In Trotter family lore, the years of 2010-2012 will go down as the time of the great breaking. Because everything we owned broke. In a relatively short period of time we had a TV, a VCR, three DVD players, two cars, 4 kitchen chairs, our refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer, washing machine, nearly all of our plates and glasses, a kindle, two laptops, a business and what little was left of our financial stability break. (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.) It got so bad that one day I went to take a drink of my coffee and the handle of the coffee mug I was using broke off in my hand. Seriously. We just started laughing about it after a while.
It was also the period when my marriage broke and my husband and I separated for about 7 months. So, lots of breaking.
When events pile up like that, it’s often not a coincidence. There’s a reason for it. (For the record, our house was only 7 years old and one of the laptops was just over a year old. This wasn’t simply a matter of things just getting worn out and breaking.) While we were separated my husband actually prayed about why everything we owned was breaking. He came back to me with what he believed he had been told. The reason things were breaking, he said, was because he had been the glue holding our material world together. When he left (or at least checked out), there was no glue left to keep everything from breaking.
When he told me that, almost without thinking, I blurted out, “but I don’t want broken shit that needs glue to keep it from falling apart!”
Now, glue has its uses. If nothing else, it can be a stop-gap to hold broken things together for a while longer. But it’s not a permanent solution. Things are always weaker at the spot where the glue is holding it together. And it can’t do anything to keep the next break in a different spot from happening. Duct tape may hold the world together, but eventually, broken things need replacing.
It seems to me that humanity has been depending on glue to hold everything together for a long time. We’re broken and our world is broken, so we just keep gobbing on the glue. We want money so it can hold everything together for us. We fight wars and each other, thinking that will preserve us. We lie and cut corners to cover the gaps between what is and what we need it to be. We lose our tempers, use intimidation and control others to keep them from tearing our world apart. We seek pleasure and comfort to fill in the breaks in our souls. We hold grudges and see others as enemies to shore up the weak spots where previous breaks have occurred. And we pass on the glue from generation to generation.
When God tells us to do something – not worry about money, not judge, love freely, give up our lives – we say “that’s nice” and go right on playing with our paste. It’s not just that we’re evil and rebellious (although we can be that too). It’s that we think we need that glue. If we stop gluing everything together, it will all fall apart. When the bible says, “there is a way that seems right to a man”, it’s talking about that glue. We do the things we do rather than the things God tells us to do because the things we do work for us. They help hold everything together in their own way. But eventually, broken things need replacing.
Back when I did prison ministry, we used to do this skit for the kids on retreat with us. One of us would sit in a chair with a big paper heart hanging from a string around the neck. Then someone would walk up and say something mean, judgmental, harsh or cutting to the person on the chair. Then they’d rip a piece of the paper heart off and throw it on the ground. This would be repeated several times. Soon the person in the chair was surrounded by scraps of paper and had nothing more than a string with a couple of scraps hanging around their neck. The person would forlornly gather up the scraps of paper and begin trying to piece the heart back together. Just as they were getting really frustrated, someone playing Jesus would come in with some tape and offer to help. Together, they’d piece the paper bits back into a heart and tape them together. At the end, just as the person was getting ready to put his taped up heart back on, Jesus would stop them. He’d take the piecemeal heart from their hand. Then he’d remove the big, unbroken paper heart he wore and put it around their neck.
The message was that Jesus helps us put the pieces of our heart back together, yes. But it’s not so we can walk around with our glued together hearts. He helps us put our heart back together so we can hand our whole heart over to him. And when we do, he will give us his own heart to replace our broken ones.
God promised us a new heaven and a new earth. One where we humans and our world won’t be held together with glue anymore. Instead, we’ll put down our glue and start working with God’s tools. We’ll love and forgive freely. We won’t worry about tomorrow. We won’t feel driven to judge or store up more than we need for ourselves. We will value people over security. Righteousness over being right. We’ll learn from creation rather than wrestling what we want from it. We’ll let others have their way without feeling threatened.
And we won’t live in fear of the next break – God’s heart has been broken before, after all. But he makes all things new. When loss comes, we’ll let things and people go as part of the natural order of things. When we suffer we’ll walk through it as a woman in labor rather than a person experiencing destruction. When we have want, we will move out to find what we need without worry or fear as God always makes provisions for our needs. When we meet people who have not yet found their way into the golden city who are still using human glue to hold things together, we won’t feel the need to to judge, take offense, fight or fear them. We’ll know that loving them is enough.
I wrote last week asking if we’d be ready for Jesus to return. That is if we have developed the capacity to love well enough to actually live in a world where God’s Kingdom reigns. Part of being ready means we have to put down our glue. Even though it seems so necessary to use power, greed, worry, self-interest and fear to hold everything together. Before we can live in the golden city of the new heaven and new earth, we need to stop gluing and let God make all things new. Because God has better things for us than shit that needs glue to keep from falling apart.