"A Broken Pot"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
Having heard that I recently broke my arm, a friend of mine sent me this very touching email message yesterday:
The ancient Greeks believed that the gods wounded us
so that they would have a way to enter our lives.
May your break be an unexpected gift that brings you peace and amazement.
I've been thinking a lot about that one little message - it brims with wisdom and insight, not just for me as I deal with the reality of living with a broken limb, but for all us, in the broken places of each of our lives as human beings.
We live in a culture of perfectionism. Many if not most people aspire to that perfect body with the perfect teeth and the perfect smile. The goal of life is to be the perfect student with the perfect parents in the perfect house with the perfect job.
For many people, their religious beliefs and spiritual path contribute to this obsession with perfection. Many think that "God" expects them to be perfect - to love perfectly, always compassionate and kind, moral upright in every way. And so anything less then perfection is unacceptable - human weakness and brokenness are often hidden from others out of shame for not having lived up to the high standards.
But I think that we get it all wrong when it comes to the way in which we so highly prize perfection.
For one thing "perfection" is an illusion when it comes to the human condition, There is no perfect parent or perfect job and no one has a perfect mind. No one is a perfect Christian, a perfect Jew, Muslim or Buddhist.
We human beings are a beautiful mix of our strengths and our weaknesses all rolled up into one another; and paradoxically, we need our shadows in order to be in the light.
Saint Paul beautifully expresses this paradox when he says:
In our weakness is our strength
Indeed when we realize our imperfections in life and face the places where we are broken and hurt, we become vulnerable, letting down the protected walls of our ego defenses, reaching out to others for healing. Oddly enough, love enters our lives most abundantly when we are broken enough to let it happen.
So I've been thinking about my "broken arm." I certainly did not want this, but it may indeed be an unexpected gift that leads to peace and amazement. I am unable to be rigidly independent during this time of my healing - I can't even drive a car on my own. I have become much more vulnerable, so grateful for my wife ever at my side to assist me in the simple tasks of routine living, thankful for so many friends and acquaintances who have extended themselves to me during this time, beholden to the medical people who have been there to assist me in these days of healing.
I don't at all believe that "God" broke my arm; but I am equally convinced that the "God," who is "Love," has seeped into my life through a crack in my bone.
It reminds me of one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.