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Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith

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Broken Beauty

Something becomes imperative when glass shatters. It demands a response, a snap to attention, a head turn, a dash to the kitchen. Or when you’ve dropped a glass, curses and swears become a sort of eulogy. From that horrid sound to eternity, the glass will always be broken. Even if a glass blower reshapes it and puts it back together, it will still have been broken. It will never hold its original, pristine shape again. It will always be broken. The fall from the counter to the floor is irredeemable.

There is something beautiful about brokenness; something aesthetically enduring about it. Beach combers scour for broken glass along the shore. Jewelers use broken glass for earrings necklaces. Artist use broken glass in sculptors and other crafts. I think it was Henri Nounwen who said that glass always shines brightest when it is broken, or maybe he was quoting someone else, I don’t know. But I read that quote over twenty-five years ago and it has always stuck with me.

Beauty is not the reconstitution of what has been lost. Resurrection isn’t an atavistic lacquer that covers the believer with sanguine novelty. That’s to say, resurrection isn’t about believing in an afterlife or believing that Grandpa and Grandma are casually strolling down streets of gold. Resurrection isn’t the eternal preservation of our consciousness, a today multiplied by infinity. That notion of resurrection is great for bedtime stories because it instigates yawns and sleepiness.

Resurrection is so much more, so much better. Until we experience resurrection in our lives, however, the hurting parts of our lives will dine on our souls. Our lamentations of what has been lost will perpetuate and torture our souls. You will never know unbrokenness again. We can look whole, but our lives can be shattered into a million pieces. We can walk around with nice clothes, a beautiful family, a fancy resume, while at the same time our inside world runs like splinters through glass.

Until we can see the beauty of our broken lives and rejoice, our shattered lives give us a kind of hell far worse than a fiery, smoldering heap of trash. If, however, we can see a glint of light parceled into a promised rainbow, and then see it again, and again, our brokenness will be coveted by all. The acceptance of our broken lives becomes the healing balm of self-love, self-care. And that is resurrection, that is beautiful, that is the freedom of a stone door rolled away. To paraphrase Christian Wiman, resurrection is apocalyptic, always uncovering and revealing our image of God, the perfect beauty residing within. Heaven, for whatever else it might be, abides here, in this time-bound existence, and resurrection isn’t new life but an old life newly seen.

Or this timeless, nasally hymn gets it almost right.

Because he lives I can face tomorrow

Because he lives all fear is gone

Because I know he holds the future

And life is worth the living just because he lives.

Not only will we be able to face tomorrow, but we can deal with right now. This moment. Fear will never be gone, but fear becomes manageable. And yes, Christ holds the future, not in some Calvinistic pre-determined meaninglessness, but in a manner that allows us to live freely without shame. That sort of resurrection really is the only thing that makes life worth the living.

The way out, might seem odd. Embrace your brokenness. Celebrate it. Tell stories about how everything fell apart. Talk about how you not only came to accept that change, but how your brokenness made you a better person. The old advice about putting your life back together has never been possible anyway. Even the resurrected Christ had wounds; they were proof of life renewed. Why hide your resurrection?

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