From Brokenness to Beauty

The Parable of the Clay Pots
Members of Brookside Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently experienced a parable presented over several months as they journeyed from brokenness to wholeness. The congregation witnessed how jagged shards that normally would be discarded could become something beautiful and full of meaning. This is their story.

It began one Sunday morning when Pastor Paul asked us to think about our struggles—the things that hold us back, get us down, or oppress us. We were encouraged to come forward and write one word to describe these struggles on an ordinary clay pot. Throughout his sermon, he reminded us of God’s ability to help us with the struggles we face daily. Then, declaring God “shatters the oppressor” so that we can be delivered, he picked up each pot and threw it into an old metal ash bucket with a loud crash. As a cloud of dust rose from the shattered pieces, we definitely heard, felt, and saw God’s message to us that Sunday.

A few days later, Pastor Paul walked into my church office and plopped a garbage bag down on my floor. Inside the bag were all those pieces of broken clay pots. Since I am the resident “creative spirit” on staff, he wondered if I could make something out of all those broken pieces.

I began fitting pieces together on the floor of my office. There were all different sizes and shapes of broken terracotta in that bag. But as I pulled pieces out of the pile, I began to notice the words, or—on some pieces, parts of words—that had been written down. I remember one piece with the word “sad” printed on it. It made me stop for a second. A few others held words like “autism,” “cancer,” “divorce,” and “death.” One piece simply said “you know.”

As I worked to fit pieces together, I began to think about and even pray for the people who had written those words. I also prayed that God would work through me in this task. Sometimes I struggled to get just the right shape for a certain spot, but eventually the pieces found their own place.

When I was finished, the broken pieces were assembled into a mosaic cross. On the following Sunday, Pastor Paul began by reminding us of those broken clay pots and explained that the previous sermon was really only half of the story. He shared how God works in our lives to create something more out of our broken, messy imperfectness. He then invited people to come forward again to sign their names on and around the cross as a testimony to the beauty God was creating out of their struggles.

The form of the mosaic was inspired by our church logo, which contains the image of a cross with a sweeping pathway leading up to it. I see that pathway as two-directional: it leads us to the cross, but it also brings God closer to us. Our path to the cross is not easy; it is broken, jagged, and not at all smooth. But God provides the pathway, nonetheless. God comes to us when we struggle, breaking down the things that block our way. God loves us. What God is making might just turn into something more beautiful than we expected.

Brenda Holtrop serves as communication and design specialist for Brookside Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Reformed Worship 120 © June 2016, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.