Never Beyond Repair

The shattered can be made whole again.

Jean Coleman is a pastor’s wife from Laurel, Maryland. She is the editor of The Pastor’s Helpmate, a newsletter for pastoral wives. This article first appeared in The Pastor’s Helpmate, July 1995. Used with permission.

“ I can’t believe this!” I cried out. “Everything we bought Iis broken! Absolutely everything! There’s not one thing that isn’t in pieces!”

Jack and I had just returned from a two-week ministry trip to Peru, and I was unpacking the suitcase that held the many souvenirs we had purchased. Peru is a souvenir shopper’s paradise! In the capital city of Lima, we had visited the Inca markets where dozens of exciting shops were filled with beautiful native handwork unequaled anywhere in the world. What fun! I went from shop to shop delighting in the unique articles that were displayed, trying to decide which ones to buy. I was particularly taken with the lovely pottery pieces that had been crafted into small delicate figurines.

But the window shopping was only the beginning! You were expected to bargain with the vendor for the best price. As a peacemaker, I detest quibbling over prices. With my rusty Spanish and non-aggressive spirit, I didn’t stand a chance. But I wasn’t shopping alone. My Peruvian friend drove a hard bargain, and soon I was loaded down with numerous treasures to carry back to America.

My favorite souvenir was a native boy riding on a donkey. Larger than the other figurines, it stood about a foot high. I thought it was truly exquisite. The boy was wearing a little sombrero, and his tiny hands held reins made of string. The beautifully sculptured donkey carried two water barrels. It was definitely one of a kind, and we agreed to pay $25 for it—an extremely high price by Peru­vian standards. There were also many other purchases. Jack laughingly remarked that I was taking home a whole village of pottery people. I just couldn’t resist their charm.

The evening before we left Peru, we spent hours carefully packing the souvenirs for the trip home. Each little figurine was padded with crumpled newspapers, and then meticulously rolled up in our clothing. Everything appeared to be completely jar-proofed, and we had total confidence that our treasures would make the journey home without incident.

How wrong we were! Tears rolled down my cheeks as I surveyed the carnage that filled the suitcase. It looked like a massacre had taken place. Tiny hands and legs were scattered everywhere. I cringed when I saw the decapitated bodies, their heads buried among the newspapers. Not one piece was intact. Fearing what I would find inside, I began to unwrap the donkey with his rider. It was even worse than I had expected. All four legs had been broken off the donkey, the boy was missing his head and one arm, and the water barrels were shattered into a dozen pieces.

“How could this have happened?” I wept. “We should not have put anything so fragile in a suitcase! Now we don’t have even one souvenir left from our trip. They’re all ruined—destroyed!”

Jack put his arm around my shoulder. “Let me see what I can do,” he responded. “I think that many of them can be repaired with a little glue, time, and patience.”

But there was no consoling me. “It’s no use! I don’t want these things if they’re broken! Just toss them all in the wastepaper basket. I don’t ever want to see them again.”

Jack tried to reason with me. “I really think they can be fixed, Jean. We can just glue this hand on here and put the head back on. They’ll look fine!”

But my mind was made up. “I’m not going to put a bunch of broken things on my shelves. Throw them away!”

Jack left the bedroom carrying the suitcase with its hopeless cargo. I concentrated on unpacking the remain­ing suitcases, hanging up clothes and sorting laundry, trying to forget the broken souvenirs. After all, I tried to convince myself, what difference did it make? It was crazy to get upset over something so trivial.

It was nearly an hour later when I walked out to the kitchen. There stood Jack at the counter, tube of glue in hand, patiently repairing the figurines. All four legs had been reattached to the donkey, and once more he was standing straight and tall. And the rider was no longer the headless horseman! His head and arm were once more in place. It was a miracle! I looked in amazement at all the little people who had been made whole.

Jack smiled. “I told you they could be repaired, and unless you look closely, you can’t tell that these things were ever broken. It just took some time.”

Hesitantly, I picked up the donkey and examined it carefully. A faint line could be discerned on each leg, but it was hardly noticeable. A miracle had taken place. No one would ever guess there had been a problem. I had to admit that Jack was right. The things I thought were beyond repair had been restored.

“I’m going to work on the water barrels now,” Jack informed me. “All the pieces seem to be here, and I’m sure I can get them back together.”

As I walked back to the bedroom, I heard the still small voice of God speaking in my heart. “Your attitude toward real people is often like your attitude toward the pottery people.

You don’t want to devote the necessary time to see them restored. If they’re not perfect, you’re inclined to cast them aside. This should not be.”

How true, how true! I may weep over broken people and their problems, but do I really care enough to take the time to bring about the necessary restoration? Sometimes it’s so much easier to teach a Bible study lesson or coordi­nate a church picnic than to spend time encouraging those who are hurting and whose lives are in turmoil. There are so many men and women in our congregation with shattered lives, and though I grieve over the horrendous situations they are in, I often lack the patience, compassion, and love to attempt to reconcile them. At times I even try to avoid these broken people because I don’t want to be reminded of their seemingly insurmountable problems. Out of sight, out of mind!

Oh, that I might be more like my husband, who patiently puts these shattered lives back together again, spending hours healing the brokenhearted with words of counsel and encouragement. It is obvious that I need to have some major repair work done on the flaw in my heart that makes me more upset over some broken figurines than over the condition of real-live people.

Who would have ever thought that a suitcase full of broken souvenirs would cause me to be thrust into the School of the Holy Spirit to learn some very important lessons about myself and my attitude toward others? God forbid that I should view the hurting in our church as throw-away people. I need to be ever-mindful of the words of Jesus who said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus is not discouraged by broken people.

Yesterday I took the repaired donkey and rider down from the shelf to admire my wonderful souvenir from Peru. Yes, the little lines where the breaks had been were still there, looking like tiny scars upon the donkey’s legs. And once again I heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Re­member, scars are simply evidence that healing has taken place.”

Stand firm, little donkey, as a constant reminder to me that the broken can be repaired, the crushed restored, and the shattered made whole again.

Jean Coleman is a pastor’s wife from Laurel, Maryland. She is the editor of The Pastor’s Helpmate, a newsletter for pastoral wives. This article first appeared in The Pastor’s Helpmate, July 1995. Used with permission.