I’m rushing like a mad woman to get it all done before slipping out the door to meet with a friend. It’s a haze of furious productivity, all so that I can be fully prepared to stand before the throne of God and tell him that my dishes are washed, the floors are swept, and the toilets are scrubbed. It seems I can’t stop the frenzy of hurry that’s overtaken my body.
I hurriedly shove a white porcelain cup on top of a clumsy stack of plastic children’s dishes, and then it happens. It slides straight out of the cabinet, onto the countertop with a sort of bounce, and onto the kitchen floor. It breaks into a handful of tiny pieces – white shards that threaten soft little feet. I hear the feet patter toward the commotion, and I bark a sharp command about staying in the living room.
Picking up the pieces with the ferocity of a woman on a life-saving mission, I double-bag them in the garbage and race to the basement for the vacuum cleaner. When I ascend the stares, Caleb’s standing in the center of the kitchen, staring at the shards. His little bare feet are literally inches from the razor-like pieces of porcelain.
I yell. It’s all in the name of protection, but there’s no denying I’m yelling. Instead of obeying my shouted command, he folds onto the floor in a million pieces, just like the cup that’s shattered on the floor. And suddenly, the cup and the prayer meeting, and the million pressing things that need done don’t seem so important after all. I crumble with him, scoop him up, and carry him to the safety of the living room. We sit on the carpet in all our human brokenness, hold onto one another, and watch robins search for worms on the lawn.
I tell him I’m sorry and don’t try to justify the fact that I was only trying to protect him. We sit long and watch the robins. The shards rest quietly on the kitchen floor. Broken and undisturbed.
By the time Darrell and Bekah wander in from the garage, the kitchen floor is safe again, and there’s no evidence of the small disaster. I’m fifteen minutes late for my meeting, but everyone understands and smiles with grace.
Driving home from the meeting, the moon rises low and white over the horizon, and I find myself pondering all the brokenness of the day. It seemed to be anything but broken in the moments before that cup shattered, but as I look more closely, it’s as clear as the moon rising white. It was all broken, long before the shattered cup.
It was the bad kind of brokenness that looks like a frenzied, striving woman – trying to keep all the pieces together, but coming unglued with every frenzied motion. It wasn’t until the cup shattered and Caleb crumbled and I fell with him that good brokenness came. King David wrote: My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17, NIV).
Godly brokenness comes when we let ourselves fall dependently into his arms and give up our striving efforts to accomplish and perform in our own strength. Good brokenness comes when we let others see our vulnerabilities and don’t hide the things we haven’t figured out. Good brokenness comes when we go lower and offer our broken hearts to God, trusting that he won’t throw them away, but that he’ll piece them back together with greater beauty.
M.R. DeHann says it well: “God used two broken stones tablets to cause the Israelites to repent of their disobedience.
God used broken earthen vessels to give the impression of an enormous army accompanying Gideon.
God used a broken heart to return King David to Himself. . .
God used broken loaves to feed five thousand and then some.
God used broken fishing nest to challenge the disciple to depend on him rather than their own efforts for their needs.
God used a broken ship to steer Paul to the island of Malta to reveal the gospel to the natives there.
God used a broken body, pierced for our sins, to provide salvation for all humankind.”
I walk into a still house after the meeting and turn on the hallway light. There on the floor, a small shard of white greets me at the entryway, flung fifteen feet from the site of the fallen cup. I pick it up and hold it on the tip of my finger. It seems we’re sweetly broken together tonight.