by Autumn Lubin
Dan's Note: I've mentioned brokenness as a theme in a couple of my written essays before, but never as powerfully as Autumn has done here. Her words inspire me to think beyond the "cracks" of brokenness in my own life. I hope you'll see the gift your brokenness can be for you too.
I knew I was broken at an early age. I didn’t have words for it when I was ten and lost my dad to a heart attack and my two younger sisters in a house fire eight months later. I knew I was different. So did everybody else in my small town.
My brokenness was further compounded by a mom who in her own devastating grief, retreated into depression and alcoholism. She forbade any mention of my dad or sisters. My younger brother and I breathed in grief every day and breathed out the lie of a smile.
I spent everyday with my broken pieces but never where anyone could see it. I was splintered inside but outside I was whole. Humpty Dumpty in a bodysuit.
Late the night of my 11th birthday, I sat alone in our apartment at a kitchen table that some kind soul had donated to us after the fire, wearing clothes that another generous person had provided. I considered the last few months.
It was one of those moments where you can remember how the shadows looked on the wall, the sound of the kitchen clock, the sticky spot on the table top. I was confident that I could spend my life in a place of sadness and most people would support my swirling in my grief without any expectation of mending.
Yet, something nudged me beyond that thought. I saw my brokenness glued back together. Not the same as before, but reconstructed. It made me know that I could also choose to be hopeful and forward focused, to be a bright spot in the world, to let the spirits of those I’d lost live through me. No one had spoken to me about this and I have since concluded that it was a God moment. In that moment, in the shadows of my 11th birthday, in an apartment that held nothing but donated items that were foreign to me, even the clothes hangers, I chose to use joy as my crazy glue.
That shout of a whisper from God was my light through the cracks.
As life has moved me through the next forty-five years, it was the transformation in my heart at that little table for two in a family of three, that guided me and kept me out of the corner of decrepit sorrow.
I moved from the small town. The brokenness moved with me. In new situations, my story was hard for others. Their reactions were hard for me, a loud reminder that I was still broken behind my veil of fixed. It was easier for all if I focused on the person I was trying to be at the time, a woman who lived in the moment and was forward focused. While I had chosen to live outside the pity pit, I still lived in hiding, afraid of my brokenness. Fearful it would be discovered by others or worse, myself.
My discordant lifestyle was always brought to the fore when people asked me how many siblings I had. Did I tell the truth and then have to explain? Or was my response the one brother everyone had heard stories about? One answer seemed to betray my sisters and the other displayed my brokenness. I would leave the question unanswered and move to another topic.
A dislocated shoulder, a physical brokenness, finally brought the dissonance of my life to a cacophonic stop. It halted all my busyness and the brokenness in me couldn’t be contained. I could no longer keep the pieces in place and soon they scattered all around me in a splatter of depression. I began the difficult task of putting myself back together with no help from the king’s horses or the king’s men.
During this time, I learned about the Japanese tradition of repairing pots with gold, called kintsugi. Kintsugi means “golden joinery” in Japanese. The Japanese potters don’t throw away broken works. They collect the pieces and put them back together with a resin of gold powder. Instead of trying to hide the cracks, they celebrate them. Often a piece that is fixed by kintsugi is considered more valuable than an unbroken piece. Something that has been fractured has a history that makes it more precious than an intact piece.
I felt a kinship with that moved me to a new understanding, a different level of transformation. If shattered pottery can be made more precious when it is put back together with its cracks highlighted in gold, what about me?
It gave me the courage slowly bring my brokenness from my darkness and instead, celebrate my cracks.
It was a stuttered hesitancy of acceptance. It scared me to show what I had always kept away to myself. It was all I had, all I was. What if my brokenness was found to just be an ugly mess and all who accepted my shell of fixedness found my cracks repugnant? I did what I always did in the face of the unknown. I leaned back in faith. So much had let me down in life, but never God.
“For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4: 6-7
I have found the light in the cracks—in my own cracks and brokenness—and they are filled with self-truths, overflowing with richness and a story that allows others to know we are all broken in some way.
Broken and still beautiful. Broken and still functional. Broken and still whole.
It's a transformation shines from darkness. My friendships have deepened; my relationship with God has intensified; my encounters with others are no longer superficial. People respond to my broken wholeness with their own stories and together we build hope in each other.
I tell my stories to my children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the world, leaving nothing unturned, no question unanswered. My hope is to pass along a legacy that urges them to embrace their brokenness. That within the embrace there is wholeness. I want them to look for the light in their cracks, fill the cracks with the gold of healing and revel in the beauty of their story, never doubting that the truth and our faith will always be our safest haven.
I am all that I am, without apology. My cracks are filled with the gold of genuine acceptance and the light that streams through fills me with the strength of wholeness.
I hope we all may be blessed with the light that shines, seeping through the cracks and the golden joinery of our own brokenness.
About the Author
Autumn is the President of YellowWood Pathways, a consulting firm she started to inspire people to find what matters most in their lives and businesses.
Autumn and her husband, Chris, have six kids and twelve grandchildren. They are owned by two cats and a dog. She is currently writing three books: a novel, a memoir and a Christmas story inspired by her parents. Her teenage granddaughter will be contributing illustrations.
You can read more from Autumn on her blog, You're Not A Tree.