A few months ago I was feeling very broken: broken over the pain and suffering in this world. A friend shared with me several stories of women losing children over the span of just two weeks. There was, and still is, great pain and difficulty in the lives of several loved ones. And, with the ministry I'm involved in, every day I hear stories of women losing precious babies far too soon. My heart was heavy for these reasons and more. And so I decided it was the right time to do something I had been waiting to do.
Break a pitcher and piece it back together.
Let me explain ...
The idea came from Angie Smith's book, Mended. In the first chapter of the book, she details her experience in God calling her to break a piece of pottery and then to painstakingly hot glue it back together as sort of a symbolism of her broken life and the way the Lord pieced her back together. After obeying these promptings, here is what she says,
The image of my life as a broken pitcher was beautiful to me, but at the same time, it was hard to look at all of the cracks ... I was mad at the imperfections, years wasted, gaping holes where it should have been smooth.
Buy my God, my ever-gracious God, was gentle yet convicting as He explained, "My dearest Angie, how do you think the world has seen me? If it wasn't for the cracks, I wouldn't seep out like I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you just as you are."
Isn't that so wonderful? The Lord showed Angie through this project that He was not ashamed of her brokenness. He was using the brokenness and shining through the cracks. Powerful.
I wondered what God might show me if I chose to follow through with this endeavor. That one particular afternoon that I felt particularly broken seemed like a particularly perfect time to do so.
And so, I wrapped a beautiful white pitcher into a plastic bag (Angie's suggestion) and walked onto my back doorstep. With tears in my eyes and a prayer for God to show me something, I hurled the bag down onto the concrete stoop. The bag landed with a single muffled crack.
I brought the bag back inside and opened it up. Yep. Everything was definitely shattered. I wasn't sure where to begin. Thankfully, I hadn't been able to peel off the entire tag from the base of the pitcher and so that was my starting point. From there, I separated the pieces into what I thought they were - top pieces here, pitcher mouth pieces there, the base pieces over there. And then, I just started hot glueing.
As I glued I prayed. I asked for my heart to be open. I petitioned for those who are hurting. I asked for at least one thing I could share. And as I prayed and glued, God spoke quietly and subtly to my heart.
At one point I kind of got stuck. The pieces had all been making sense and going together well and then I just got stuck. The problem was that I couldn't even remember what the pitcher looked like. I couldn't put anything together anymore because I had no vision. Then I remembered that I had taken a "before" picture and should just use that as my guide. As I looked back between the picture and my work, the Lord brought this verse to mind:
... let us lay aside every weight and the sins that so easily ensnare us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
When we become discouraged about the broken parts of life and our sins and weights lay heavy on our hearts, all we need is to look to Jesus. He is our guide, the perfect picture of what our lives should look like. We rebuild our brokenness by looking at the picture of the whole - Christ.
A little further in my pottery-rebuilding journey I was getting really discouraged. The pitcher was just ... not looking like a pitcher. I was pretty sure I had some pieces backwards or maybe upside down ... anyway. But I thought to myself, "Sheesh! This thing isn't going to look anything like it was before!"
This time, the Lord didn't give me a verse but a thought:
After God has broken us, are we even supposed to go back together the same way?
After losing Evie, there isn't a chance in the world I will ever go back to the girl I was before. And in some ways, that's sad. But in many, many ways, its really for the best. Losing Evie has made me more sensitive to the hurts of others, more compassionate, more willing to put myself in someone's shoes and see pain from their perspective, more aware of how motherhood is such a privilege, not a right, and a long, painful road for many. God broke me when He took Evie but much of that brokenness has made me more like Christ. He doesn't want me to go back together just as I was before - He wants to make me new.
A bit more glueing and piecing together and I was done with my masterpiece. I had to laugh as I stood back to admire my work. I chuckled to myself as I thought there is absolutely no way this thing could ever hold water. And also, it was ugly haha! And that is when the Lord revealed to me the final thoughts from this object lesson: this pitcher will never again be beautiful and hold water - it can never again fulfill its purpose as a decorative item or a liquid-holding vessel. Not so with us as the broken vessel and Redeemer God as the builder. In His eyes, the cracks make us more beautiful, more useful. The very imperfections and hurts that make us want to hide make the Lord want to shine through. We are never too broken or our hearts too ugly to be used by Him. He promises to restore (Joel 2:25).
I thought this was a perfect post to start the new year. I think this will be my personal theme for the year 2014 - the broken pitcher. 2013 was a year of grieving and trying to figure out how to "do" life without Evie. 2014, Lord willing, has some really big and wonderful things in store for my little family (Josh's new career, a healthy baby #3), but in many ways I still feel broken. And this brokenness is something I have to learn to live with. So I'd like to learn to embrace this brokenness as part of me and move forward with confidence. I want to search my heart for those little places that are still shaking with fear and lay them before the Throne of Grace. I am broken, but this year I don't want to be fearful of that brokenness. I want to see myself as this pitcher - purposely marred by the One who expertly crafted all the parts of my life.
Broken and Beautiful.