The great question of human spiritual development is, What do I do with my brokenness? The simple fact is, nobody makes it into this world without getting a little damaged in transit. We don’t look like the pictures in the magazines. We can’t play football or basketball like the stars—our bodies just can’t do those miracles. We’re a little hobbled. We play fourth-chair violin, re-take the SATs.
When we first start out in life we imagine that with time and effort and gutty determination—maybe a little help and some luck—we can fix up our flaws and still win the blue ribbon. We compensate for our deficits by developing other features. We learn how to present ourselves, how to lead so well with our strengths that people don’t even notice our weakness. At “Say Cheese!” we angle our “best” side to the camera.
That’s as it should be. One of the great joys of parenting is helping your child to “find something they’re good at,” something to lead with, something to get her noticed, something she can be proud of, something to get her into college. If we love young people, we’ll help them hide their brokenness, help them put their best foot forward.
When we get a little older, however, we’re supposed to stop hiding the cracks in our facades. Once we figure out that everybody’s doing the same thing we’re doing—hiding their actual, unretouched selves—the light goes on. Why are we all trying to hide our humanness? Why are we all trying to pretend we’ve got no flaws? Why all the nipping and tucking?
Last Saturday night, listening to Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, I heard a woman singing a beautiful folksong by Peter Mayer.
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold
That’s what they used back then
When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks
It made them shine instead
So now every old scar shows
From every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be
But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a much higher price
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold
That song clutched my heart. You know what that’s like—to hear something that moves you unaccountably? My soul knew I was hearing something true. That’s what we’re supposed to grow into. We’re not supposed to have to hide our cracks and fissures anymore. It’s not simply that they’re “Ok,” they’re what make us beautiful, handsome. In short, they’re what make us human.
After complaining to God about his apparent defects, St. Paul got a reply from heaven. “…But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’” After he had lived inside that paradox and found its sweet spot, Paul could “boast all the more gladly of my weakness”(2 Cor. 12:9) so that he could live more and more in that place of inner power. This is the answer to that great question we began with: What do I do with my brokenness?
We fill our cracks with gold.
Thanks for this start to my week, Dad. I am not broken, I am filled with gold. That feels good.
I loved this. What to do with our brokenness? It’s easy to see that we can’t always pretend it’s not there, or somehow try to surgically (figuratively or literally) remove it. It may even be said that the content man learns to accept his brokenness. But to gild it with gold and celebrate what makes us who we are—while still striving to make ourselves better—is indeed a glorious sweet spot that transcends mere contentment.
I’ve always loved that scripture and how it reminds us that we don’t always have to be strong—that we are strongest when we allow God to hold us up.
And I also love Peter Mayer.
Thanks, Erika–you’re right about that leap from accepting our weakness–to celebrating it. That’s so difficult. I find it mostly happens to me when I’m not “on top of my game,” not “succeeding.” That’s when I have to accept my simple self–there’s no way out of the truth. And then that moment of blessedness or bliss that can roll over me. So…I get there mostly against my will, is what I’m trying to say!
beautiful, Uncle David! So glad you’re doing this!
pam anderson says
I’m mostly in denial about my brokenness. When I’m honest, I’ve learned to at least keep it mostly to myself. Thanks today for not just helping me accept my flawed humanity but, in fact, to celebrate it.
leah mcgrath says
One of the best blog posts that I have ever read. Thank you.
Alice in LA says
What a wonderful introduction to the Maggy’s (and Sharon’s) dad and the incredible Pam’s husband. I met them at Ree’s ranch and life has not been the same since. Thanks for beautiful post, David – there are so many people I will share this with. And thanks for the tweet leading me here, Maggy – I’m looking forward to reading more. 🙂
Alice in LA says
(that was supposed to say “amazing Maggy’s” – those gremlins, always messing with my posts.) 😉
Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer says
So happy to find you via Pam and Maggy. I got to know Maggy this last year, love her. Beautiful girl. We’re big GK fans here, too. I’m passing your post on to my husband (who’s also an author/speaker).
A new blog! Yeah! Congrats!
Susie Middleton says
Wow, this really touched me. I feel that way about my life now–I let all my flaws hang out, and in fact, sometimes, I do celebrate them. I should remember to do that when considering other people, too.
What a treat it is to see your new blog, David. (I saw Pam’s link on Facebook). Will be subscribing right away! Thanks and best to you all, Susie Middleton
Cathy in Orlando, FL says
Looking forward to keeping up with your blog. I already love TMC. I can relate to the plan B you mentioned in your About Me note. Thanks for sharing your stories and inspiration.
Thank you! I am so uplifted my this. I have very recently been reminded of my brokenness, and this has reassured me that my cracks make me human. Cracks and all, I am beautiful in God’s eyes. I needed this today.
Gretchen Eckloff says
I am looking so forward to your blog. I just started re-reading Epiphanies again. Good to “hear” you again David.
Sue Scholer says
Hiya, David! Chuck just forwarded me your web site/blog and I love it, as I’ve always loved your sermons and essays. I believe we’ve already told you that the reason we joined Trinity was primarily because we connected with your sermon the first time we attended services. You’ve never been preachy, just very real, and quite personal. Perfect for me. Look forward to your next book. Hello to Pam and the girls!
Brooke @ Food Woolf says
So it’s safe to say that now that I have met you through your blog I’m quickly learning that I have a big, open heart for everyone in the Anderson family. David, this piece warmed my Anderson-loving heart and made me bless “the tender blindspots” (a favorite lyric from a Peter Mulvey tune that talks about the same idea of accepting yourself for all your flaws and foibles). This blog should be required reading.
It’s certainly my NEW FAVORITE BLOG!
Jeanette Hooman says
Thank you for the poem. I’ve been feeling cracked lately and I’m going to fill my cracks with gold.
I’m golf buddies with Angie Young, she is a very special friend of mine.
Once again, thank you.
God Bless you,
Priscilla Harrison says
What a great start to your blog! The Japanese bowl poem was amazing. Transferred to my persona would certainly make for a shiny object! I’m going to need some gold flying buttresses for the “sags” also…filling cracks wouldn’t be enough! Best to you… PAH
I came across this page after googling “finding gold in the cracks.” This was something I picked up from watching Sally Field talk about her largely unhappy years of doing Flying Nun. She eventually cracked under pressure & mentioned “talk about finding gold in the crack – I never would have pushed myself on to more challenging acting roles if my unhappiness hadn’t gotten so bad.” I had never quite heard that mental approach to finding the good in bad things, so made a note to look into it more & glad I did. Thank you Sally & David for providing the words of inspiration when I needed it.
I like that-never heard that–“finding gold in the crack…” Thanks, Gary.
Beautiful post . . .
In a circle I’m in, we were invited to choose one song to listen to each day this month. Smiling because the song had already found me a few days before the suggestion was made: “Japanese Bowl” by Peter Mayer.
This impromptu practice has been such a gift… gently, tenderly reminding me that my cracks (and scars from many surgeries) can be and are part of what make me and all of us both unique and beautiful.
Wanting to share the lyrics with a friend, I did some googling and found your post. As I read, I smiled a warm “yes.”
Mary Jo says
I heard this song and it touched me so much that I went on line to find the lyrics. Your blog page was the first thing that came up. As I read the blog and the lyrics I was amazed as my women’s bible study group is studying 2 Corinthians right now. I’m sure that God led me to your blog which I will share with the ladies this week. Thank you so much for your words.