December 27, 2007

Windows on Brokeness

2007 1536 page27 capou break it; you buy it.” That sign in a store aisle is enough to make me shudder. But you can’t blame the shop owners; once something is broken, it’s of no value to them.
What a contrast to the sign in the celestial window: “We broke it; He bought it.”
As the clumsy child of a graceful mother, I once searched through the Bible for evidence of broken things, and found it very encouraging! We serve a God who heals and restores, makes all things new, binds up wounds, and lifts up the brokenhearted. Just think of all the Bible stories that involve shattered lives, broken promises, divided families, and ruined reputations—even tombs burst wide open. Without a doubt, Jesus can use broken things. Which is very good news because each of us, somehow, is broken.
My brother once gave me a stained glass kaleidoscope. The stuff creating the beautifully changing images is actually made up of very common things: little bits of odds and ends and shards of gold and blue glass. Seeing that stained glass reminds me of church windows that captivated me in childhood, their stories coming to life when the light shone through. I guess a church window would still be beautiful if it were only a single, complete sheet of color, but my personal preference is for scenes created from individual pieces worked together by a skilled hand. There, the broken shards have been reconfigured into pictures that inspired the faithful for centuries, and sometimes served as the only Bible available to the common person.
2007 1536 page27The stories, the lives, the windows, have much in common:
• They’re made up of broken pieces.
• When the broken pieces are reassembled, they fulfill a new purpose.
• Going from brokenhearted to heartbreakingly beautiful depends on the hand of a skilled artist. And we serve the most skilled Artist of all.
At any given moment, some of us feel as if we’re in the process of being intentionally broken—that spiritual process in which God humbles us, teaches us, changes us, and pushes us past old beliefs, defenses, and practices to forge something brand-new.
Some of us feel like we come to God already a prebruised and broken thing, beaten and battered by Satan or by the hand or heart of his minions in the guise of strangers, family, or friends.
In either case, remember that God can make something beautiful out of the broken. He’s in the art restoration business!
In God’s hands:
• Gideon’s shattered jar became a vehicle of deliverance.
• A little lad’s broken bread and fishes became a platter of plenty for thousands.
• A prostitute’s shattered reputation became a shining example of godly womanhood.
• Peter’s broken promises gave way to a life of passionate and committed service.
• A Man on a cross symbolized for many a broken dream, but became their only hope.
And every day, broken lives become reflectors of God’s glory.
So, you’ve been broken or shattered, or maybe you’re just a little cracked. Remember, the pieces can be reassembled into a whole new image. When the light shines through something reassembled, it has a brand-new beauty. And, amazingly, God’s light actually shines most brightly to others right along the lines of the old breaks.
In my life and yours, how wonderful it is to be able to share the good news that when fully surrendered to God, He can make something beautiful out of even that which is broken.
Valerie N. Phillips is associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.