The world seems divided between those who think thinks can always be improved and those who want to “leave well enough alone”. I must confess I tend to the tinkering side but given mood and circumstances I can be convinced to leave things be. There is an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Basically it means leave well enough alone.
But what if it is broken? Some things are broken and need to be replaced or fixed. To ignore them is to put ourselves or others in danger or to greatly diminish our enjoyment of life. When our septic system got blocked up recently (damn those city visitors!), I had no choice but to get down and dirty and fix it. I got no arguments from the rest of the family. One of my pet hates when something is broken is the so called “temporary repair”. I’ve seen too many temporary repair jobs that stay that way as people get used to working around the problem.
But sometimes things can’t easily be fixed or replaced. Antiques and special items that have a significance beyond their functional value. A gift, a family heirloom, a relationship or me? One of the ways we oppress ourselves is by assuming that we, alone, are broken while everyone else is whole. We tell ourselves, “Look at that family. How happy they are. Look at their home. How clean it always is.”, and we assume that we are the only fractured and broken people struggling to make meaning of our lives and to manage them. There are social forces at work that seek to impose an impossible perfection on us, telling us that if we are broken we are no longer of any use or worth. And if we should feel fat, old, or ugly, then we should do surgery on ourselves, or straighten something, or bend some part, or snip something, or be lighter, or darker, and then, then we’ll finally have dignity; then we’ll be whole.
Sometimes as Christians we are told that we are hypocrites because we fall short of the faith we proclaim. But if we are hearing this, we are hearing the wrong gospel. The good news is that we are loved and forgiven as we are. Grace and hope belongs to us all, broken, shattered, struggling and striving. And in God’s eyes we are beautiful because of our imperfections.
This life is not for the perfect. It is not for the flawless. It is not for the whole. If you are like me, there are parts of you that are very good, and there are parts of you that are aching. There are parts of you that strive and fall short; there are parts of you that feel broken. Those are the parts that let in the light. Don’t run from your imperfections. Don’t hide from your brokenness. Those are the spots where the light will shine through.
In God’s eyes we are beautiful because of our imperfections. The apostle Paul struggled with physical and personal weaknesses and prayed that he might overcome them, but he wrote that the answer he received was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He was later to write when reflecting upon our imperfections that, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Our God is a God of the broken, a God of shattered hearts, who, despite the challenges of life, invites us to pick ourselves up and continue to move forward in grace and bring a message of hope to a broken planet. Today Leonard Cohen died. His poetry and spirituality have influenced my life and sustained me through both difficult and happy times. His song “Anthem” may not have originally been meant to be interpreted like this, but for me it captures very well the idea I am trying to express:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Our bells are cracked. But let us ring those bells that still can ring. Stop worrying about your failure to achieve perfection—perfection is not possible in this life. Instead, embrace the light and healing power of Christ that come in through our cracks and imperfections.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news!
Brian Spencer, Minister