Broken Things

When does a broken bowl remind you of a broken life?

“I don’t want you and I never wanted you,” are words I have never heard spoken to me in my lifetime. The mother who spoke these words continued her tirade by telling her daughter she would never amount to anything. The young woman that spoke at a luncheon I attended last week heard those words and watched them put into action when her mother sent her to live at a children’s home called Thornwell.

Her voice broke as she told her story, and I, along with more than 100 others in the room, surely felt an ache in our hearts as she recalled the brokenness of her young life.  Did I tell you she was eight years old when she began to live at Thornwell?

Today, she is an accomplished woman with a career, two successful children and a 27-year marriage.  Her daughter is planning a career as an electrical engineer.  Her son will attend college this year to major in math and education.  Her marriage speaks for itself.   I had to ask myself why any young woman with this background would risk marriage and family.

But then, she has been and continues to be repaired.  She credits Thornwell with saving her life, providing her with love, discipline, encouragement, family and training for adulthood.   I know Thornwell and I believe her.

It was probably a wedding gift.  I inherited the little aluminum pot with a pea-pod decorated lid.  Inside it is a smaller glass bowl.  When my mother fixed English peas for dinner, she always served them in this bowl.  I, on the other hand, use it to store my lemon and lime slices.  I get to see it every day, not just once in a while; and while it is certainly not valuable in terms of money, it stokes memories of my childhood, a place where my parents loved me, disciplined me, encouraged me and prepared me for adulthood.

The pot slipped out of my hand Wednesday morning, just one day after listening to a heart that still aches with painful memories.  The glass bowl inside broke into three pieces.  Certainly not an incident that will mar my life forever, still I felt a little broken, like that glass bowl, and frustrated.

In these times, if we break something, like my little glass bowl, we grab the super glue and try to piece it back together.

The ancient Japanese had another method, which continues to this day.  It’s called kintsukuroi.

Based on a story about a military ruler of the 1500’s that loved a particular bowl, which was dropped by a servant and broken into five pieces, the Japanese developed a method of restoring the bowl that still occurs to.  They filled the cracks with gold, thus making the bowl even more beautiful and unique than it had been.   The story continues: “… a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights.”  The brokenness of the bowl had made it more beautiful and the real life of the bowl “…began the moment it was dropped…”

The young woman who stood before us at the luncheon has gold shining through her brokenness.  “Well, mother, I am here to tell you that you were wrong!”  God’s grace has filled her cracks, and her testimony of life is deeply meaningful because her life, so broken and perhaps irreparable, has been restored;  like the bowl, her beautiful life began out of her brokenness.

Kintsukuroi.  Consider your brokenness, in whatever form it appears, as an opportunity to become even more beautiful.  “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).  Let God’s grace add the gold.

© 2017 Harris C. Murray
Used with written permission

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Individuals impacted by Thornwell often share their stories during our “I Had No Idea!” tour events. Please visit the tour page to sign up for one or to learn more.