Dealing With Brokenness


What are we to do with the broken pieces of ourselves?
All to often, we try to ignore them,
never realizing that they will be with us
for the rest of our days on this earth.
We try to bury our shattered parts
because we see them as a sign of weakness,
as a painful reminder of our vulnerability.
But our broken pieces are a seat of wisdom 
and insight and compassion within us. 
They are holy, and sacred, and ought to be preserved.

What did Moses do with the broken tablets?
The ones he threw to the ground
when he saw the children of Israel 
worshiping the golden calf.
What could he possibly have done with those shards of stone?
They were useless, unreadable.
They were in pieces.

Moses went back up the mountain
to carve out a new set of tablets
And to receive the words of the Ten Commandments once more.
He came down from the mountain
with this replacement set of unbroken, 
freshly hewn tablets of stone,
And he presented them to the Children of Israel,
Who built a holy ark, the Ark of the Covenant, to house them.

The Israelites carried the Ark with them 
throughout all their journeys in the desert.
They brought it with them into the Promised Land, 
And eventually placed it inside the holy Temple that King Solomon built.

But what became of the shattered pieces?

Legend has it that inside the Ark
stood the tablets of the Ten Commandments, 
And right beside them there rested the broken tablets 
which Moses had shattered on that fateful day.
Moses understood that the broken tablets could not just be discarded or ignored.
He saw that, even though they were shattered and illegible, they were holy 
because they too came from God.
They were holy precisely because they were shattered. 
They were an important reminder
of an awful experience of idolatry and betrayal
which he prayed would never be forgotten.

The teaching their brokenness imparted was just as powerful 
as the teaching of the Ten Commandments themselves.
Sometimes we forget this simple truth:
The broken pieces of ourselves are often our greatest teachers.
It is from them that we learn our strength.
It is from them that we learn
compassion, wisdom and understanding, 
devotion, faith, and insight.
It is from them that we learn the humility required to pray.
The vulnerability and helplessness we need to cry, 
the openness we require to truly hear
what another is saying, 
the courage we need to risk reaching out for help.
It is from the shattered pieces of our hearts
that we learn how to change the things we can,
how to be with others in their pain, 
and how to walk through the valley of darkness and
the shadow of death, confident and unafraid.

[This is a remarkable story and meditation that came my way. Unfortunately, I have no idea who wrote or preached it when and where. If anyone can tell me the source, I will seek permission to continue posting this story or remove it, if so directed. There is plenty to think and pray about.]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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2 Responses to Dealing With Brokenness

  1. Gail Bays says:

    Fr. Paul I want to thank you for sharing this with us. I think this is so very true. Hard but true.

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