I find the broken planter when the snowdrifts melt on my back porch, leaving behind puddles and mud. Large cracks reveal an orange eyesore on the side. I turn it over to see if the other side looks any better, but it is cracked through on both sides.
Studying it to see whether I can fix it, all I see is the brokenness, the effects of a harsh winter, my own absentminded neglect.
Why is it when I only focus on the cracks, then I feel the weight of my mistakes, the disappointment of small failures?
My daughter and I plant seeds the color of black pepper in our seedling flat. She can barely pinch them between two fingers, so she shakes them over the dirt like salt sprinkled over a pot of soup. The seeds scatter over everything like hope.
It looks like barren soil, but when we’re not looking, a few of those tiny seeds sprout.
My daughter peeks behind the plastic and finds them, like gifts on Christmas morning.
Just about the time we give up, hope surprises.
The tomatoes and peppers grow leggy and tall and I know it’s time to move them under the garden light in the basement. The Midwest sun is fickle in the spring, covered by cool grey skies, causing the plants to stretch toward the light, to lean in.
We know that our suffering ends in rejoicing.
The cross ends at the empty tomb.
Christ came through his own harsh winter with scars and was considered even more beautiful because of it, the scars symbols of his suffering that led to our redemption, and hope, and eternal life.
I think of that broken planter now, how I focused on the cracks and thought it useless.
I’m reminded of Christ, broken and scarred, and yet so beautiful.
Sometimes brokenness is more beautiful than if we had been whole.
We are cracked vessels, redeemed by grace and love, but still cracked and changed from the hard days.
A few years ago I saw a play performed by a group of people with disabilities. Sometimes they forgot their lines, sometimes they sang off-key, sometimes they weren’t sure what to do, but it didn’t seem to matter. The piece was a beautiful creative endeavor, a lovely gift to witness, people who found a way to create beauty despite their own personal challenges. The audience cheered and whistled and clapped and so did the people on stage. It was wondrous joy.
During the show, one young man approached the microphone unable to walk without the help of a facilitator. Holding him under his arms from behind, the facilitator placed him next to the microphone and whispered the words of the song in his ear while he remained silent. His knees were limp; his body pressed firmly into hers, he stood there quietly until one word of the song was finally sung loud and clear:
The young man struggled with the simple act of walking and talking, but sang his one word solo on stage bravely and with beauty, over and over again:
He sang gloriously, as if this was his life song, his own personal mantra.
While most of us hide behind our cracks and flaws thinking we’re not good enough, he sang his song out loud and clear. The truth is we are not good enough. That’s where grace comes in.
What this man teaches us is that we should be singing our one word with all we’ve got, that we should be singing because of our limitations and brokenness.
I know people who have been broken by life’s harsh winter but are more beautiful because of it, those suffering from grief and loss, divorce and marriage problems, cancer and chronic pain. They teach me to live past my fears, to live through the brokenness, to sing with all I’ve got.
This morning I hear a bird belting out his song in the dark morning hours, when the air is still cold enough to see my breath. He whistles loud and clear and I can barely see him sitting on the electric line, silhouetted against a morning sky slowly brightening, singing against the darkness.
When the sun pierces through the window panes of my kitchen and the seedlings stretch toward the light, I feel that song of hope rising up in me. The snow piles disappear. The daffodils poke their green heads out of the earth.
Eventually the barren garden beds and empty planters will be full and overflowing, singing their own song. I take the broken planter and put it on the garden bench for repair. I think of the beauty of his grace, his brokenness creating redemption and hope out of cracked vessels.
Sometimes the remnants of our lives become our stories of greatest power.
We sing out our life song with all we’ve got.
His arms keep us from falling, held up by his grace.