My little guy was having a ‘terrible-no-good-day’. Sin was crouching at his door, and he was choosing not to master it. Unfortunately, I was complicit in the disaster that ensued as a result of his tantrum. I had perched a special wedding treasure on the mantle over our fireplace, well aware that it was not wide enough to safely display this breakable work of ceramic glory, crafted by my dear Jamaican-Chinese friend, Tess. “But it looks so good there,” I had rationalized, silencing the protest in my head.
A few moments into his tantrum, the vibrations created by my son’s flailing and stomping were just enough to shift the free-standing tripod and bring the platter crashing to the slate in front of the fireplace. Dismissing him to his room with the horror on his face registering enough punishment, for the time being, I sadly gathered up the shattered pieces, gingerly fingering the grey, blue and terra-cotta shards before replacing them in the packaging which had a couple weeks before safely borne them to our new home. The irony was resounding—it did not seem to make sense then, but somehow, I was kept from simply throwing away that which looked like trash but only moments before had been my treasured gift. Unexplainably, I stashed the box of broken pieces under a seldom-used kitchen shelf, where it sat for some 18 years.
She was very angry with me. I had described her as broken, like the rest of us, and in need of a Savior. But her brand of misery would not be comforted, not even by the company of all of broken humanity, I had concluded. Our disagreement over the biblical understanding of a fundamental aspect of her life made much of my world and life a statement of hate towards hers, in her view.
For years our relationship hovered in this stasis, aided by distance until mutual duty required our cooperation. The forced proximity gave me an unsolicited opportunity to explore new grounds of understanding. I started with me this time: What was my brokenness? I wondered anew. Hers had always been ‘clear’ to me, but my own—not so much. Had I deemed my brokenness as fissures, and hers, chasms? The log in my eye a splinter and in hers, a plank—when all of it stinks to high heaven and desperately needs Calvary’s cleansing flow?
I had not been as definite in outlining my brand of brokenness that made me just as vulnerable to offending Holy God. The Savior which I offered did not penetrate to the heart of her need. In fact, my posture likely caused her to not even want to admit any need, at least not to me. I suddenly realized I had never really run my finger along the raw edge of her pain.
Our mutual duties settled, I became aware of a new choice—to take my own broken and cracked marbles and ‘go home’, or keep them in the circle, in the game, parrying and owning my chipped facets next to hers, till the Light reflected off both our jagged angles and highlighted the resemblance, at the heart. I prayed that this type of re-membering would cause the Savior to begin to look to her like the Love that I claimed Him to be. Then perhaps we could both grasp, like the song says, not just that “everybody’s broken” but more helpfully, that “everybody breaks”— all vulnerable, all fragile, all needy with raw edges that cry for a better word spoken over us, such as, “We have come to God, the Judge of all, …to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
“All have sinned,” Paul wrote to the Roman church, “and fall short of the glory of God”; we all lost something that fateful day in the Garden—the glory of God. And to paraphrase one great theologian, our hearts will never be at rest until we find again that place of rest in Him, and thus again be enabled to reflect His glory, “… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Then together we can all know the ‘win’ of handing over our breaking pieces and falling into the hands of the Healing, Saving One, who took our losses on Calvary and canceled the enmity with Him and each other.
The Table of Re-Memberance
Twelve broken pieces of unleavened bread were nervously clasped in twelve—no, now eleven—hands. One piece lay abandoned on the table, its owner having taken leave to chart his own course, to be his own savior but ending up as his own judge, jury, and executioner. As each of the remaining disciples tried to comprehend the strange words of Jesus and considered the significance Jesus poured into the meaning of the fragment of bread in their hands — especially as He went on to prophesy that one of them was about to betray Him—it’s not hard to speculate about what they feared they saw in it of their own brokenness. Jesus had, in that very context, corrected them about their squabbles over ascendancy to power with Him. He had had to model servanthood in the face of their pride and warn one of their leaders that he was on the brink of denying that he even knew Jesus. The Master had told them to remember Him and that the whole bread, now broken among them, represented His Body broken for them, as they partook of the morsel. It was only as they received Him, the Whole One, into themselves, that they could become one with one another. Broken together, re-membering Christ, they would be gathered together as one Body. If only Judas had stayed at the table and held on, considering his quickly fragmenting soul—he might have found mercy when justice called, and out of mercy, wholeness.
