Broken things and a bottle of tears

When someone you love is a collector, deciding what to get them for Christmas is easy. (If you’re wondering/shopping, I collect contemporary Canadian poetry books.)

People collect all kinds of things: a dermatologist in North Carolina owns 675 back scratchers from 71 different countries. Someone in Peaks Island, Maine, has 730 umbrella sleeves – I’m sure she’s always in the market for more.

What does God collect?

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

(Psalm 56:8 NLT)

This fall, the world mourned what felt like an endless barrage of natural and manmade disasters: hurricanes devastated the Caribbean; cars mowed down pedestrians in Edmonton, Charlottesville and London; a sniper killed concertgoers in Las Vegas.

Surely God’s bottle is brimming.

The memories they hold

My son Kieran has always been attached to things: things that sparkle, things that feel neat, things he has made. (I’ve heard some kids with Aspergers like their rooms sparse, drab and orderly. Or so I’ve been told. If only my little house could be so lucky.)

“They all have memories,” he says.

“So do I,” I think. “I remember when I could see my floor.”

God doesn’t just collect our tears, he remembers every injustice or loss that made them fall. It’s easy to get stuck in the stage of rehashing our hurts. Knowing someone holds our sorrows that tightly means it’s safe for us to let them go (1 Peter 5:7).

Over the years, my son’s wacky collections have included twist ties and bird bones. He even informed me of the existence of a “broken things collection.” He chose not to disclose its location. (Smart kid.)

Like my son, God loves to collect broken things. But he doesn’t hide them. He transforms them.

The clothes make the person

When I think of transformation, Tim Allen’s 1994 movie “The Santa Clause” comes to mind. A not-so-cool dad puts on a Santa suit and magically becomes Santa. From that day on, he cannot stop his beard from growing, his hair from whitening, his belly from bulging or obnoxious elves from ringing the doorbell.

He doesn’t understand everything he’s signed up for, but that doesn’t change the facts: one decision is transforming his life, inside and out. It’s not just a costume; it’s an identity.

Some days I feel like I’m just “putting on” my faith. Sure, I can tell you how to find peace with God – just as soon as I stop yelling at my kids, fuming about my husband and worrying about my bank statement. I’ve met the Peacemaker, but I don’t always feel the peace.

When the Bible says, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus” (Romans 13:14), perhaps putting on Jesus is like stepping into Tim Allen’s Santa suit. The moment I invited Jesus to control my life, he began transforming me into my destiny.

But becoming Santa Claus or Christ-like doesn’t happen all at once. A white beard may grow overnight, but learning how to manage elves takes time. So does adjusting to Jesus’ life in me.

That means even when I’m a mess and I wonder why God would want to be seen with me, he’s not giving up on me.

And he hasn’t given up on our world either.

Through the church – these flawed people growing into our Jesus suits – God is at work: bringing seeds to flooded Haitian farmers (p. 20), humility to settler peoples (p. 17), beds to refugee claimants (p. 19), renewal to weary volunteers (p. 22) and a message of extravagant kindness to all (p. 18).    

Until Jesus returns, we will remain a place of broken things and tears, but we are his: a treasured collection.

That’s a gift worth cherishing.

[Angeline Schellenberg

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