The other day, our little nightlight in the bathroom broke. I was searching for something in close quarters and my elbow hit it and then sent it ricocheting off the wall and crashing into our bathroom floor. It was the second thing broken in a week; the first being one of my front teeth as I hung a furry spider for Halloween as an iron holder ricocheted off the roof under-hang and landed in my open mouth.
Of course, those of you know that life is unpredictable and that getting one’s proverbial teeth knocked out or having one’s whole world shattered by circumstance can suddenly change one’s priorities.
Loss and death are both like that… In the same way, the pandemic has caused people to ricochet off of walls that had been invisible before to much of society.
Back to the nightlight—it was a beautiful slice of pink geode before my elbow made unfortunate contact, and my boys and I made use of it every night, in our bathroom, on nightly visits. It’s rosy and white glow shined even during the day—a reminder that it would keep the light coming for us, even when the natural light shifted, as it does on rainy, downcast days. It had been repaired before– gorilla glue– the strongest stuff keeping it affixed to the plastic plug-in part.
When the geode night-light hit the floor, it broke into tens of shards—some which were easy to see and some that were not. The ones that were easy to see were sucked up into our resident dustbuster, but the smaller ones are still showing up, some days later. I will walk into the bathroom in bare feet and some tiny piece of glass gets caught in the piggy that went to market, or the little toe that cried “wee, wee, wee, all the way home.” The smaller the shard, the deeper and sharper the edge, or so it seems. I’ve taken to shoes recently to protect my feet.
I share this on this 2nd observation of All Saints during a pandemic that hasn’t yet ended or receded. Sometimes the numbers are up and sometimes down. I have loss track of the sheer amount of death this pandemic has wrought, revising at least 3 times my numbers alone for this service. I can’t fathom the amount of names, human beings, and families shattered not just here, but around the world.
Loss is like a broken nightlight with shards that poke one’s soul out of the blue, even when one has seemingly picked up all the pieces. The truth is, we are all still picking up the pieces, many of us stumbling around in various stages of undress as our vulnerabilities show, our anger, and our grief.
Yet, those same shards of pain and difficulty and compounded hurt and grief can reflect our tears and our humanity in ways that smooth, solid rock cannot, like the ones that lay buried in our memorial garden. A broken piece of glass is no less beautiful and still captures glimmers of hope, sun, and Son.
Terry Tempest Williams has said that “shards of glass can cut and wound or magnify a vision.”
So—our question tonight is—Are our shards of glass, our pain and grief simply cutting us more these days, or are they magnifying our shared vision of what humanity looks like post-Covid? Can we see that God can transform those wounds into a special kind of vision, a special kind of seeing, in the night and during the day? And perhaps in ways that we might have not realized prior to Covid’s tremendous losses and the everyday shattering that we endure?
Friends, I learned that in 1915 Coca-Cola designed a bottle for its product that was so very unique that, if it were smashed into thousands of pieces, you would still be able to recognize the brand from a single shard of glass.
When you are broken or grieving multiple losses, whether that is someone you love, or your church, or some loss of security or some loss of something on which you counted…when you are reduced to a shard by life and by confusion…Can you see God imprinted on your soul, nonetheless? Can we recognize who we are together, when we are shattered and scattered apart?
I won’t pretend that the broken places are easily mended. That is not what this message is about. Sometimes it is all you can do just to pick up the broom or the vacuum and clean up the mess in your mind, in your spirit, and in your life. Sometimes it is enough to pick up the tiniest of pieces and examine it to see why it hurts so much and to pull it out carefully and tend to the cut.
Sometimes it is enough to appreciate how full we once were and how empty we now feel.
Sometimes it is enough to sit down on your floor with the broken pieces and cry our eyes out…together, if you can, with someone who cares.
At least we cease from pretending that it is somehow all okay, that we are “just fine,” and that we really don’t need anyone’s help with sweeping or tweezing out the sharpest of the sharps.
Tonight, let yourself miss that part of you that was once whole, full, and gathered.
Tonight, let yourself feel what you have lost so that, when the shard has been taken from your soul, you can hold it to the light and see what light it casts, what rainbows come through the breakage.
My friends, someone once showed me that glass broken and then recast is some of the strongest stuff.
The breakage becomes part of the new glass.
The fissures can be seen, but my, oh my Holy God, are they beautifully transparent.
 Martin Lindstrom