. When the bowl holds enough items for a long fix-it session – generally a Sunday afternoon, I prepare the kitchen counter. Spread with broken toys and my many glues (wood, ceramic, craft, fabric, epoxy and shoe goop), applicators, clamps, bands or weights, it reminds me of a surgery prep tray.

After I’ve repaired the fixable items (and the bowl always holds a few that aren’t) I line them up, smiling over the disparate collection of the once-broken-now-healed. Sometimes I snap a picture, text it over to the beans’ house, anticipating their joy.

How I wish I could as easily repair the larger breaks they’ll one day face. The heartbreaks and life-breaks we all face. But brokenness is part of the human experience and sooner or later everyone learns that not every problem is fixable.

If they come to me then (and I hope they do), I’ll remind them of the blue bowl. I’ll tell them I know a better place to deposit wounded hearts and broken lives. A place that also knows brokenness – the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ, the Saviour able to bring restoration and wholeness, not necessarily for circumstances, but always, in time, for the soul.

Are you broken? Drop your pieces in Jesus’ hands and leave them there.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” II Corinthians 5:17