Deep, empty night, and we brush our teeth, looking across at each other with eyes like moons. We both feel hollow-carved, like vulnerable husks reaching hungrily for rest. I have no thought except for the feel of the sheets beneath my legs.
And then, a crash.
Kevin and I look at each other briefly, asking questions we don’t speak out loud. He leaves the room to explore, and I refuse to speculate. I swish water in my mouth, wipe the still line of my lips with a towel, blankly observing the orderly lines of routine.
In a moment, Kevin returns. “Well, we have a mess to clean up downstairs.” He says this evenly, walking into the closet and back out with his shoes, sliding them on his bare feet.
Mess and clean up really aren’t filling words, at least not for a mother. I spend so much of my energy pushing back against those words, ripping them up like weeds that creep into our growing space. I do not, in the moment, have enough strength left for mess and clean up. I want to ask for rest first, but he sees this question in my eyes and explains. The heavy framed mirror above the mantel has fallen away from its anchor, disrupting the things just below. Everything is broken. There’s glass everywhere.
Everything is broken. Yes, sometimes.
The first thing I think, as I slip on my shoes, is I don’t want to see. Irrationally, I wish for someone to come in with the energy no one has and pick up all the pieces for me. I want them to restore order and beauty before I summon up the courage to be a witness. I want redemption, just without any significant cost.
But since I won’t leave my husband leaning weary and alone over the mess, and since I don’t want my children to cut their fingers and feet, I descend. And when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I moan. I want to make less of this silly grief. I want to call it a sigh, the sound that rose in my throat. I want to say I was silent and picked up brokenness like obedience, like a Will worthy of a sacrifice. But that would be a lie. Instead, I mourned the loss of something beautiful, a tiny soul-oasis assembled from a collection of gathered things.
I know. It could have been much worse. And that’s what I tell myself as I drag the trash can into the living room, as we carefully lift the bigger shards between our fingers and plunk them in. I tell myself that truth, that thanksgiving lies in the recognition that none of us were downstairs when everything shattered, that the glass bits now covering the chair didn’t break skin and draw blood. Nearly everything on the mantel was made of glass.
And everything is broken.
The best living is an art, and so I pour creativity into home decorating, shaping tone and inspiration out of color and texture and symbol. The mantel is a special project for me, a canvas I renew and change with the seasons. I have an affinity for glass objects because of their ability to reflect and handle and carry Light. I appreciate that the eye glances beyond the transparent, fragile thing to the substance of what fills it, the beauty it offers, without missing the delicate line of unique shape. Glass is other, more stunning because of it’s intrinsic qualities, more functional because it yields to shaping. When I decorated the mantle for Summer, I conjured the unique quality of light on the ocean in the golden hours, when the water looks opulently green against a pure, wide sky. I’m sure the art of it wasn’t readily obvious to everyone, but something about it soothed my soul when I passed by or finally sat down in the emptiest hours of the day. This particular arrangement glimpsed something I hold carefully, a gift I shelter. Creation testifies, and creation shatters with the Fall, and just briefly, I mourn the loss of beauty.
“Sometimes it feels as if nothing I enjoy can remain untouched.” I speak honestly, in an empty, carved-weary voice, a paper-thin sound, and flat. I speak into the shattered fragments resting carefully on my palm. I know better than to grip them. I gather enough brokenness to hold without cutting myself, and then I walk to the trash can, and let the pieces–still reflecting—fall free. The glass is beautiful, even broken.
“I know,” Kevin says softly, still finding pieces, still throwing them away.
We find glass around the corner, in the bathroom, in the adjoining room. Glass fills the baskets, the chairs, the shelves below the TV. The tiniest bits glitter, dangerous, and the largest ones threaten with majestic, jagged arcs.
“I just really, really liked this,” I say. “It was so pretty.”
An hour, and we still find glass in unexpected places, scattered far, hidden in shadows. We gasp–it’s everywhere–and intermittently discuss shattering, the way it broadcasts destruction, the way the pretty things become dangerous when they are broken.
Kevin speaks gently, from a space beyond the pieces, “This is what happens when we pull away from our anchor.” Four years—maybe five—and that mirror hung solid. It wasn’t the wall anchor that failed but the one attached to the mirror itself. Finally, it just gave way to the heaviness, shattering everything in the path of its fall. This is what happens when we pull away. I stop and gather in the mess of it, and Kevin smiles. “Should I stop and take some pictures?” It’s as though he sees the writing in me, the etched script I feel.
I can see that he’s right, that the destruction left in the wake of our lost focus can extend far beyond the realm that we imagine; that bits of our broken lives can lurk sharp in the shadows, under things, in spaces we believe to be safe from damage. Everything is broken by the Fall. That is the nasty, jagged truth of this place. When we think that we can stand apart from the One who holds us; when we forget how much we need His accomplishing strength to remain steadfast, when we pull away from our anchor, we fall hard and crooked and shatter Light-gathering lives. We keep looking for Eden, longing for the untouched beauty of creation, for that unbroken joy, and it’s heaven-planted, that yearning. It’s God’s own grief over His lost treasure, over the untouched beauty of the covenant He created. Our living cuts and breaks, but He descends, allowing His own tender skin to be sliced by the shards of us. He grips our broken pieces in His own tender palms. He speaks truth, new life, over the dead valley. He restores beauty out of brokenness at great cost, and then, because of Him, our Joy at last remains untouched, pristine, kept as an inheritance for us.
Kevin vacuums the shards we only glimpse as glints against the carpet, and I finally turn to speaking gratitude over the details, the timing, the emptiness of the room when the mirror fell. I’m thankful.
It could have been worse. Sometimes, it is. But oh, I’m overflowing thankful for the Hands that collect up the brokenness of this place and grip us hard, redeeming, shaping us into something all new. So see beyond the glass of me to the bits I still reflect, to this hope that fills full:
Because of Him we can be beautiful, even broken.