I saw a picture the other day of a vacuum cleaner that was still going strong after 40 years. Hundreds of comments were posted, admiring the beauty of this old machine that with general maintenance and some loving acceptance of the noise it generates has lasted even with daily use. Many comments noted that memories of visits to grandma’s house include that equipment, nostalgia trips that felt cozy and stable during current unsure times. I was left wondering what future generations will recall of visits to grandma, what will be the lasting impression when our society has accepted the concept of disposability. Our mantra: broken? buy a new one. New model has arrived? Get in line for the first release. I can see that this is where we lost the ability to offer grace, to be humble people, to seek forgiveness. We have internalized the disposable ideology to include relationships with spouses, children, employers, most importantly with our Creator.
Babies learn object permanence between 4-7 months old. We are designed to spend, shy of a few months, the entirety of our lives understanding that just because we cannot see something, it still exists. We are created to look for what we know is missing, to seek out what was just in front of us, to search for what we know to be true. To learn object permanence, stability must exist, same items around the house, the table in the same room every day, constancy of environment. When something breaks and we change up, we are teaching our children that broken means bad and new is better and then wonder why they whine at the store for a toy every time. No we did that, with our new phones and better watches and nicer shoes and fancier cars, with a new toaster and blender and vacuum. What could we teach them and remind ourselves if we leaned into the space of brokenness, if we struggled to fix what has stopped working?
I see broken people all around these days, marchers who are filled with hate and friends who post about hurting with depression, parents who are struggling to pay for school supplies and marriages that are on their last breathes. What if we stuck with each other in that broken place, what would that look like? I know I have worked hard to teach Plum personal responsibility, the old “you break it, you buy it” mentality. Just yesterday he went outside with me in the early morning, straight out of bed, no stopping for a potty break. He loves to pee outside among the bushes. I know, another post, different responsibility. Still, he got some wild idea to pretend he was one of the dogs and go about the yard marking his territory, leaving his scent. Early morning, secluded yard, cover of darkness, all good until he chose to pee in the dog pool. Yes, that is where I drew the line. The dog wading pool where our beasts go to cool off after many romps across the grass catching the ball, chasing each other or just relax during the heat of the day. HE peed in their pool. When I told him he had to empty and refill the pool, he claimed it was an accident, he said it would be too hard to empty it, he looked for any way to slip out of his responsibility for the wrong doing. No matter, even if it had been unintentional which being half an acre away from the indoor plumbing we have graciously supplied for his bodily needs, several feet away from his normal hiding places in the bushes, the guilt was his. He aimed, he peed, he must fix. “But gran, it is too hard!” Indeed.
As I watched him pull bucket after bucket from the urine infused water, I knew he wouldn’t do that again. He would not only chose more carefully what to destroy but also appreciate that we show respect for the belongings of others, that we fix what we destroy. Much like when he was attempting to throw tantrums early on, I allowed him to do so in his own room with his toys, encouraging him to break his things which would not be replaced but setting the boundary that tantrums and destruction would not be allowed in common areas. Incredulously, he told me he didn’t want to break HIS things! Of course not, and neither did I want to sacrifice mine. Thus, no tantrums. Patience, persistence comes in that very fixing, the moments or hours devoted to nothing else but concentrating on righting a wrong. Grace meets us in those places, when we are repentant, straining muscles of our own ego, dedicating ourselves to the task of restoration of another, to the parts we broke. Rushing the task like buying a new pool or for me to clean it out for him, speeds us on through our encounter with the Holy Spirit, our opportunity to ask for forgiveness and receive it.
We have broken the backs of our brothers and sisters of color, we have broken boundaries within our marriages, we have allowed children to be hungry and parents to struggle to provide even as they work 40 hours, we have hurt each other. Until we accept responsible and stop shifting blame, looking for wiggle room that eases our conscience and lets us zoom into new relationships without fixing what has been broken within the old ones, we are continuing to miss our own encounters with God. We cannot fast forward to the good parts, we cannot have memories of grandma’s long lasting sweeper if we don’t repair the hose along the way. Those encounters with grace, those times we have restored what is broken, when we have admitted our own broken selves to another, fessed up to our sins, well, just like anything it gets easier the more you do it. A skill practiced, a habit built. Given my own history, I cannot hide behind false pretenses, say I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. My sin is out there, yet it makes it even easier to confess more and more when I am wrong, to admit when my own impulses led me to pee in the pool. Further, the gift of grace that I receive so lovingly pushes me to share, I want everyone to feel those sweet moments that come from a cleansed soul, the relief of restoration, coming closer again to God rather than hiding in darkness and shame. Grace is an investment God has made in me, one He urges me to make in others. But first must come confession.
Friends, have you hurt someone? Like a crystal heirloom vase you knocked over as you raced through the day, it cannot be swept under the rug and ignored without cutting someone’s feet. Go get that sweeper, fix the mess, own up to what you have done, make restitution. It won’t be easy, it may take time away from other fun exciting events, you may have to listen to the vase owner’s hurt and disappointment for longer than you wish. Still, stick with it. Grace will find you right there. The alternative is just more brokenness, more pools filled with pee, more cut feet, more hurting people. Shall we work on restoring, shall we remember to value what we have, can we commit to just a bit less disposing of what really matters? Lets take some tender time with each other and listen as the Holy Spirit guides toward grace. All the best memories reside right in that place.