Life has its typical days, and I thought I was in the beginning of one as I opened the front door to begin a day’s work at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Westland, Michigan.
A side trip to the sanctuary quickly revealed that this wasn’t a typical day.
Someone had thrown large rocks through the stained glass windows with such force that they hit the wall on the other side. Bits and pieces of stained glass lay scattered around the sanctuary floor. It was a disturbing scene.
Our lives often have a typical routine that gives us a certain sense of security. But in the midst of the ordinary, our lives can be shattered. Such things as broken relationships, job insecurity, broken promises, illness, victimization and death can shatter the routines. We can quickly find ourselves shattered on the floor in bits and pieces.
Sometimes all we do in such life circumstances is sweep up the pieces, throw them away or sweep them under the rug. We neglect to consider what we can learn from our brokenness. By ignoring our shattered selves, we close the door to healing and growth.
Upon finding the glass strewn around the sanctuary, I quickly made some calls. People came to sweep up the shattered and seemingly useless stained glass. But my friend John saw the possibilities in the shattered glass.
He took some of the bits and pieces home with him and soon returned with a beautiful blue stained glass cross that supports a white lily running through the center. A gifted artist saw the shattered beauty and created a symbol of growth, hope and new life.
That cross was a gift to our family when we said goodbye and began our journey to our new home and ministry at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Juneau in 1990. It has a prominent place in the window of our home overlooking Auke Bay as a constant reminder that we are all people of the resurrection.
A surprising number of people are living with unresolved brokenness in their lives. Society complicates the pain by encouraging avoidance of what is painful and views brokenness as a sign of weakness that entitles us to “write someone off.” Bad advice and blame further shatter us.
I have lived through life-threatening health issues in my own life and the life of my family. As a pastor and friend, I have walked through the painful realities of life with many people. When we face our brokenness, and use it as a resource for healing, the broken bits and pieces of our lives can be returned to beauty.
Shame and blame hurt and destroy others and us. But God works through us to bring healing. God is the gifted artist who sees beauty even in our brokenness. We can use the gifts of compassion, care and nonjudgmental listening as resources of hope and healing.
We are all people of value who are loved by God. The cross is the Christian’s symbol of hope and resurrection. It aims us in the direction of faith. We are called to make a difference in each others lives.
May even our shattered moments find meaning and beauty in the forgiving love of Christ. May the shattered moments of others be times when we use our words and actions to be agents of healing.
• Pastor Larry Rorem is a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor living in Juneau. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.