Cracked Open For Grace

People in a hurry don’t make good decisions, at least people like me.

I had spent the morning rushing and driving and hurrying from one place to the other, making sure I had everything I needed. A little bit tired but with time to spare, there was only one more task to check off the list.

The last detail was the most important – setting the table, bringing the bread and cup, making sure there was a place for grace.

I had plenty of time, but again, hurried people don’t make good decisions. So, I piled two chalices and a pitcher on the plate, and slowly began the walk from my office to the sanctuary.

Pro tip: one way to know you aren’t making a good decision is when you actually take the time to think and then say out loud – this might actually work.

It was actually working, right until the time I walked up the steps to the edge of the table – and I felt the wobble.  The chalice veered to the edge of the plate, I intervened to stop it from falling, but the damage had already been done.  A chain reaction sent chalices careening into the pitcher. The only thing to escape damage was the plate.

That plate sat there on the table, holding chalices and a pitcher, vessels of grace, cracked and broken. 

The Cracks We Know

It doesn’t take a shattered communion set to know about cracks and broken things. 

We all know what its like to be cracked.  We suffer through the cracks mostly in secret, angry and ashamed at the way they have a hold on us, longing for some way to fill them up so that one day we might get to struggle with something that can’t inflict so much damage. 

They’ve formed so deep, worming their way into our hearts and souls. They know the tender spots to settle and the fragile buttons to push. We’re held hostage because they know the traps to set and the secret to keeping us locked up in the prison cells that keep closing in, only increasing the pressure.

We know, really we do, that we’ll never be perfect. It is true that we’ve never known anyone who is as smart or pretty or confident as they would like to be.  But that’s doesn’t stop us from needing to be or pretending to be. 

The thing about cracks and brokenness, though, is that like the one that begins small in your windshield, it usually doesn’t take long for the pressure to turn them into huge fissures that radiate out so far that everyone can see them.

That’s why you snap at the people closest to you, or why we’re so committed to being right no matter the cost. That’s what tempts you to make so many panic-driven decisions that create spirals of pain for you, your family and the people close to you.

It might start small and private, but it never seems to end that way. 

The Way In

We spend most of our lives doing everything we can to keep the cracks hidden, to live without them and to show the people we really care about that we have conquered them. What we have to show for all that effort is a lot of shame, a lot of anger and a lot of inadequacy.  

That’s because the healing we long for can only come when we open ourselves to grace. Healing isn’t found in hiding, but in naming the pain so we can make room for grace.  Isn’t that what Jesus taught us on the Cross – with his arms not closed off in anger or defiance but extended, open to God and vulnerable to the world?

And so, what if instead of seeing our imperfections as things to be conquered, we realize that they were gifts that facilitated connection with God? Our hope comes from the truth that cracks in our lives actually aren’t obstacles to grace that keep us away from God. No, they are the way that grace gets in.

So yeah, I cracked that pitcher pretty good, but that didn’t stop us from using it.  We still gathered, and when we did, we told stories of faith, we prayed and we invited God to be among us.  We lifted that pitcher, broken but not finished, and we gave thanks to God and poured, receiving what we needed from a vessel of grace, that like you and me, might be full of cracks but in the end is just fine.

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