One frustrating thing about this experience has been the re-entry into the toddler stage. And it feels like we’re living that stage on repeat like Groundhog Day. Children of normal developmental capacity come and go through this phase, and as parents we know there’s an end in sight. However, two years after re-entry, we have children who “should” be done with toddler-like behavior, but here we are still… Tantrums and broken things. Ugh, gosh, so many broken things!!
Just in the past couple weeks here is a list of some of those broken things (in addition to the normal scenarios of kids breaking toys):
· Writing on drywall in basement
· A cover totally ripped off a hardcover book
· A vintage hat destroyed
· Permanent marker writing on an antique chair
· A half of bottle of body wash dumped in our master bath
· Pink post it notes soaked in water left on the bathroom counter, which has stained the counter a shade of neon pink
· Writing on the bunk beds
· Multiple plants totally ripped out of the garden
· Garage keys lost—key ring found in the cat litter box, one key found in a hole in the handle bar in Marcus’ bike, other key still MIA
I’m sure this list makes me look like a terrible mother that pays zero attention to her children. But then again, any parent who has survived the toddler stage knows, those stinkers are quick and sneaky. I feel like I can’t let my guard down for a second without something being destroyed.
I’m not a control freak nor do I expect things to be left perfectly; but is it so much for me to want things to be kept nice? And now I feel like it’s only a matter of time before everything is destroyed. I just want our house and yard not to be trashed and stuff not to be wrecked. Like the time Marcus ripped an entire section of hen and chicks succulents out of my flower bed. Or the new habit he’s taken up of peeing on his bedroom carpet when he’s mad at me. Or one of my all-time favorites…when he chose to poop in the yard instead of coming in to go the bathroom. Yeah, “haha, kids do the craziest things,” but I could feel myself boiling inside as Caleb came back from looking out the living room window to tell me what Marcus was doing. A yard and kid clean-up was not what I had in mind as I was making dinner that night. It may sound humorous and like something that should just be laughed off, but that was the tipping point for me that day. This is the shit…literally in some cases…I have to deal with constantly.
People are always more important than things, but come on! It feels so defeating. Marcus has his own touch…instead of the Midas touch with everything he touches turning to gold; Marcus has the Marcus touch--everything he touches turns to broken. I’ve almost become so paranoid that I won’t let him touch or explore anything because he’s just going to break it anyway. I hate feeling this way, but there’s a pattern…Marcus touching=Marcus ruining (And Lilly isn’t too far behind him). The benefit of the doubt is gone.
I’ve been mulling over this post for some time and resisting. Resisting because God is pushing a message; a message I don’t want to hear. I just want to be a curmudgeon drinking wine straight from the bottle while listening to Pavarotti (yup that was me on the night I started writing this post—opera and Sauvignon Blanc—I’d given up). I want to be angry, and literally each time a new thing turns up destroyed, God reminds me He uses broken things; He uses broken people. But I don’t want that. I don’t want messy and broken; I want pretty and nice. And not just with things…I want this for my life!
There’s a song by Matthew West called “Broken Things” (I’ve included it at the bottom of this post. Give it a listen). It always puts me in my place and reminds me that it’s not just my kiddos that struggle with brokenness, but me as well. The lyrics go, “I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King, I wish I could bring so much more, But if it's true You use broken things, Then here I am Lord, I'm all Yours, The pages of history they tell me it's true, That it's never the perfect; it's always the ones with the scars that You use, It's the rebels and the prodigals; it's the humble and the weak, All the misfit heroes You chose, Tell me there's hope for sinners like me. ” So here we are; our gang of misfit heroes. The blind leading the blind; sinners leading sinners.
In her book Bigger: Rebuilding the Broken, Author Kristan Dooley says, “There are always opportunities in brokenness to be available for others. Recognizing we are broken people, living in a broken world, frees us up to be honest and helpful with one another. Everyone has a story and everyone with a story battles to press forward.” It’s not fair for me to judge my children in the middle of their story of brokenness. Just like it’s not fair for someone to judge me on a chapter of my life. As Bob Goff in Live in Grace Walk in Love puts it, “No book is a chapter, and no chapter tells the whole story. The same is true in our lives: no mistake defines who we are. God sees our mistakes in light of the grace that will turn them into stories of redemption. We’re not in the first chapter, and most of us aren’t in the last one. We’re somewhere in the middle. Hope makes our lives page-turners. Every good story has some unexpected twists, and even the best hero might lose her way for a few chapters. Don’t worry about it. God is writing more chapters. He has the power to turn the story around with us. Don’t let one bad chapter (or five) convince you that you know your whole story. You’re in one of those middle chapters. There are more to come.”
