I must have reached some kind of milestone in my life. I find myself reflecting on how my life has turned out, how it isn’t what I expected, and–more importantly–realizing that my vision for what my life should look like is not going to happen. There’s not enough time, enough energy, enough motivation, enough healing to make that happen. I am grieving for the things that are impossible that I didn’t realize were impossible and that probably aren’t impossible for most people.
Have you heard the story about the beautiful teapot? It is beautifully decorated and full of itself, proud of its function to serve hot tea to grateful people everywhere. It is the queen of the pantry, lording it over the other dishes because of her beauty, grace and usefulness. Then, one day, a hungry hurrying child comes to the tea table and upsets the pot, sending it crashing to the floor, where it breaks into pieces. Some well-meaning person glues the largest shards together, but it will never hold hot tea again, and it sits on the shelf broken and despondent. Finally, a gardener comes. He takes the teapot, drills holes in the bottom (oh, the tea-manity!), fills the pot with soil and plants a seed. The pot resents this repurposing but begins to realize that something new is growing inside it. Eventually, a beautiful flower springs up and blooms from the pot and it is ecstatic at what it has fostered, the beauty that is beyond any beauty the pot ever possessed in itself. Finally, the teapot must be broken to release the flower, which is then planted by the gardener. The shards of the teapot remain, but are content to have birthed this life and to be broken that it might continue to thrive.
This is supposed to be comforting how, exactly?
I do get it. It’s a very christian (note the small “c”) story. But I personally don’t want to find myself continuing to suffer infirmities and frailties that results in being a used-up pile of shards. That doesn’t sound very Christian in the end.*
What does sound Christian to me is being worn out, ground down, pulverized into dust and being made into a completely new thing. Mosaics are fine, but they are ultimately made out of broken shards. They can be cunningly assembled, but they never look like a new thing to me–they’re recycling. I do not want to be a recycled Christian.
Paint, on the other hand, is made from extremely finely ground pigment, is mixed with oil and becomes a completely new thing, something utterly other than what it was originally. And it can be used to create beauty and truth simply by being that which it is created to be. It becomes a part of a pattern, a part of the whole and informs and reflects on the other paints around it simply by being in contrast (or harmony) with them. I want to be a made-new Christian.
Two things that have been helping me this week: One is the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. There’s a link below if you’d like to listen to it. The chorus and bridge go:
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.
You make me new, you are making me new.
The other thing that’s helping: making Grannie Squares. I’ve been spring cleaning my yarn collection and have found so many scraps that cannot in and of themselves make anything at all. So I am collecting them and knitting them together so that they make a fabric that in the end, I hope does not look recycled, but rather intentional, each yarn in its place, bringing out new aspects of the yarn next to it.
So I grieve still, but not as one without hope. I just need to spend some time reflecting on the materials I’ve been given and ask God how to assemble them to make something beautiful that we both love. Amen.
*Can I just have Jesus’ resurrected body? Sure, he had scars, but walking through walls and through the time/space continuum more than balances out bodily blemishes!