The toppling of an idol can yield various results. Eagerly, many often approach the slaughtering of the sacred in an effort to render the God of someone else a pile of misapplied theories and misunderstood datum. Infrequently are they so eager in tearing to shreds the God of their own experience, lest the idol of experience be the one thing left untouched by the hand of thoughtful deconstruction.
Somewhere along my own journey, I lost sight of the God of perfection (that god which declares that somehow our blemishes and brokenness are abhorrent – all the while having the power to either remove or redeem them). What had once been an intimate friend quickly became little more than baggage in the past, as at the moment of deepest, darkest, most shameful pain and regret, the god I’d spent my life perfecting fell and revealed itself to be little more than a glass idol, and a poorly-blown one at that. At long last my God reflected my life; broken, sharp, and dangerous.
For the better part of my life, I tried to pick the pieces up of various pains and abuses which happened along the way; seemingly only to embed the shards more deeply into my hands and arms in a vain attempt to make something “whole” of my broken state. Never once did I stop to think that perhaps these shards weren’t supposed to be put back together, much less picked back up (or walked on) by my easily pierced hands and feet.
After countless attempts at ‘becoming whole’ I quit trying to pick those pieces up. The carrot no longer appealed to me, and in one step, I leapt off the treadmill of wholeness. I stopped trying to put the toaster back together and just left everything in a big messy pile. And slowly, the shards became something with which I needed to take care, rather than something I needed to clean up and make any attempt at reassembling. Hindsight being what it is, it only makes sense that the pain of trying to become whole is often far more self inflicted from our various efforts at making ourselves be what we were, rather than looking to be what we can. It is that pursuit of wholeness which ends up consuming us all, sadly, as “wholeness” is often little more than a way of dressing up a post-modern obsession with certainty neatly within religious vestments and confessions of healing.
If only we could be made of glass, then things like transparency, clarity, and light might mean something to us in our pursuit of a state of wholeness. The fact of the matter is, we are earthen vessels; and for an earthen vessel to have any sort of transparency, it must become broken. In other words, it is only a whole vessel which stands in the way of light being all that light can be both inside and outside the vessel.
I don’t want to be “whole” if wholeness means that I must deny my own brokenness, or worse yet, that I must therefore follow the mythical god of perfection and wholeness who seems so at home in Western ChristInsanity. I want to follow the God who gathers up every broken fragment, because that God knows that every single broken fragment is valuable, in its broken state. Humanity is portrayed poetically in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6) as baskets full of every single broken fragment; in fact, so full of the fragments that “none of them are lost” (Jesus).
I’ve come to understand that the brokenness of life is necessary, and beautiful, and that it was only a pursuit of some mythical “wholeness” which kept me from seeing this truth. My journey took me into the darkest reaches of my own spiritual spaces, left me broken, limping, and in need of a savior.
An unbroken loaf has yet to feed anyone. If we are to “be the bread”, or more simply to “feed his sheep”, then brokenness is that necessary moment of life-giving, cosmos-altering, tradition-ending apocalypse; the end of the god of wholeness and perfection and the resurrection of life through the various broken fragments of our selves.
You and I would dance for joy were we to know truly that we, little people, are chosen, blessed, and broken to become the bread that will multiply itself in the giving
– Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
May the God of every single broken fragment gather us into his baskets and save us for the giving.
May we stop searching for the glue to put our pieces back together and finally begin living.
May we stop looking for the dustpan to pick the pieces up at all.
And may God remind us that all the fragments of all our lives
are due to the same cracks through which we, blind children, see the light of love and grace.
John 6:12 – When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”