I want to believe there is more to come for our family. This is my prayer…that God would heal our broken, fragmented family. That we would feel like one whole. That we would all delight in each other. That home would be a place of comfort, joy, and respite from the rest of the world. And that drama would be turned into laughter and peace. I can’t wait to turn to the pages of that story and to have our brokenness further mended.
There’s a Japanese artform called kintsugi where broken pottery is mended with gold. The understanding is that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty. We are all broken vessels on our way to be mended with gold and turned into something beautiful. We are holy kintsugi in the making.
We hope people will see the beauty in our brokenness, but do we extend the same courtesy to others? Whether we care to admit it or not, we often tend to categorize people, especially when we first meet them. We like people to fit into predetermined boxes neatly labeled—hot mess, good girl, addict, slut, crazy, Democrat/Republican, stupid, immigrant, gay/straight. It’s easier for our brains to get wrapped around “who people are” if we can categorize them. Dr. Grant Hillary Brenner in his article entitle “6 Hurtful Labels to Stop Using on Ourselves and Others” published on psychologytoday.com says, “[Labels] are ways to avoid dealing with a more complicated issue, both in relationships with other people and in how we relate to ourselves…They do violence to relationships, driving us apart from one another and creating harmful gaps in our self-relationship.” We fail to see the whole picture when we label.
There’s a show on Netflix called “Thieves of the Wood.” It’s a historical drama based on an 18th-century Belgian outlaw leader named Jan de Lichte. What the best part of this series is, in my opinion, is the unexpected character development. Those characters originally thought to be of noble character turn out to be villains of the worst kind; whereas, the outlaws turn out to be the heroes. What this show highlighted for me is that our labeling system doesn’t usually work. I’m sure everyone has heard that people are like onions with multiple layers. It sounds cliché, but it is totally true. Villain or hero? Sinner or Saint? We are all layered in the complexity of the human spirit--with depths of both good and evil. My children are not all bad. I am not all good…far from it in fact. But that doesn’t change how God sees us.
“[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve.” (Ps 103:10) This is grace. “Grace is the face love wears when it meets imperfection,” says John Wece in his book Jesus Prom. “The many people who have put up with me, not given up on me, included me, and helped me, have all looked at me through the lens of grace.” And grace is how we’re supposed to pay it forward with others; and none of which is expected to be through our own strength. As Dooley says in Bigger: Rebuilding the Broken, “Some of the best bigger experiences come on the other side of extending your hand on behalf of someone else’s brokenness….Brokenness, when handed over to God, always leads to bigger. Serving Him through the broken directly aligns us with His bigger purposes. There are only so many walls we can build before resources run out, our talents cease and, our strength drains. At the end of ourselves we must lean on Him, so we can continue forward. More times than not, I lean too heavily on myself, only to topple over and quit before arriving at bigger.”
Brokenness has a purpose, but it can only fulfill its purpose when it’s turned over to God. And that’s when He can do His best work. The Bible is filled with God doing just this…using broken people for big things. Elijah was suicidal. Gideon was afraid. Samson was a womanizer. Paul was a murderer. Moses had a speech problem. Rahab was a prostitute. David had an affair. Jonah was a coward. Noah was a drunk. Peter was a liar. And God used every single one of them—big time!
I came across the following quote recently and I think it highlights an important facet of brokenness. “It takes broken soil to produce a crop and broken clouds to give rain! It [takes] broken bread to give strength…[And] it is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, broken and weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” (The Well @ Jones Swamp) In order for growth, healing, and bigger experiences to take place, there must be an acceptance and almost an embrace of brokenness.
The Japanese have a word “wabi-sabi” which means “finding beauty in the imperfections of life and accepting the natural cycles of growth and decay.” This is such a fun word for what it means. It sounds wobbly and whimsical all at once. And isn’t that what life and beauty and brokenness are all about. A cycle of light and dark, hurt and healing continued on and on until the end. It is a process that will not stop just like it says in Philippians 1:6, “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.” This process will not be easy, for “if it’s worth anything, it will cost something.” (Wece, Jesus Prom)
But until that last day comes and the kintsugi masterpiece of my heart is finished, “If it’s true, You use broken things, Here I am Lord, I’m all yours.”