When I was around two or three, I received my very first, very OWN Christmas ornament: a porcelain cat. I don’t remember the story behind it, including who gave it to me, but as a young child, that cat ornament quickly became my most prized Christmas decoration. For some reason, each year I was so excited to unwrap this ornament and hang it on the tree.
When I was about five or six, tragedy hit. I hung my little porcelain cat up on its branch, and apparently, I didn't hang it just right. It came tumbling down in slow motion, and before I could do anything to save it, the porcelain cat hit the hardwood floor and broke to pieces. As did my heart. I have vivid memories of this, probably because I felt it so hard. I screamed and cried and was super dramatic, because my most treasured ornament had smashed to smithereens.
Four smithereens, to be exact - the tail, the body, the face, and the left ear. My dad picked up the tiny pieces and glued them all back together. My tears subsided and my breathing steadied. My porcelain cat survived. To this day, you can see proof of its breaking points, but it’s held together and still hangs on our tree each year. There are additional scratches and cracks here and there. The paint has faded and isn’t quite the brilliant white it used to be. But believe it or not, I appreciate the wear and tear. For me, that makes it one of a kind. For me, there is value in the brokenness.
I’ll never forget a lyric I heard when I was dealing with my own deep brokenness years ago - the kind of brokenness where you can barely get out of bed, when your soul becomes so numb that you run out of tears, when you look at yourself in the mirror and see absolutely no value because you are convinced you ruined everything. I was in counseling for all of this, and my counselor suggested that I start going to a church where nobody knew me, where I was anonymous to everyone but God, so that God could simply minister to my heart. My soul. My spirit. So that’s what I did. I went to a local mega-church and just got to be for several Sundays. And during my time there, the worship team sang a song by Sarah Groves with this lyric:
“In Your hands, the pain and the hurt look less like scars and more like character.”
Hearing those words was a turning point for me. I felt scarred and worn and worthless. But there was suddenly this hope that maybe, just maybe, God would see my scars and turn them into character. That maybe God could use the mess. That maybe I still had purpose after all. And God slowly began to pick up the pieces and heal what had fallen apart.
I don’t know your story or where you have experienced brokenness. But I do know that even when you’ve started to heal, the temptation to believe you are ruined can still creep in. It can be difficult to find value in something that’s broken. But I think the Christmas story we read in Luke shows us that God thinks differently. That God sees something messy and worn and less-than-ideal, and chooses to use it to do something worthwhile. There’s a reason Jesus was born in the middle of the darkness.
There’s a reason he was born in a messy stable, into an unconventional family.
There’s a reason that the first people to hear about it were the lowest of the low.
In the Christmas story, we see God use what seems dark, messy, and worn.
God is able to find worth in what may seem worthless. And that includes our brokenness.
Paul puts it best in Romans 8:28.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God works in all things. In the easy, and in the difficult. In the good, and in the bad. In the whole, and in the broken.
I don’t know if you’ve felt this, but Christmas can often be a season full of joy, hope, and peace, while simultaneously being one in which I’m more aware of my scars. Whatever brokenness we have experienced or are experiencing, whatever scars we may be more aware of this time of year, my prayer this Christmas is that we would see our imperfection the way that God does – as character. That we would trust God to use it somehow. That the value in broken pieces would far outweigh the pain. And that in the middle of it all, we would remember
Emmanuel, God with us.