Today I turned 58 years-old. Against all odds, I am growing older. Who would have thought this even possible?
Knowing I should have died years ago makes me feel like a wizened old man.
The question I am asking is, “Have I learned anything over the years?”
Maybe not, since it seems I’ve primarily specialized in mistakes and screw-ups.
But if you learn from these things, wisdom can still come to you.
It just comes through the back door.
So let’s open that door together and see if some wisdom might want to come in.
You can see I’ve gotten all spruced up for the occasion. It is, after all, my birthday.
Wisdom declares: brokenness is a strange gift that invites us into life.
All my life I’ve been terrified of living in a world where broken things can’t be fixed.
- Being physically abused as a boy by my mother should have been my first clue that I was born into trouble.
- After that, becoming a Type 1 diabetic who has had to jab needles in myself to stay alive all my life should have caught my attention.
- The brokenness trifecta should have been complete with my parents divorcing when I was eleven.
We Hagues are a stubborn lot, though. I didn’t want to see (much less live in) a broken world beyond my control.
As a result, I thought life was about fixing things.
Or how about we really go crazy and just keep things from breaking in the first place?
It logically follows that I became a pastor. It did two things for me:
- it gave me a title that told you, “Here is a guy that has his shit together.”
- it gave me the never-ending job security of cleaning up your messes.
Thanks for keeping me so busy.
Somehow I missed that the Bible describes all of us as “jars of clay.”
You know what happens to jars of clay in this world?
They are dropped, shatter, and make a mess all over the floor. We then cut our feet on the broken shards and bleed all over the carpet.
Why does this happen so often when I don’t want it to?
Never mind. Let’s just get this mess cleaned up before someone comes in and yells at us.
I so wanted you to be impressed with my togetherness as well as grateful for me getting you patched up, also.
Now look at me.
My jar has fallen to the floor and the mess that is now me is apparently beyond fixing.
I am so very sorry. Please don’t yell at me.
Yet, in this mess, wisdom speaks.
She comes in a quiet voice telling me to stop trying to fix everything. Instead, I am invited to learn the humility of being broken and needy myself.
Strangely, this seems to be where Christ wants to meet me. His behavior seems odd, though.
- He dances in the shards of my brokenness.
- He sleeps in my sinking boat.
- He bleeds over my great need.
He doesn’t yell at me for messing up the floor. It just seems He wants to be with me in the midst of all this and to assure me that, “Everything is going to be just fine.”
Frankly, it seems a little farfetched, don’t you think?
Here’s how Paul describes it, though:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – II Corinthians 4:7-10
This resonates deeply with me. Overwhelmed with my cancer, I have also been amazingly sustained.
Overwhelmed and sustained. Perhaps wisdom is speaking again, telling us that life is designed to be both of these things.
Together they serve to humble us and make us dependent upon Christ.
As clay pots we fall and shatter so that in our need we can find the only One who will love us as we are.
As boats we take on water so that we might meet the only One who is guiding us to exactly where we need to be.
We also run into some amazing people:
In the midst of this mess I can’t fix, in a boat I can’t seem to patch, in a storm that seems to be getting stronger, I look over next to me and there you sit.
I don’t know how you got here, but you say you’ve come to help me, to cry with me, and to love me to the end.
You’ve turned the tables on me.
I just wanted to impress you with my skills as a ship captain so you would admire and respect me.
Instead, you’ve climbed into my sinking boat to make sure that a guy who is pretty bad off right now makes it safely home.
But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we’ll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we’ll have missed the point
That’s where I need to go
No way construction of this tricky plan
Was built by other than a greater hand
With a love that passes all our understanding
Watching closely over the journey
– Indigo Girls – The Wood Song
Older today – and a little wiser,
© Ed Hague. All rights reserved.