It was the kind of moment that might prompt you to say words you don’t normally say. The kind of words you don’t want heard or repeated by little ears & mouths. When you lose or break something that really matters. Say, drop your phone in the toilet (don’t pretend you don’t take it in there. Just don’t.) Even though the words didn’t find a way out, it was that kind of moment.
This time, it was a broken necklace. The necklace I wore daily. Because I liked it. Because it connected me the the dear friend who gifted it to me. Because it bore the word “grace,” which was something I needed to daily remember and internalize.
I touched my neck where it normally lay and felt nothing. That familiar strand was AWOL. No no no. No. Wher-what-wait—
Immediately, I panicked. Not just because something so significant and sentimental had broken (and was maybe now lost). For a few weeks, it had also been holding my wedding ring. I’d injured my finger and it just wouldn’t fit. I strung it on my necklace for a time. But, it would seem, the chain was not meant to bear the weight of a rock. Over the course of those weeks, it must have worn down the clasp until it could hold no more. In a silent protest, the whole system let go and down dropped my jewels. Goodbye birthstone, goodbye “grace,” goodbye symbol of my marriage covenant, goodbye special necklace.
When it happened, I was, of course, sitting in a meeting with 70 people. Not exactly prime time for searching my shirt for descending bling. I made some discreet wiggles, resulting in nada and then excused myself to the restroom and thankfully found the remnants.
The ring has been found, but the necklace will need repair. It’s felt odd to leave my neck bare.
This wasn’t my first rodeo with broken sentimentalities. My junior year of college, I was fortunate to have a mentor come alongside me for a number of months. At a Christmas gathering with her other mentees, she gave us each two things: a beautiful hand-painted glass ornament and news that she was leaving campus and would no longer be mentoring us. It was an emotional night, but being the good “stuffer” that I am, I held in the tears. Well, until I was being dropped off at my apartment and I slipped on some ice, dropping the fragile orb, shattering it in every direction. In an instant, I, too, broke in pieces. It might have been the first and only time my best friend ever saw me cry. That ornament felt irreplaceable and its demise seemed like a direct expression of the relationship I was losing.
But, the broken glass wrote a new story. A new chapter. A twist in the tale. My friends saw a rare, vulnerable side of me. Other mentors had a chance to cross my path. And I experienced friendship in a sweet way when Marcia painted me a new ornament. The broken ornament wrote a new story.
Sometimes, things need to break in order to accomplish new and needed change.
Muscles broken to build new strength. Foods broken to create recipes. Egos broken to develop new character. Habits broken to develop new disciplines. Ground broken to raise new structures. Routines broken to invite new adventures. Conversations broken to allow reconciliation. Shoes broken to bring comfort.
God takes the broken and he writes a new story. Broken people, broken lives, broken marriages, broken homes, broken hearts, broken pieces. He redeems them. He reaches out and authors the rest of the story. Takes the hard, the messy, the struggle, the pain and without denying the hard, the messy, the struggle and the pain, he has a way to bring beauty out of the ashes.
I often slide along in the familiar and the comfortable and block opportunities for beautiful twists in the story. Broken sentimentalities dredge up emotion and fears and beliefs (good things to bring to the surface) and also create opportunities for vulnerability, community and redemption.
I’ll fix my broken necklace. But, now it’s a reminder that God redeems the broken. I look forward to wearing it with even richer and deeper significance.