When my oldest daughter was just five years old, she received a gift from her grandmother: a small little two and one-half inch diameter white porcelain “plate” imprinted with the words of the Lord’s Prayer. It was special in a way that little gifts from grandma are special, and it was something that my mother had received as a gift from her mother, so it was a treasure in many ways. For years, it sat safely displayed on a little shelf in my daughter’s room.
This daughter was, when she turned sixteen, prone to door-slamming, item-throwing tantrums on occasion. She would, if provoked, slam her bedroom door so hard the house shook, and if that was not quite enough of an expression she would pick up the nearest item and throw it against the wall. Most often this was a shoe, a plastic cup, a book, or even a picture. One day, though, it was the little two and one-half inch porcelain plate.
The hardwood floors in her room made it easy to collect the 30 or so pieces and I carefully picked up all I could find, vowing to piece it together one day.
We do that for one another when we are in community with each other. We help pick up the pieces of life and put them in order once again. As a community of faith in this place called Hope, we participate in the community effort, when needed, of helping one another pick up the shards of brokenness and putting them into order. Sometimes it is not so difficult, but at other times it is a much greater strain. Occasionally the pieces don’t all fit exactly; in fact I dare say that the pieces rarely fit back together as if there was no breakage at all.
In Japan there is the ancient art of Kintsugi: broken pieces of pottery are repaired with gold, often creating a piece more beautiful than the original. There is some philosophical beauty in the idea that the piecing together, the healing, after a breakage can actually create an object that is even more wonderous.
All of those places in life that feel like breaking points, those cracked places where we have in fact endured a painful period in our stories, places where the pieces had to be picked up and put back together again, places where we endured hardship and separation; those are the places that have the capacity to turn us into more beautiful people. And where a piece of the original might be missing, instead of realizing the loss and becoming sorrowful, we have the opportunity to shine magnificently.
I picked up all the pieces of the little plate that day and sealed them up in an envelope, which I took out some time later. I certainly did not put the pieces back together with gold, but I did put it all back together, using duct tape as a backing. It now remains as a reminder of those turbulent years. There is growth through the pain and the breakage. It is not easy, but it is what we do for one another as a community faith, drawn together in compassion and love.