While most people in our South Georgia community were pulling Christmas decorations out of boxes to adorn their tables, mantels, and trees, we were packing things into boxes preparing to begin a new journey. My husband had been called to pastor a church here in the beautiful foothills of North Carolina. When we arrived, followed by the moving truck, the unpacking and organizing began. Those first few weeks were extremely hectic to say the least. December was especially so as the move coincided with Christmas, one of the busiest times for the church as well.
On Christmas Eve, only a couple of weeks after we moved, I was standing with the children in the bustling hallway there at the church, when a boy handed me a tissue stuffed gift bag. I glanced up in time to see his mom motion for him to hand it to me. At home, later that night, I opened the bag. Inside was a beautiful piece of pottery. The bluish green, hand crafted bowl was made right here in our new city and had a small cross inscribed underneath. I loved it immediately. I loved the size and shape. I loved the colors. It went with everything in my home beautifully. It is a piece I would have selected for myself. This bowl has been here in our kitchen for the last year. It reminds me of this would-later-become-new friend who took the time to gift it and the start of that friendship. It reminds me of that special and crazy time in our life having just moved here, as we became accustomed to a new home, new work, new friends, and a new life. Though it is just a bowl, it is special to me.
A few weeks ago I was organizing some dishes in my kitchen. I had moved the bowl to the other side of the counter away from where I was working so it would not get bumped. I paid special care to ensure it was not near the edge; that it wouldn’t somehow fall. I was across the room when I heard the sound. I looked up in time to see a wooden cutting board that stays propped up against one wall, sliding down. I couldn’t move fast enough. I watched in disbelief as the board slid down onto the counter, pushing my bowl off onto the floor. It broke into dozens of pieces. Tears welled in my eyes. Of all the things in my home, why did this one have to break? How did this crazy thing even happen? That cutting board props there all the time and has never slid from that spot.
I told myself that it is just a bowl. Sentimental yes, but ultimately it’s just a bowl. I wish I could say that after almost four decades of living a broken piece of pottery wouldn’t bother me, but it did. Hearing the commotion my husband came in, saw my face, and began to help me clean it up. We threw the pieces away. I went into the bedroom solemn, even a bit angry, and began folding clothes. As I folded, my mind wandered. A few minutes later, I came out and took a piece out of the trash. I was going to take a picture of it, and maybe just maybe I could get another made. Pottery is unique, one of a kind. No two pieces can ever be the same, which is what I love about it. But perhaps I could find something similar, a good replacement if nothing else.
I pulled out that first piece and then another and then another. Holding those broken, jagged pieces carefully in my palm, I made my decision. I didn’t want a replacement. I just wanted this one, broken as it was. “I’m going to put it back together,” I told my husband confidently. He gave me that look that says “you’re crazy” but instead said, “I know you loved it, but look. It’s in too many pieces. It’s just too broken.” Logically I could certainly understand his thoughts, but I was resolute.
It took some time, and it’s not perfect. That’s for sure. However, it is pieced back together. It’s no longer smooth, and the colors of blue no longer fade gently and perfectly into grays and greens. There are cracks now, chipped places, and areas with no color at all. This is hard for the perfectionist in me to accept. I like perfect. I seek perfect out. If I can’t find it, I will toil, and strive, and worry and fret in an effort to make something perfect. And yet, somehow I still love my bowl. Perfect, it is not. It is broken-very broken. But it is still the bowl that reminds me of new friendship. It is still the piece that welcomed us into our new home. It is still special.
As I was gluing I couldn’t help but think how the broken bowl feels so familiar to me. Maybe it’s because I am broken as well. Through the years I’ve known a broken heart, a broken spirit, and at one point, a seemingly broken faith. And yet, I am so thankful for a God that doesn’t give up on me because I’m not perfect: a God that doesn’t discard me because I’m broken, but rather seeks me, helps me, and mends me until I am together in Him once again. I’m so glad that my brokenness doesn’t mean that I’m no longer useful to Him and His kingdom on earth. But rather, He uses us as we are to help shine a light for other broken hearts. Just like pottery we are all unique. There are no replacements for damaged parts…no remakes. However, we can serve just as we are, whether we are cracked, chipped, faded or seemingly broken to pieces. We can’t substitute someone else to do our part, because we think we aren’t together enough. Rather we can hold tight to the One who is together, and the One who binds all things together. We may be broken, but we are His. We aren’t perfect, but we are loved.