During church a couple of weeks ago, one of the songs included a lyric about “sweet brokenness.” And tears trickled down my face. I didn’t want to be broken again. But I am, along with about 6,000 other people. The closure of my university is impacting students, faculty, and staff around the country as every one tries to figure out how to handle the needs of today while also preparing for what’s coming next. From the employee side, we are spending each day trying (and often failing) to support students in pain who are sending so many emotions in each email, conversation, and even a glance in the dining hall. And then at the end of those long days, we should be spending the evenings working on job searches, financial plans, and networking efforts because every one of us received a letter with an end date. The first endings are in April, and the last ones are in June. Every person will leave campus at some point this spring or summer, and not come back to the same university ever again.
So I cried because I didn’t want to be broken, and because I was and am.
I know it will be okay. I know that because, to be honest, I cannot mentally accept any other outcome for our students and my colleagues and friends. It will be okay and it is not okay right now. I learned from a previous job about the value of paradoxes, and I anticipate spending the next two months living in this one: not okay and will be okay. The rain cloud has silver linings and the silver linings are around a rain cloud. Rainstorms hold within them the promise of rainbows. Eventually.
I traveled to Germany for a few weeks during my senior year in college. It was a Jan Term trip focused on World War II and Reformation history. Amidst the reading for the course, the piece that stood out the most was about a church where the stained glass windows were shattered due to explosions. Members of the congregation gathered up pieces of glass, and eventually placed them back together into a new window. Of course it was impossible for the new window to match the images and structure of the original one; the shards of glass were in new shapes and most much smaller than they had been before. Instead it was something completely new and created out of the wreckage.
On my living room wall I have a small stained glass in a recycled frame. In a very small way, it reminds me of that German church. All of the pieces within are reused from other windows and pieces that came before. They all had to be broken, shaped, filed, and set into something new. There might have been some pieces of glass that were destroyed in the process to place the rest together. The artist might have had to change plans multiple times to create something beautiful. And some might not recognize all the effort that went into that little daisy and the space around it.
I’m trying to accept being broken, and I’m trying to believe in the beauty that will come from it. Some moments it is easier than others. Right now, warm on my couch with resurrected glass hanging on the wall, is one of those moments.
“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). – #52sparks is my year-long writing series for 2020, based on an art prompt challenge. The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. This series is to explore what hundreds of inches and words can do.