One day a year we get to sit together with our toes in the ocean and talk, read and sleep and not once do we have to yell stop throwing sand at your sister or brother! I'm telling you its magical. We also walk away at the end of the day with a shell for each year. This year the mission was to collect 17 new shells to add to the collection. As we looked for the perfect shells to mark each year of this journey, we realized we were not finding very many perfect shells. It seemed like every shell we picked up was broken. These treasures from the sea had been tossed and turned in the tides and thrown to shore as only half or a part of what it once was. As we collected our broken bounty the theologian in both of us couldn't resist preaching the illustration that was unfolding in our sandy hands. Broken...what a perfect word to describe our last year. The last year we have seen so much brokenness. Broken people, broken bodies, broken families, broken relationships, broken marriages, broken churches, broken communities, broken leaders, broken trust...brokenness is everywhere. For us, our home was literally broken.
Before we began our shell search I had been reading a new book by Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way. Out of the ten books I wanted to read on the beach that day, this one made its way to the top of the beach bag. I suppose I have been wrestling with my search for understanding brokenness long before picking up a busted conk shell. When the weight of brokenness is surrounding me, I want to know why. I want to know who or what is to blame so that I can fix it and stop the breaking. It might be a life changing circumstance or it might be that one individual day that falls apart with every move I make or conversation that is spoken. Regardless, feeling the brokenness is at times too much to bear. Seeing others in their brokenness is even more painful than feeling my own. Out my bedroom doors the hand crafted, glass green house my father built many moons ago is still a pile of rubble 7 months later. I continually search for God's purpose in the shards of glass.
Ann Voskamp says, "There's a brokenness that's not about blame. There's brokenness that makes a canvas for God's light. There's brokenness that makes windows straight into souls. Brokenness happens in a soul so the power of God can happen in a soul."
The creator of the world and humanity did not form us for brokenness. It was not intended for nature and man to experience the great losses we do each day. Yet, in God's great mercy, this parasite that attaches itself to every man and beast and creates deep wounds to the mind, body and spirit is still used by God to be a light of goodness and glory. Doesn't our brokenness point us to the One that is whole? Don't you think when we accept our own brokenness and other's brokenness we then find wholeness?
"Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest wisdom. We are made in the image of God. And wasn't God's heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God's glory." Ann Voskamp
I naively stroll the beach on the edge of the water thinking I might find that huge, perfect conk shell. Maybe this will be the moment the tide brings one my way. Until then, my toes dig up the broken pieces of oysters and clams. I am not disappointed. I am not running away from the brokenness under my feet. I simply embrace it and wait to see what God will make out of this broken mess. With each non-perfect shell Tony and I collected this year, I am gently reminded that all these halves and parts and this brokenness is what makes our marriage perfect. All the brokenness leads me to the One that is perfect.