In my office sits a broken chalice. It’s always interesting when people see it. The most frequent response is, “Oh no, what happened?!” I get to respond with a big smile on my face, “It’s a broken chalice. Isn’t it awesome?!” There is typically a pause and a confused look. I then say something like, “Can I share why?”
When I was in college one of my dear friends on chapel staff broke one of the chalices. I desperately wanted it, but alas, since she broke it, she got it. It sits in her office where she serves as campus pastor at our alma mater. I have wanted my own ever since.
In college one of my favorite musicians was Bebo Norman. His music was often the perfect soundtrack to my faith journey. One particular song, Walk Down This Mountain, was one of my favorites. You can take a listen here. Bebo’s chorus (for those who didn’t have time to listen) says:
So walk down this mountain
With your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your maker
With this love that’s gone before you
And these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life
This song is a reflection on the transfiguration story. The Transfiguration is this moment in Jesus’ ministry where he takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain and there is transfigured. Jesus becomes dazzling and bright. Then, Moses and Elijah appear and in Peter’s excitement and amazement he wants to build a shelter for each so they can stay there. They don’t, because that is not the heart of Jesus’ ministry. They go back down the mountain and immediately Jesus is approached by a man whose son is in need of healing. They go down the mountain and are immediately in the presence of God’s grace and mercy.
Often times in life we can feel like we need to always have it together and strive for perfection. We try to hide our vulnerability, questions, doubts — our brokenness. The world around us sends messages that if we aren’t a rugged individualist, we are doing it wrong. However, this broken chalice, this song, reminds me that life is fuller when I hold on to a different truth and message: that when we are honest about our brokenness, our struggles, our doubts, questions or vulnerabilities, we create space for others to be honest themselves. When we are honest about our cracks it allows us to admit that we need others, we need God, to help hold things and piece them back together. When others are honest with us, there is space for us to share our gifts, our love, and the grace we have received with them. If I think that faith is about doing it all on my own, keeping it together, and striving for perfection, I become a person that pushes away God’s love and grace (after all, I convince myself it is not for me).
We often push away others, trying to maintain perceptions and masks of perfection, strength, and “non-brokenness,” building up walls to hide behind. These walls keep me from seeing or empathizing with others’ cracks because often when we see someone else’s truth it might make us confront our own. These walls keep us from the authentic grace-filled community we were created to live in with one another. When we no longer hide those cracks in our lives, it can allow others’ love, and God’s love, to seep in. We can fully taste the gift of grace, support, compassion, and love. When I have allowed myself to remember this, to strive to be the authentic person created in the image of God, I find that the love that helps to put my pieces back together makes me stronger to support others in their beautiful broken self.
Feb. 12, 2020