This Is What It Means To Be Broken

by Dianna Abrams
Westend61 / Getty

I was making dinner one night and my 3-year-old daughter was prancing around the kitchen dancing to her own little toddler tune. I saw her pause for a moment and glare at the side of the refrigerator. She was pointing to a picture she had painted that was carefully hung by a ceramic snowflake magnet she had created at school. She loved this magnet. It was her masterpiece that she had made for her daddy.

It was within that moment I saw her yanking at the hanging picture trying to reach for her snowflake. As I turned to ask her to stop, the magnet came tumbling off the refrigerator and on to the tile floor, where one piece of the snowflake broke. She was distraught. Tears began streaming down her face like river water runoff, she immediately did what was so natural to her. She asked her mommy to fix what had been broken.

In situations like this, we as mothers go into first responder mode. That’s what we do. We fix things, whether big or small, it does not matter, we fix them. In the eyes of our children, we are the kisser of boo-boos, the reassurance of a monster-free home, the finder of all things lost. As soon as I turned to assess the damage of her snowflake masterpiece I was simultaneously determining where I put my hot glue gun to restore her creation. It was then that I realized the piece not only broke off, but it shattered. I gave her a hug and said, “Sweetie, it is broken and I don’t think I can fix it.” I could see her little brain churning around the idea of something that was broken and couldn’t be fixed. That was totally unacceptable to her. And for once I totally understood her anguish.

You see, if you have a three-year-old, you might already know it is hard to get on their level of thinking. They are notoriously known for asking the impossible: please, cut my sandwich with the blue knife into right triangle pieces while balancing a banana on your head and place it on the yellow plate with red strawberries to the right of it…by one inch. You understand what I am trying to say. From the adult perspective, they tend to have unreasonable requests. But this time, I got it. How can something so precious to her be broken to the point in which it could not be fixed?

The truth of the matter is, I have struggled with the idea of brokenness. Not in small things, not in magnets or appliances, but more in the big picture, brokenness in ourselves. Prior to this day in my life, I would often tell you that a situation “bent me significantly,” but, no, to admit I was broken would be admitting to weakness in my eyes.

But for the first time I want to be forthcoming with this idea — I am totally broken. What broke me you ask? For me it was the loss of my mother. Not just the ultimate loss when I held her hand and she left this world. Rather it was the small moments of watching this once rambunctious woman lose a little bit more energy each day, lose a few more strands of hair each day, that broke me. To see the very ordinary days where my children laugh and play and think to myself, “Wow, my mom would love this.” That breaks me.

We each have something that breaks us. Whether it’s small things that have “chipped away at us,” or the big things that have crumbled us, we all have a part of us that is in some ways broken. I do not know what it is for you, but here is what I want you to know: admitting to being broken is what will make you whole again. I once read that there is a special ancient Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer laced in gold. The idea behind it is to understand the history of the object and to visibly recognize the repair instead of distinguishing it by making those fractures the most beautiful part of the object. What if we, too, allowed ourselves to let this brokenness be the most beautiful part of us?

As mothers do, we fix, we shield, and we pray our children are never broken by life. We pray for smooth waters and the wind at their backs as they sail through their life. I still wish that for my children. But like in the story of our precious masterpiece magnet, I told my daughter exactly what I intend to tell her as her life situations become more challenging and complex.

I swept up the dust that was left of the broken piece, placed the magnet back on the refrigerator, and said, “There, it still works. The magnet still does its job of holding up your picture. In fact, we can actually see a little bit more of the beautiful picture behind it now that a piece of the magnet is missing.”

I wish and hope for you, my sweet children, that when life breaks you, it just becomes an opportunity for more beauty to shine through you — if you chose it. And so I pray that you always chose that. After all that is what this world needs more of: beautiful light to shine through the places in which it is broken.