Know Thyself: Beautiful and Broken

Some years ago, when I first moved to the Bay Area, I decided to make a visit to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

I had a wonderful time that day, taking everything in – the animals, the movies, the engineering, and the architecture. It was a great day of not only marveling at God’s amazing Creation – particularly the beautiful plants and animals housed at the Academy, but also marveling at humanity’s ingenuity and creativity. We human beings can indeed do some amazing things when we put our hearts and minds to it. Its part of the reality of being made in the image of God (Genesis Chapter 2). We are each co-creators and co-artists with God, each in our unique God-given way.

John Zizoulous, an Eastern Orthodox theologian calls us human beings “Eucharistic” or “liturgical” beings.   Each one of us is called to take the world in our hands as a gift and refer it back to the Giver of Life with care, love, and thankfulness, while also sharing this gift with others. (Eucharistic, by the way, comes from the Greek word eucharisteo, which means “to give thanks”.)

Unfortunately, the goodness of my day at the Academy was not to last, and I was soon to confront a very different aspect of humanity. As I returned to my car at the end of my visit, I noticed that something was not right.   In fact, one of my back windows was missing and shards of glass were everywhere inside and outside of my car. Apparently, someone had taken a large branch, smashed the window, and taken my GPS, which I sadly had left out in open view. After surveying the mess, I got on the road, and as I hit the highway, it of course started to downpour, leaving both my backseat and me in a fine mess.

When I got home that evening, my housemate and I immediately started the process of cleaning out the car, and for some reason, I decided to keep some of the remaining glass. (See picture below). In actuality, the glass was quite pretty. As it shattered, it became more clear to me that the glass was a greenish blue tint, just the shade, in fact, of much of my home décor. Quite lovely actually. The patterns formed within the glass when it shattered were also quite beautiful.

Yet, of course, as I looked over this glass, I realized that as pretty as it might be, it was now useless; it could no longer be used for the purpose for which it had been created.   Moreover, the sharp edges and shards of glass could create some nasty cuts should I not handle them with care.

As I looked at this glass that day and reflected upon it, I had this thought: Isn’t this a clear picture of the state of human beings and our relationships with God and each other?  On one hand, just as this broken glass had a beautiful quality to it, there is also a deep beauty that resides in all human beings. We after all have been created in the image of God.  Moreover, God has pronounced every last bit of His creation (including human beings) good, and according to the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament, not only good, but beautiful. You see, the Greek word used in the Septuagint for good is kalos, which is a word derived from the verb “to call” which means beautiful.

In other words, there is this sense that when God brought us, as well as all of Creation, into existence at the beginning of time, He began to call out goodness and beauty from each one of us.

Yet, sadly like the shards of glass, we are also now all broken, every last one of us – old and young, rich and poor, male and female  – because of our sins and the sins of others. The harmony that God intended for us when he created the world has been shattered, starting with Adam and Eve and continuing to this day. And, like the broken glass from my car, all of us now have edges, which when they rub up beside one another, sometime cause cuts and bruises. Moreover, all of us find that the purposes for which God created us have been frustrated to a lesser or greater degree, whether because of the sins of others or because of our own sins.

If you recall back to the story of the Fall of humankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, which is found in the Book of Genesis Chapter 3, you will remember that as soon as they disobeyed God, the immediate result was that Adam and Eve felt shame, they blamed one another, they attempted to hide from God, and their relationships with each other and the earth became strained and dysfunctional. Sadly, these patterns of relatedness have continued to this day.

The reality is that the world is broken. We are broken.

What this means is that if we are going to pursue a deepening relationship with God and a journey of personal transformation, we must acknowledge this about ourselves. We cannot just look out on the woes of the world and blame others. The problem also lies within ourselves.

Yet this is the Good News. There is hope. In Jesus, we are called to a different kind of life – a life of forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; a life where the image of God is increasingly restored in us; a life where God makes beauty out of the dust that we have made of our lives.

Page Written by Kristen Yates

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