We examine the Dr. Seuss apple tree and rows of purple flowers in the morning mist. I time contractions as we walk linoleum hallways through the afternoon. She presses against a giant ball and our hands to ease the seizing of late day.
I kneel with her, stand with her, sit with her, walk with her.
I remind my friend she is a tree planted by streams of water. That her roots go down deep. That she is not forsaken.
Yet she feels it. I see across her brow, her swollen body — this sacred loneliness. The vast pain threatening to break her through long waiting, suffering, mess.
Until the glory.
A few Sundays ago, this dear woman holds two-month-old baby to breast as our small group gathers in the snug living room, and we tell each other the blessed, horrible, unbelievable truth: you are beautiful when you are broken.
I hear that I shine his glory when I’m cracked open mess, and I doubt. I imagine glory revealed when I am capable, strong, gift in hand, doing his work. But I struggle to believe that when undone by this life — poor, grieving, depressed, losing patience with my children, my husband — that I shine glory.
His strength seen all the more in my weakness, sure. But his glory shining through me when I’m broken, breaking?
I know I’ve seen it. Nondescript rock broken open to reveal shimmer and facets shining glass. A bulb dormant and lifeless as a rock under soil, breaking to jade leaves unfurling and orange petals reaching toward sun.
I know I’ve seen it in you. The way you bravely stand in the middle of crushing sorrow and with open hand receive. The way you’ve admitted deepest vulnerability and let yourself feel it, no human hand able to bring rescue. The way you’ve trusted God to give you what you most need. The way you’ve reflected that unearthly light.
I’ve seen you broken and beautiful.
Several weeks ago in this place I wrote about grace that bends. Grace that enables us to be flexible when offended, heart soft enough to receive the grace gift. Now I’m thinking too about this grace that breaks.
The grace when loneliness tears. The grace when fear voices rip apart. The grace when loss rends open.
When we endure the pain and cracking of fleshy clay jars with no earthly escape, and we hold our hands to the Maker, could this be when glory grace glows through? When his glory radiates through broken places?
At 3:40 a.m., on a morning in late September, I watch glory enter — from darkness, through struggle — into this world. Glory with blue, wrinkled hands, dark hair and a grown-up nose.
I see with my own eyes the grace of breaking give way to the grace of new life.
I watch a mother, body weary, spirit holding deep and strong to the One who formed her, formed him. And she is no longer gasping for air, struggling on the sea of alone. She is radiant. Radiant with this new life, the fruit of her struggle.
She is not broken.
She is shining this radiant glory grace.