The broken edges of brokenness
We have these double insulated glass cups in our cabinet. Recently, I was getting one out, and it slipped, bounced once, and though I frantically tried to grab it before it hit the county a second time, I failed to make the snag. It shattered spectacularly. As I declared, "Nothing to see here," and began the clean up, I was astonished at how much glass was created by the breakage. It was just hard to believe that the shards scattered across the cabinet and floor were previously united into one cup. As I swept and delicately gathered up the pieces, it felt like I'd broken an entire set, not just one cup.
Broken things are that way. There's more of a mess from brokenness than wholeness. Our world is like that. The biblical worldview is that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, it wasn't just they that was impacted by their sinfulness. The world was also broken.
"For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now." (Romans 8:20-22)
When I picked up the broken pieces of the cup, I did so gingerly. Some of those shards were sharp. Deceptively so. I have learned that the hard way over the year. Broken glass can cut you. Go figure. There's been times I've stepped on a little piece of broken glass and had to uncomfortably re-learn that lesson.
It helps me to remember that the world must also be navigated carefully. While there's so very much astonishing beauty around us, there are also broken edges of brokenness everywhere. It's a result of man's sin. It's not God's intention. The wise person must step carefully, being aware that beneath beauty and normality are sharp edges that can cut or wound us.
An article titled The bombs beneath us: Unexploded ordnance linger long after wars are over documents the unsettling reality of the danger out of sight.
The knock came after residents of the east London apartment complex had already gone to bed. They opened their doors to find someone in uniform standing before them: a police officer, a firefighter, a member of the army.
A 500-pound bomb had been found a few hundred feet away, the officers said. They needed to get out.
It’s an alarming message for anyone to receive while standing in their pajamas, but especially so for someone in a city that hasn’t seen active conflict in seven decades.
Just when you think it's safe to go outside without your masks, let's not forget that there are thousands of unexploded bombs all over the earth. Greeeaat.
In 2008, Virginian Sam White — a Civil War history buff who crisscrossed the state looking for relics of past battles — was attempting to restore a 1860s cannonball when it exploded, killing him and sending a chunk of shrapnel through the front porch of a home a quarter of a mile away.
Safety is and has always been an illusion. We seem surprised when we step on a glass shard that was overlooked in our cleaning. We seem shocked that people, well, die. Every day. I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but death is a still a thing. Whether by canon ball or virus. It's persistent, and it chases us all.
And death is a thing because of the broken edges of brokenness. Death is real because sin is real. Sin brought death.
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
The wonderful news is that we don't have to exhaust ourselves running from death for the rest of our lives. We don't have to live our lives on "edge" because of the brokenness. We don't have to live in fear for the unseen dangers around us.
The reason is Jesus. He has defeated death. He has defeated sin. And for all who trust in Him, we can skip freely through the minefields of life. We are not invincible, but we are invulnerable. Only what God allows may touch us. Yes, we'll be cut. Yes, we'll be hurt. No surprises there. We live in a broken world. There are sharp edges to it. But the real surprise is how often we are unhurt, uncut, and protected.
In one stunning verse in the Old Testament, we are given a glimpse of God's good preservation from the broken edges of brokenness:
"I led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes and the sandals on your feet did not wear out." (Deuteronomy 29:5)
The next time you break something, I hope you'll take a moment's reflection. There's more pieces there than you'd expect. It makes me appreciate wholeness. And it makes me respect the edges of brokenness. They're real. Care is needed in the cleanup.
Let's walk carefully in this world. It's a beautiful place. But it's also a broken place filled with broken people. And therein lies wonder - God has mended brokenness in the broken body of Jesus. And now He delights to draw near to us when we confess our brokenness:
"The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God." (Psalms 51:17)
Personal brokenness is not such a bad thing after all.