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The Past and The Pitcher


In one of my books on grieving the loss of a child, the author suggests smashing a piece of pottery as a form of therapy.

I thought this was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard.
I was on my way to pick up Todd at the airport while we were at the beach, and on the way there, I was listening to my David Crowder CD and talking to God (these two always go hand in hand). I try not to dwell on the past any more than I need to, because there are hurts that aren’t totally healed.  It was a sunny day and I was alone with my music, so I guess it was as good a time as any to remember.  As it turns out, I’m glad I did.  
Before I get to all that, let me start with my first image of Jesus.  
At my grandparent’s condo, there was an image of the Lord that hung by the fold-out couch that my sister and I used to sleep on in the guest room.  It was surrounded by photographs of my dead Italian family, mostly women who a)looked like they should have slowed down on the lasagna servings and b)decided collectively that whenever a camera was around, they would pretend they were really angry and stare at the lens.  Right there, on the wall of Sicilian terror, hung the face of Christ.
It was one of those “watch you wherever you go” faces, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel like He was staring at me.  I actually devised an elaborate system that involved my sister and me taking shifts, so that neither of us would be caught unaware in the event that He or any of the dead ladies decided to make a midnight visit. 
Let’s just say it wasn’t a great first impression.
Years later, 2 events occurred that shaped my life dramatically.  The first was during graduate school.  My dad called me one day and told me that he had been diagnosed with cancer.  They were going to do further testing, but things didn’t look good.  I remember the words “3 months” being tossed around.  I am a daddy’s girl in every sense of the word.  Although I had no background with the church, or with the Lord, I decided to do something crazy.
I made a bet with God.
It went something like this.  You heal him, and I will find out about you.  
It sounds kind of crazy, but I was desperate.  The closest thing to prayer I had up to that point was asking God in the fifth grade to make my bowl haircut grow out while I slept.  He failed me.  I have pictures to prove it.
On Christmas Eve, we got a phone call from the doctor.  The tests had come back.
They couldn’t find the cancer.
When I got back to Nashville (I went to Vanderbilt for grad school), I called the local Catholic Church and asked them how to learn about God.  It turned out they had classes for this kind of thing, and they were about to start (go figure). I went to classes for a year and got to know God a little better.  I decided that I needed to get rid of my boyfriend, who I had dated for almost 6 years.  He was abusive in every sense of the word, and there are a lot of deep wounds I still carry with me from that time period.  It was completely unhealthy, and one of those times I look back on and wish I could change.  It hurts because even though I didn’t have a relationship with God at the time, I feel like I was unfaithful to Him.  
Fast-forward a few years.  I was driving home from work and talking to Audra on the phone.  A woman was not paying attention and pulled out right in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes but not fast enough to prevent my car from hitting her and rolling over.  I remember the sound of glass breaking and a scream (I guess it was mine).  I climbed through the window of my Grand Cherokee and cut my shoulder on the way out.  It was the only injury I sustained. 
I noticed that the police officers who came to the scene of the accident were taking pictures of my car, now upside-down in a pool of glass.  I asked them why, and they told me that based on the way the car had rolled, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, I should have been under the front wheel of the car.  I didn’t understand why that was interesting enough to photograph until I looked at the car.  There was only one item that had come out of the car as I flipped, and it was now pinned under the front wheel.  It was the rosary that I had been given by the Church when I finished my classes, and it was covered in my blood.  Not a single bead was broken.  I knew in that moment what many people are blessed enough to learn early in life.
He died for me.
I went to the chapel with Audra later that night (after she came flying to the hospital with wet hair because she had heard the wreck happen on the phone) and we cried together at His mercy.  The door started to open for a relationship with Christ, but I didn’t fully let Him in.  I met Todd the weekend of October 15th, 2000.  I had gone to visit the jerk the weekend before, and my new Christian friends were trying to get me to go to church.  They invited me on this retreat thing, and to be honest I thought that pulling my arm-hair out sounded like more fun, but I was desperate.
The theme of the retreat was “Grace.”  I walked by a room where Todd was rehearsing and I saw him.  He loves this story because I basically fell head-over-heels for him instantly.  I have the journal entry from that day, and this is what I wrote:
“Lord, I know I’m not good enough for him.  But could you just let me have someone like him?”
Almost 8 years and 5 kids later, I am a better person because God let me have him.
So, back to the pottery and the drive to the airport.  If you are still with me, I promise there is a point I am trying to get to…
As I was driving, God spoke to me clearly, and He asked me to do something odd.  I started thinking about this pitcher that I have in my house, and as soon as it came to mind, He told me to smash it.  I thought about the book that said to break pottery and I kind of shrugged it off, but I really felt like that’s what He wanted me to do.
Thank God my neighbors know me well enough to not call the police when I throw a perfectly good pitcher onto my front porch at ten o’clock at night.  I watched it shatter, and I must apologize to the author of that book.  It felt great.
I waited for a few moments, taking it in.  What next? I asked.
Again, He was very clear.
Put it back together again.

What I wanted to do was go to bed, but I felt like He was meaning now, so I gathered all the pieces together and brought them in the house.  I told Todd what was going on, and he took a look at the tiny shards of porcelain, knowing it was going to be a long night.  I went and got the hot glue gun and sat down in the kitchen.  It was hard to know where to start, but I found the lip and the handle relatively intact, and just kind of made it up as I went.  I talked to the Lord while my fingers worked, and He stayed near to me.  I would love to tell you that it was like a movie where it’s all sweet and perfect, but the truth is that I glued my finger to it at one point and cut myself bloody several times.  I thought about swear words that I wanted to say.  
But, still I kept at it.
And as I worked, He let me think about my past.  Mistakes that I have long regretted.  I began to realize that this pitcher was my life, and every piece was part of story that He had chosen to put together.  I started crying, and remembering things I thought I had forgotten.  It took a long time to finish, but it was time well spent.  Every nook and cranny whispered to me, until at last it stood in all its imperfection.  
Here you are, Angie.
You are mended.  You are filled with my Spirit,  and I am asking you to pour yourself out.

The image of my life as a broken pitcher was beautiful to me, but at the same time, it was hard to look at all of the cracks.
I ran my fingers along them and told Him I wish it had been different. How I wished I had always loved Him, always obeyed Him, always sought Him the way I should.  I was mad at the imperfections, years wasted, gaping holes where it should be smooth.
But God, my ever-gracious God, was gentle and yet convicting as He explained.
My dearest Angie.  How do you think the world has seen me?  If it wasn’t for the cracks, I couldn’t seep out the way I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you,  just as you are.
At the risk of sounding like a nutcase, I am going to make a suggestion.
Find a piece of pottery, and let it shatter at your feet.  
Take the time to be with the Lord as you piece it together again (but beware the wrath of the glue gun…).  Let Him tell you who you are, and let yourself be reminded of the grace that seals us all.  You may not know Him at all, or you may be a “flannel-board Jesus” kid.  It makes no difference.  I am praying as I type these words that He will come to you and remind you that He loves the gaps because there is the potential for more of Himself revealed in you.  Let him help you smash and rebuild his most coveted posession…you.

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message”  So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him…Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…Jeremiah 18:2-6

Angie
p.s. if you do this, I want you to send me pictures of your “new art!”  

p.p.s.  My pitcher now sits in the middle of my kitchen table, constantly displaying the work of God for all who come to my home:)  Thank you for the mending, Lord.  I love You.