I recently hit a bit of darkness in my spiritual life when I went through several important changes in the late spring/early summer. They were all challenging to say the least, but God is faithful and He led me one step at a time through those dark woods. My friend, “Dred” who is training to be a spiritual director (and she will be a good one) reminded me that where I had landed on my journey was Rule 5 of the (St Ignatius) Discernment of Spirits (Fr Timothy Gallagher) which is: be still. I asked God to show me what do to about some difficult situations, but although He is faithful, He is also a gentleman. He allows us the space and grace to choose Him freely and His timing is perfect.
About this time, I received a book in the mail which Matthew Kelly just released entitled “Life is Messy.” Given the past few months in particular, the arrival of his book seemed timed by the Holy Spirit (per usual.)
In his book, Matthew discusses viewing his own messiness in the light of idea of the Japanese art of “Kintsugi”. The idea is that when a piece of pottery is dropped or broken, the pottery is not thrown away, but fixed using gold. The gold is stronger than the pottery itself and therefore not only strengthens the brokenness of the piece, but adds to the beauty and value of the pottery.
Our Thursday morning prayer group spent much time reflecting on this idea; that we are strengthened, beautified, sanctified and valuable because of our brokenness, not despite it. Nothing is wasted with God.
12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”John 6:12
We were talking about some of the difficulties we had experienced over the past few months, not just in society but particularly in our spirituals lives and situationally. One of our members has been dealing with a rare aggressive cancer and her spiritual life is ironically thriving. She is very close to God right now (we say) and she is seeing His hand in EVERYTHING she is going through. It feeds our souls to listen to her strong faith and hope–despite what the doctors are saying to her–and this “brokenness” gives her lenses of faith exponential magnification.
As we explored this concept from Matthew Kelly’s book, we discussed more ways that are akin to the importance of brokenness and how the Lord uses our messiness to bring about beauty and value.
Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people.Gen 50:20
My daughter spent two years of her life intensely training to be a ballerina. She was given multiple offers for training and scholarships because her body type and feet were the ideal shape for skills that one needs to acquire to train in the rigor of the art. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She was willing to do whatever it took to learn and adapt when corrections were given. Over the years, she kept getting injuries and spent more time rehabbing than dancing, and we finally asked the difficult question “why?” We wanted to assume it was the way she worked herself so completely–taking hours of extra classes every week–but it wasn’t happening to the other dancers and she was getting distressed.
Many months of testing and finally a visit to a another specialist–this time in endocrinology–explained that she has a condition which prevents her (for now) from continuing her intense training that would get her to the next levels professionally. Since all of her hard work and training brought her to these big doors she was just getting ready to walk through, her heart was breaking. She was now unable to realize her dream. She spent many months faithfully hoping in God’s plan for her life. She is now successfully entering into another career and is happier than I have ever seen her. Our sister in Christ who is struggling with the cancer reminded us that broken bones are also something that get stronger after breaking. The bone grafts itself more than normal as it heals and breaking in the same place is unlikely. I cannot count on my fingers and toes the number of x-rays and bone injuries this sweet child of mine has had, but it sure can be a metaphor for this idea of being strengthened by brokenness. Her soul has followed suit and God is not finished with the beautiful gifts she has to offer Him in the world.
A POT AND A STONE
Summers are the time when my kitchen is in full swing. Everyone is home (except our newlyweds) and using the pots and pans to make themselves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s great to have help in the cooking department, but the cleaning department could use an equal dose of enthusiasm. I cracked up one day when mentioning this issue to my kids and one of them replied, “Did you know in France they don’t wash their pots? They leave the food so the flavors are better!” [Expressionless look on my face followed with long silent pause. Then I reply] “Yeeeaah…um, we do not roll that way here.” I went on to explain what that actually meant in terms of a pot being seasoned, NOT that French people do not wash their dishes. It occurred to me that a pot which has been used continuously (like my favorite Dutch Oven or my pizza stone) actually become better through the seasoning of the food that they cook. To look at these two items in my kitchen, you would think they are past their prime but the truth is that food baked in either of them is the best tasting food we make here. The wear and usage (and even burning) only add to character of flavors that emerge from them.
A DREAM BIGGER THAN MY OWN
One of the craziest things that has happened during these dark months has been a realized dream. About two years ago—a month before we left for our trip for England—I was perusing the travel section of the library, looking for books about England. As I have said in previous posts, I picked up a book by Susan Branch about her trip to England, “A Fine Romance.” It was as if a missing piece of me somehow jumped off the highest shelf (which I could barely reach) and back into my heart. I cannot explain what happened to me when I read this book. This book was a culmination of almost all of my favorite things. It was England, painting, drawing, lettering, joking, and references to odd movie lines, and quotes. It was gardens and literature and “pear cider” and all things lovely. It was as if something came alive in me. I took a journal and a notebook with us on our trip and when my husband had to check emails for work, I spent my time journaling and drawing some of the dreamy places we had been, working on my inner writer/illustrator.
Fast forward to the past few months, I had two part-time projects that were going to end and whereas I was I felt God making room in my life for something, I was anxious about not knowing what that was. So kept moving forward a day at a time, using my spare time to illustrate houses for people for gifts. The feedback on my work was exponentially more positive than I could believe. I thought people were just being nice. I thought they were a bit strong with their compliments. I still didn’t quite understand what people liked so much or if it was sincere feedback from people I loved, so I decided to test it all. I made a few local postcards and had them scanned and printed. If people will pay for them, that must mean something, right?
They sold out quickly. People requested more, so I printed more, and sold more. That all led to a commission for bigger jobs in which is going to brand an expanding local business. All of this to say that God used a broken time in my life to give me something that was bigger than I could have imagined for myself. I still don’t know how it all happened but I know it was God. I know it. I couldn’t have even hoped for it myself.
We are all struggling right now. These are not easy times but they are historic and important. Nothing is wasted with God but make sure your struggles are WITH God. Don’t hang on to them for yourself even though people really don’t realize they are doing that. Once you give it to God, just tell Him you trust Him, or ask Him to help you trust Him, and then put one foot in front of the other, one moment at a time. If you are here on this earth, He isn’t finished. Stay close to Him and keep going. He will put you back together with the refiner’s gold that only He can use and you will be stronger, wiser, more beautiful than ever.
I will bring the one third through the fire; I will refine them as one refines silver, and I will test them as one tests gold. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is my God.” Zech 13:9