Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Cathedral (An Image of Brokenness and What it is For)

An Introductory Thought (Statement of the Thesis): 

This world is broken. 
And so is everyone in it. 

The proof? Look around. Just open your browser, or if you’d like, find a newspaper, or a magazine. And there’s no need to go searching. Just glance at the news; skim headlines and flip through the pictures. Look at people; at their faces, at the stories in their eyes and the scars on their bodies. Look at the darkness that follows them like a cloud, the shudder in their bones because something won’t let them sleep. The proof, if you need it at all, is everywhere.

If you still can’t see it, then there’s another strategy. Don’t look around; look back. Look at history. A history of maniacs and genocides, poverty, desolation in every shape. Some from nature. Earthquakes, swallowing cities. Volcanoes burying them. And others, from us. A history of war after war, death after death after ruined life, a legacy of destruction that traces itself back to one moment. From those radical enough to blow up buildings in the name of religion to those radical enough to massacre jews in the name of eradicating it, there is no aspect of us untouched by this great curse. 

And if you still, somehow, need proof, then there is a final strategy: Look inside yourself. I guarantee there is brokenness there. Look hard, and not at that facade that you call a soul. Not at that bulwark of strength you imagine yourself to be. Look at yourself honestly. At a heart that is marred. 

If any of these apply, then that is proof enough, and we’ll go on. 

The world (the universe) is sick. It fell. And it fell a long way. 
And when it landed (as things that fall tend to do) it fell too far, and it broke when it hit. We contracted a disease called death and sin, and it has plagued us ever since. It has set our world spinning into darkness, a rotting, festering orb, tied with fraying yarn to a sun that could sputter out, a sun that will eat itself cold one day. 

The world is broken. 
It makes sense, then, that it’s citizens would be broken too. And we are. Everyone and everything in this world. We are all dying. From the moment we enter it (to a chorus of pained screams), and suck in its air, we are already dying. Sometimes it just takes us a long time to realize it. 
But we enter this world broken. We were broken even before we entered it. We’ve always been broken, and so long as we are members of this world, we are still. 
(So far so bad, right?)

The good news: But we won’t always be.

The Image: 
Souls are like broken glass. Shards and splinters, broken and crushed and filthy. Our Eden-spewed legacy is one of brokenness. One of glass souls, once perfect, now cracked; shattered. 
Life breaks us. It beats us down, stomps us into the ground, scatters our pieces. We are buried, spit on, battered, stained, and dirtied beyond repair. 

But there is a tinker. A Divine Tinker (if you will permit me). The same one who strung solar-systems like beads and carved mountains with his fingertips. He breathed the world into one, he forged it with his sweat and in his love, and he set it spinning like a great inventor at work. He made us perfect. Yet, we broke. 
Sometimes, we are broken by something outside us. Other times, we break ourselves. We have been caught in a system of pain, of darkness, ever since that first moment, when we thought that stepping off our shelf would make us more like him, and we tumbled onto the floor. We have been rotting there, ever since. 

But (more good news) his great delight is in repairing the broken. 

Because it is all broken. Everything snapped, the whole world went mad, turned itself onto its head, in one instant. And soon, he will come back to fix it all. But first, he is collecting glass. 
He is rummaging through the dirt for every piece of brokenness that is you, and he is storing them up. And he is casting them. He is binding and smoothing, chipping away the imperfections and melting off the impurities until each broken piece shines like a gem, and each one is twisted into place into an image of stained glass too glorious to look away from.

And here, in the midst of those blinding colors, the Tinker has painted a portrait. A portrait of Himself. An image of Star-Breather. Soul-Snatcher. Your broken heart bears his face, now, and a fraction of that immeasurable glory. 

Because when the light comes, and when the glory of God himself pours through your glass, the chips and breaks and shattered parts do not seem so accidental. They seem perfect. Because every break and scratch makes that image clearer. 

God is an artist. He did not give up on that piece of pure glass when it shattered. He doesn’t scribble it out, wrinkle it up, and toss it into the trash can in the corner. (He didn’t with me. And he won’t with you.) 

(He who has begun a good work in you will see it through.) 

The brokenness that we have become, that mangled mess of busted bits and garbage, that which you were certain was too hideous for anyone to love, is loved beyond imagining. Is loved beyond all reckoning. 

And I can prove that, too. The God who made you, who cast you and watched your perfection break (as he has watched every perfection break), went looking. Where we tumbled from the shelf, where we rolled into darkness and dust, he dug. He crawled into the pit of hell itself to find us, to dig up our pieces from where we’d thrown ourself, and it was his own tears, his own sorrow and blood, that washed the stains from our edges and our scrapes. 

He made you. And when you were stolen, he paid the ransom price. And when our captors still refused to release us, he came to rescue us. He came with open arms to take us in, with nails in his hands, that new and perfect Sampson pulled down those great pillars and drops the roof of hell. He died, just to find your broken soul. And he lives again so that he can carry you back to the home you were made for. 

This is, I believe, how we will see God. Like a window sees light. Like we see it pouring through us, and see it in different colors peering in through others. We see him and feel him, not all of him, but part of him. Enough of him. Like all glass, perhaps, grapples to understand light more. His light comes through us, and mingles with that great light that falls from those all around. We are the walls, the windows, in that great Hall of Heaven. 

For through our brokenness restored, the radiance of God shines even brighter, and the image of his power, mercy and love all the clearer. (Remember that, when you wonder why the world is so broken, why there is so much ruin. God is coming. He will put it all back together again. And it will shine that much brighter.) And remember that no matter how broken you are, or how broken you have been, there is a Tinker who loves you more than he loves stars and supernovas. (Proof: He fixed you first.) 

And no matter how you have been stepped on or how close we have been to the dirt, His hands have dug for your broken bits, and his tears have washed them. And now, his light comes. His light pours through you, and it is that light, as it falls in blazing colors on all that you see, that I see you for what you really are. You are (becoming) the most beautiful in all of creation.

The proof? You are the universe made right. The prelude to the perfect healing that is coming. A perfection of patchwork. And though it takes time (as healing must), restoration comes. And you are being made more like him, every day, as your broken pieces are found and polished, and put back in the place where they belong. 

As windows in that Cathedral. 

A revised thesis; a closing statement: 
This world is broken (but won’t always be). 
And everyone who has ever been in it has been broken (except One).
Healing comes. And so comes beauty.