Picking up broken pieces

Daily Reading for July 1

I can illustrate an important part of what I have learned from Simon Peter in a story about something that happened to a friend of mine. His young son had eagerly begun kindergarten and, in October of his first year of school, the teacher said to his class, “Would you like to make something with your own hands to give to your folks for Christmas? They will get lots of store-bought gifts, but might prefer something you made yourselves. What do you think of that idea?” My friend’s son held up his hand, and said, “My father smokes a pipe, and I’d like to make him an ash tray.” So the teacher said that she would help him do that. She gave him some clay, and they shaped it in the form of an ashtray. She asked him his father’s favorite color, and he said, “blue,” so they colored it blue. . . . At every stage of this process, the five-year-old boy’s hopes and expectations for Christmas Day increased. He could just imagine his father unwrapping a tie, or some socks, and then opening his present, made by his son’s own hands, and being overwhelmed with pride and joy.

The traditional Christmas pageant was performed on the last day before school was dismissed. . . . The little boy went to his classroom to get the carefully wrapped package for his father. He headed back to his parents but in his haste . . . he suddenly tripped. His precious package flew up in the air and came crashing down on the floor, with the terrible sound of breaking. . . . He began to cry as if his heart had broken.

My friend . . . walked over to his child and said in a brusque manner, “Don’t worry, son, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make any difference at all.” However, his wife brushed him aside, and said, “Yes, it does make a difference that something this precious has gotten broken,” and he watched as she did two wonderful things. She swept the child up in her arms, and wept with him the tears that are always appropriate when we break the things that are precious. Then, she reached into her purse, took out a handkerchief, and gently wiped the tears from their little boy’s eyes, and then from her own eyes. Her husband listened with wonder as he heard her say, “Come on, son, come on. Let’s pick up the pieces, take them home, and see what we can make of what is left.”

In that touching story you have an image of the alternatives we have in response to those times when the things that are most precious to us have been broken. You can cry as the little boy did, as if one mistake is irreparable and leaves nothing but loss and despair; or you can deny the significance of what has happened, as my friend did, and drain any meaning out of the experience. However, I think that God would want us to respond like that wise mother, descend into the crucible of pain, and weep the tears that are always appropriate when we have broken the blessed things of God. To do less would minimize the impact of any occasion of loss or sin, but then, you can pick up the pieces, take them home, and see what can be made of what is left. Jesus helped Simon Peter pick up the broken pieces of his life and create something worthwhile out of what was left. Therein lies the basis for hope for the future, in spite of the past.

From “Simon Peter: A Man of Extremes” in The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus by John R. Claypool, edited by Ann Wilkinson Claypool. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

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