Written as part of an Advent Daily Devotional for the UCC in Wallace, ID
I was drying dishes the other day when a juice glass slipped out of my hands, fell on the rug and shattered into a gazillion tiny parts. There were maybe a handful of pieces of a significant size; the rest were shards and particles. The kind that, even after the vacuum and broom have come out and been put away again, linger to be picked up by socks and bare feet. Nothing left to piece back together or restore, it was completely gone.
A lot of things are breaking and broken these days, inflicting pain and injury before anyone has a chance (or even tries?) to clean up the shards and particles. Brittle pieces and sharp edges abound, injury and heartbreak are everywhere. Troubled by who we’re becoming and the damage we’re inflicting, I scramble to know what to do or where to begin.
Parker Palmer writes about the difference between a heart broken apart and a heart broken open. A heart broken apart adds to the accumulation of sharp edges and shards; if left unhealed, it has the potential to become an unresolved wound with the ability to pass the wounding along to others, serving as a source of bitterness, anger, even violence. A heart broken open, on the other hand, can provide a softer, more welcoming space in which we are able to hold our own and others’ pain, deepening our compassion for others who suffer and expanding our ability to reach out to them. A heart broken apart closes in on itself and focuses on its own pain, while a heart broken open reaches for others who know this pain, watches for places of connection, seeks understanding, opens itself to healing and hope. A heart broken open offers fertile soil in which God’s reckless love can take root and grow, spreading heart by heart into the heart of the world. Moving in us and through us, weaving connections, fostering compassion, gathering up shards, planting the promise of peace.