Sometimes life goes smoothly; sometimes it is a train wreck. I make mistakes. Or someone else does. Or stuff just happens. Or doesn’t. Some things do turn out perfectly: our wedding day was one; the surprise 84th birthday party we threw for my dad; Alaska, Amsterdam, and our 40th anniversary road trip; our 2014 family reunion at Disney World. Other things, like Bill’s illness, don’t, and there is nothing we can do to change them.
My first instinct when life derails, when despite my best efforts I find myself in the midst of broken things, broken dreams, broken people – especially when I or those I love are the broken ones – is to fix it. To clean up, to repair, to – as the Servpro people put it – somehow make it “like it never even happened.”
We can’t always do that.
Physical things like houses and cars can be returned to their pre-disaster condition, but for us human creatures, loss, trauma and pain weave themselves into the fabric of our lives; become part of who we are. They can’t be undone, erased, plastered over, or otherwise made to disappear.
But, offered to the Holy One, they can be built on.
In the brokenness of our lives – the pain, the flaws, the shards of what’s left – is opportunity. An invitation to pick up the pieces and, like the Japanese art of Kintsugi and the age-old craft of quilting, to use them as raw material for rebuilding our lives. “These pieces give us something to work with,” Jan Richardson says in a reflection on Eve from her book In the Sanctuary of Women, “something from which a world can be made.” (For more about Jan and her work, click here.)
Bill’s illness and death tore my life and world asunder and the process of making my way forward without him was agonizing. Some days still are. The idea that those broken pieces – the shattered remains of my life – could be something positive and constructive rather than the overwhelming negative I perceived them to be was a revelation, a reminder I am especially grateful for this week, when there are several things breaking my heart.
The United Methodist Church – the church of my childhood and one of the first churches I served as a Lay Pastor – is deeply divided, and for that I am deeply grieved. Those I knew and loved and ministered to have been on my mind all week, the photo of my mother and her fellow United Methodist Women on my desktop display a constant reminder of those connections. My heart hurts for all of them.
And by the time you read this, it will be March 1. Although he said nothing to me for another two weeks, that was the day Bill first noticed the vague singular symptom that would eventually lead to his terminal diagnosis and death just months later.
These are tender days for me; it was a comfort to find Jan’s words and be reminded that our brokenness, our pain, our flaws are not singularly negative, nor do they put the Sacred off. Rather, they flame the desire of the One who made us and loves us without end to draw us close, and are the raw material from which the Holy One can fashion our redemption, re-creation, restoration, our Resurrection.
For all who are heartbroken and grieving, as I am, I offer this prayer:
Creator of all, whose love transcends all things,
You welcome us as we are.
Grateful for your Presence,
with open hands and hearts,
we bring our pain, our grief, our brokenness,
our very lives,
and place them as an offering
on the altar of your grace.
From them, Holy One,
re-create us anew in your image.
Bless and heal us,
bind up our broken hearts,
and grant us your peace. Amen.