When Plates Hit the Floor


Once, when I was a kid, I was kneeling on the counter trying to remove a stack of dinner plates from the cabinet. I had a big family, so I grabbed a tower of stoneware plates and slid the heavy load off the shelf. The weight shifted. I lost my balance. Then the moment came when it was either me or those plates.

I came out of it in one piece, but the pile of plates shattered into numerous pieces all over the kitchen floor. For several moments I just stared at all those fragments until it sank in that not even one of those dishes could be salvaged.

Ever since I read Elisa Morgan’s book, The Beauty of Broken, I’ve been thinking about broken dishes. Right on the book’s cover, Elisa wrote that this was her story–and likely mine, too. And she was right. I’ve heard the horrible sound of plates smashing on the floor. And I’ve stood there looking at all the pieces.

When things go terribly wrong, that’s when the plates hit the floor. When our hearts are broken, when our dreams are shattered, when our hopes are dashed, that’s when we hear the crash of fragile dishes breaking.

What can we do with all the pieces?

I don’t recommend reacting like I did.  I tried to repair my brokenness with my brokenness. My problem was broken pieces, but all I had in my tool kit was more broken pieces. Needless to say, my attempt to fix everything failed. And I was confronted with the question all over again.

What can I do with all these pieces?

Elisa says we can take our brokenness to God as our daily offering. We can sweep the whole pile of pieces over to Him, invite the Spirit into the shattered mess of our lives, and witness His redemptive working. Since reading her book, I often picture my daily “piece” offering in my mind. I imagine I am pushing a pile of shards and fragments toward God, saying, “This is what I have to offer.” Then I invite the Spirit to work in and through all that’s broken.

I rattle and clink when I walk. With each step I can hear the crunch of shards under my feet. Here’s the good news. The Redeemer offered the Priceless Plate of His own perfect life to be smashed into a billion pieces so that I would one day be made whole again. He’s always known what I’ve been slow to understand. From the moment when those first plates Fell with a catastrophic crash, He knew that He was the only One able put us back together again.

And here’s some more good news. The Spirit inhabits the broken—broken individuals and broken communities—so that we might participate with Him as He refashions us into something new. When we bring our “piece” offering to God and welcome His Spirit into our cracked up lives, that’s when we’ll see what Elisa Morgan writes about–“the beauty in the broken.”

8 thoughts on “When Plates Hit the Floor

  1. I like the way you put this – elegant, and concise.

    I’ve been thinking about the ‘broken-ness’ issue for awhile, and came to a conclusion – I don’t feel broken.

    Hurt, surely. There are wounds both visible and hidden, but I’m still on my feet, both physically (well, more or less) and metaphorically. Just patch me up and send me out again – I’m good to go.

    I’m not sure if this is a truth, or some moto nonsense that I’ve decided to apply to myself. On the whole I try to avoid using any kind of moto – it’s embarrassing, since civilians tend to play that music loud without knowing what the words mean.

    But that doesn’t grant immunity, and even now God may be looking at my statement of un-broken-ness and rolling his eyes. “What do I DO with this idiot?”

    I don’t know. The more I think, the fewer answers I have, and the more footsore my hamster gets. spinning madly away.

    • Thank you for another thought provoking response, Andrew.
      I suppose it depends on what we mean by broken.
      If we mean heart-wound broken or things-aren’t-what-they’re-supposed-to-be broken or life isn’t what I hoped it would be broken, then, yes, that’s me.
      But if we mean I’m-too-screwed-up-to-make-an-impact broken, that’s not me. And it’s not gospel.
      I think I get what you mean by resisting the word broken in that a mission-minded soldier can’t have a mindset that he’s broken. Patch me up and send me back out there. I admire the way you keep pushing forward with a never-surrender attitude.
      The kind of surrender God’s looking for is not that we give up but that we embrace the truth that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

      Now my hamster is spinning 🙂

  2. Dave: You already know how I feel about this post, as it coincides perfectly with my “Waste Not” post. But I have discovered, like you, there is a beauty in brokenness. It’s not in sweeping up the shards of broken me and tossing them into the trash, claiming them worthless. And it’s not trying to glue them all together and proclaiming everything’s fine. I’m fixed.
    It’s in admitting something’s broken. I’m broken.
    And then standing amazed when God heals … and transforms broken-me into something beautiful. Someone grace-filled. Someone loved and loving.

    • Thanks, Beth, for saying what I meant more clearly than I did and with fewer words.:-) So well put. I can see those distinct phases of my own life–fix it, trash it, offer it and stand amazed. Well said, Beth–as usual.

  3. Beautiful post, Dave. I love the thought that the Spirit inhabits the broken. Am I broken? Yes! But, God is, day by day, re-making me into someone who looks more like Jesus, conforming me to His image. I find great hope in this truth. In my own so-called strength, I may strive at first, but I always end up limping because my brokenness-wounds keep reminding me of who I am in my own strength. When I lean on Jesus, press into Him and work in His strength, then He can use me. I’m kind of rambling, but this post got me thinking. Again. Thanks, Dave.

  4. Yes, Jeanne, God “re-makes” us and “conforms” us to His image.as He inhabits us in all our brokenness and weakness. As you say, our part is the “leaning on” and “pressing into” God as we works within us. If you are rambling, it’s eloquent rambling! 🙂 I really appreciate your thoughtful words.

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