When I was fifteen years old I was in the passenger seat during a terrible car accident. I don’t remember much from that day or the days that followed. I sustained the most injury out of the 4 teens in that Oldsmobile on that Friday night of my sophomore year of high school. Firefighters with jaws of life removed the crumpled metal and freed my leg. All the toes in my right foot were crushed, and my face hit the dashboard with great force. Scars from the stitches surrounding my mouth are still visible these 30 years later.
My right leg was broken.
I hobbled on crutches for several months after ER surgeons repaired my toes. My face was a mess but I was young and resilient. I eventually healed, with a few scars to show for the ordeal.
I remember feeling beaten up and pretty un-beautiful during a time in high school that looks and fashion were important.
My friends had new clothes and a few had new cars the January when I hobbled in after the school doors reopened. All I had were some new scars and a new pair of crutches.
I felt cheated that new year. Broken and bruised during a time that everyone appeared rested and put-together.
But something that I didn’t expect and that I didn’t understand at the time happened a few months later, close to my 16th birthday.
After the large cast was removed I noticed that the exact place where my bone had been broken on my right leg was raised. The doctors called it a calcium deposit.
I called it ugly.
But the truth was that my body had overcompensated in trying to rebuild what had been broken. It was stronger now. This raised area on my leg never went away. It has stayed as a reminder of a hard season.
My leg aches sometimes when the weather changes, but it’s a part of me now. A tangible reminder that it’s in the broken places that have been healed that we can claim strength.
That the strong, jagged place of mine reminds me that our jagged places tell a story.
And when we are broken we have a few options for dealing with it. Most of us prefer to hide.
Especially when everyone else seems to be having beautiful beginnings. When their new year’s resolutions are shiny and fresh perspectives are plentiful. When we feel like we are the only one in a broken marriage, a broken relationship, traveling a broken road limping toward hope of healing.
Every January I’m reminded a bit of my brokenness. The tree branches are bare and the road feels kind of lonely in quiet new ways. My resolutions seem shallow.
But January also reminds me of a story I heard once about a cathedral that was built over a century ago. The architect ordered fresco paintings for the walls and several large mirrors to line the ceiling. When the mirrors were delivered and unwrapped it was discovered that they were all broken into jagged pieces. The construction team was discouraged and went about the work of carefully getting the broken mirrors into the trash. But when the architect returned and learned of their condition, he ordered the pieces retrieved from the garbage. And then he ordered them to be broken further.
The tiny mirrored pieces were painstakingly adhered to the ceiling. Each reflected at a different angle and it became a breathtaking display of light.
I believe that’s what God does with our broken hearts, our broken pasts, our broken lives. Maybe January is not a place of wholeness at all. Maybe it’s a place to fully accept our brokenness. A time to see the hurts and to believe again that God removes, orders, and lines the heavens with their beautiful reflection. Perhaps so we can see our brokenness is strong and beautiful after His repair.
I have come to understand that God is not afraid of broken places.
He can make them prisms of light reflecting grace and glory. If we surrender and we are still, He will cast his mercy and beauty, which insulates us to heal.
Sometimes in the soft and broken filtering light of a new year.