When You Need To Know That It’s Okay To Be Broken

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Yet you, LORD, are our Father.We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Is. 64:8

We have this treasure in jars of clay… 2 Cor.4:17

Photo by Karen Maes on Unsplash

The children I teach love working with clay. They squish it between their fingers in playful delight as they attempt to create something useful and beautiful.

But clay is a fickle substance. It dries out quickly and becomes brittle. Careless handling, lack of technique or maybe a knock from a friend’s elbow and the child’s creation is destroyed. Sad hands hold up broken pieces for my inspection.

Can it be mended?

Professionally made pottery, though more resilient, is also susceptible to being broken. Cups and bowls are chipped and cracked through everyday use. Plates slip through butter-fingers to shatter on the floor. Vases are smashed against the wall in a moment of temper.

Life has its own way of throwing us against the wall too, sometimes. We can only stand so much pressure until we crack and shatter. We get chipped and dented from being badly handled. We tip off the edge after one too many tremors in the ground and find ourselves in pieces all over the floor.

It’s no surprise that the Apostle Paul chose to describe us as jars made of clay: useful, beautiful, resilient, breakable.

And here’s what I know about breaking: it hurts. It is painful and humbling and sometimes humiliating to find yourself in pieces.

But it can also be strangely freeing.

When you’re honest about being broken, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to spend all your energy covering things up so the cracks don’t show. You can stop worrying about being found out. You can stop the exhausting business of trying to convince everyone, including yourself, that you’ve got it all together.

In the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, broken ceramics are repaired with great care. Fracture lines are not hidden, but are glued back together with gold. In this way, the scars are highlighted and honoured as an integral part of the object’s history. Ceramics that have been broken are seen as more precious and beautiful because of their damage, not in spite of it.

The Apostle Paul, who describes us as jars of clay, has this to say about Jesus: “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” I picture the tender, wounded hands of Jesus holding those pieces of broken clay jar. Carefully and patiently, he glues us back together with great skill — the golden threads of his love and grace and kindness honouring and healing our scars and fracture lines. We will never go back to being the same as we were before, that is true. But as C. S. Lewis writes, “God is not simply mending, not simply restoring the status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been.”

So here’s to the ones of us feeling a little bit broken today, or a lot. Help us to know, Lord, that we’re safe in your hands, loved and accepted not in spite of our flaws and cracks, but because of them — being made whole, redeemed and restored by your kind mercy.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:17