by Amy Gilbaugh
I passed Saturday afternoon in a thrifter’s haven: just under a mile of yard sales in Bryn Marr neighborhoods. Everything you could want or need or imagine wanting or needing was on a sidewalk somewhere in Bryn Marr. At one table, there was this ugly vase. When I saw it, I immediately passed a sarcastic comment to Elizabeth, my partner in bargain-hunting.
It was really ugly; definitely one-of-a-kind. It looks like someone broke about twenty-five china plates in their anger and tried to make something out of the pieces, so they stuck them together in thick, off-white pottery. It weighs seven or eight pounds and is over a foot tall. I had no conceivable idea of what you would use this thing for.
I bought it for two dollars.
When eventually I got it to my room and pulled it out of the bag I felt ironically drawn to it’s ugliness. It felt familiar, somehow. The weight of it, the imperfections it had. I don’t know, I actually kind of liked it. In that moment, I actually thought there was something beautiful about its ugliness.
And it is. Beautiful, that is.
What I’m thinking is this: life is ugly. Life is made up of ugly and broken pieces. When I look at my vase, I wonder why the artist used some of the pieces he or she did. While some of them I can imagine having once been a beautiful piece of delicate china, some look more like ceramic mugs from Goodwill. Then there are some that are just downright unattractive. Like this one piece, about one-third from the top. It’s green and blue and brown and white. It looks like the head of a sea creature, half woman half something else. No, not beautiful and enchanting like a mermaid. Just…different.
I wonder why that piece is there. I wonder why it was used at all. It doesn’t seem to fit.
Life is made of broken pieces.
I’m challenged this morning to think through mine. There are so many of them. It’s a daunting task, an embittering one. They are scattered in pieces too little to be useful and too big to be ignored. They are pieces of hurt and fear and joy and tears and waiting and trying and failing and empty. And there’s lots of them.
I figure, I could sift through these pieces, picking out the ugly ones and the ones too little to seem useful. But then I would just keep cutting my fingers and getting nowhere in the process.
Or I could let the Artist decide what’s valuable. I could let Him decide what goes and what stays and what’s useful. I could let Him press the pieces into His love, and make something one-of-a-kind out of it. Because brokenness without love is just pain. Love gives value to the pieces, even the ugly ones. Love takes something no one else wants or even wants to look at a moment longer, and collects them with the promise of something new. Something more whole.
I’m wondering what our Artist is up to. What is He making? Will I ever be more whole than I am broken?
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even be something beautiful.