A Feast, A Promise, A Gathering
It’s considered the most joyous of the Jewish celebration feasts—‘Succoth’, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), or The Feast of Ingathering. Held at the time of the fall harvests and observed with much ritual and ceremony, this feast was commanded by God for every Jew to recall the time of their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. The most distinctive activity, still today, is the construction of booths or “succoth”—singular ‘succa’—in which the people take meals and even sleep for the seven or eight days of its observance. It’s a time when the Jewish diaspora try to be home in Jerusalem. Read with New Testament eyes, The Feast of Ingathering is rife with mirrors and prophetic imagery for believers in Jesus-Messiah, the world over. It was held in the only section of Solomon’s Temple where women and gentiles were admitted, and even allowed gentile participation. As a result, it is considered a fulfillment of prophecies in Isaiah 2:1-4 and Zechariah 2:10-12, among others, which speak of God gathering His people, Jews and gentiles, from every nation and people group of the world. Jesus observed this celebration Himself and, near the end of His ministry, could not contain Himself, crying out loud at the water-pouring ceremony of the feast, as the imminent fulfillment filled His soul:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’”
His death, burial, resurrection, and subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit made the way for this fulfillment, even the fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him and one day would come streaming to Jerusalem in celebration—the diaspora of all God’s children gathered once again, a foreshadowing of the joys of Heaven and the New Jerusalem.
Re-membering the Fragments
Having been newly awakened to the wonderful analogy and promise in the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, I was relieved to rediscover the forgotten package of my shattered wedding platter, as we packed up house to leave the country for a couple of years. Hope for its restoration in some form kindled, and the care I had taken then to secure it, now seemed utterly reasonable and fortunate. I did not anticipate being able to afford golden epoxy to artfully highlight the mended broken places like the real Kintsugi masters do, but at least edges could be matched creatively in some bonding substrate and an interesting conversation piece made of a precious gift. As I continued packing with renewed vision and thoughts of those possible conversations, the package became even more weighty with meaning. With my Caribbean migrant heritage, I realized that my children—now all young adults and no longer throwing tantrums—, for yet another generation, would experience what it means to be scattered, to be diaspora at least for a while. The fact that we will all be changed by time, distance, shaping experiences, and other associations was sobering and made me see with fresh urgency the value of putting in place means of staying in vital contact, maintaining proximity even if only virtually, planning times of in-gathering to preserve understanding, to remember who we are, and to revisit the promises that keep us alive in faith, hope, and wholeness. I understood anew why the Eternal One established a people through whom to preserve His plan for mankind and a Table to keep reviewing and proclaiming the relational covenant of His redemption.
Wholeness Between the fragments
As the nations, halted by a worldwide pandemic, continue to leave the table of civil discourse, in the midst of renewed racial upheaval, with the rifts widening more each day rather than closing; and as fresh revelations of historical grievances and new infractions are plastered across social media with attendant outrage; as the true cries for justice are being muffled by those that sound and look more like revenge—there must be a people who know and preserve the value of the One Table that is alone able to make the broken places shimmer with mercy, grace, and courage. The Kintsugi Master of kintsugi masters has already contemplated and walked between our broken pieces. He came so close, dwelt with us in such intimate proximity, that He was mortally wounded because of our raw edges. But even His wounding was a considered act, as He knew that only His unsullied blood can heal the fractures, can re-member us, can bring together again the related parts. He is One Who still longs to gather us together unto Himself and has written it down to be so in His Book.
The featured image is courtesy of Aaron Burden.
I am Denise Stair Armstrong; born and raised Jamaican. I received all my formal academic education in the land of my birth at Shortwood Teachers’ College and the University of the West Indies, specializing in English Language & Literatures in English. The remainder I’ve gained home educating our three wonderful children – Joseph, Charis and Timothy, parenting them with my husband Claude, and in caring for my wheel-chair bound mother. I enjoy reading, cooking, gardening, theatre and ballroom dancing with Claude (only!) and digging into the Word of God.
My passion is worship expressed primarily through writing inspirational pieces that urge readers not to miss how much the Lord has “cramm’d earth with heaven”. My heart is to encourage them to traverse the gap between all our hearts and the cultures that shape them, via the Bridge that is Calvary’s cross.