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Some things are better broken

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Some things are better broken. It’s being broken that makes some things what they are, and I’m not just talking about the eggs in an omelet.

The armless Venus de Milo is one of the great classic sculptures.

The Liberty Bell would be ho-hum and less symbolic without its crack.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa would draw few tourists if it weren’t askew.

No, Napoleon’s soldiers didn’t shoot off the Sphinx’s nose with a cannonball, but that missing protuberance is legendary.

Each of these misshapen items is a cultural treasure in large part because of its brokenness. If they were whole, they’d lack much of their significance.

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The same is true of us.

My 12-year-old son had turned to my wife and said, “Mama, is Papa going to be OK?”

I had come home from the hospital exhausted after a long couple days that had included caring for the family of a boy my son’s age who’d been killed in a car accident.

I turned to him and smiled. “There’s two kinds of broken,” I said. “There’s a bad kind and a good kind. My job is breaking me right now, but I think it’s in a good way. Bad breaks make you harder and colder and more bitter. But I think this break is making me softer and warmer and sweeter. Just let me know if you see me breaking the wrong way, OK?”

A mosaic is a beautiful thing made up of broken things. In a world of bad breaks — broken promises, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken homes — God has the uncanny ability of making good things out of ragged pieces.

It’s my goal in life to be a mosaic, broken and remade so that each crack and shard reflects the glories of my Maker that much more.

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Detail of “In the beginning”
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Beauty for ashes

I’d had one of those days. Bad news followed by more bad news. All of it weighing on me.

But then I took a breath. A deep, lung-filling breath.

All of a sudden, a new weight replaced the bad-news weight. This was a weight of beauty. The simple joy of being alive washed over me.

It didn’t erase the bad news. But it put everything in perspective. What’s right in my life and in the world around me vastly outweighs what is wrong. The scale is totally out of balance.

When Jesus preached his first sermon in a synagogue, he read these words from the Isaiah scroll, saying they were fulfilled in him:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

The poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, the imprisoned, the mourning, the grieving, the despairing — they are all acknowledged. Their wounds are real and painful and not ignored. But Jesus does more than just acknowledge them, he does something about them.

In the midst of it all, he brings freedom, release from darkness, favor, comfort, a crown of beauty, the oil of joy, a garment of praise.

The reality of suffering is all around us. But even more so is the reality of healing, of goodness, of truth, of beauty, of joy.