My Broken Plate

For our Utopia series, we wanted to invite our community to share their brokenness on plates and break them to symbolize how God takes that brokenness and makes something beautiful.

Here’s what I was going to write on my plate Sunday:

I have a mind that is easily distracted and a heart that easily grows lukewarm and numb.

The general, albeit honest, confession of a mature Christian woman. I watched the film played during service, and I felt for Jackie as she talked about her broken family. But I couldn’t relate. Maybe this is the pride that contributes to my lukewarm heart, but I kind of think we have a utopian family. We’ve weathered the frazzled years with infants and toddlers, the frustrating years with teenagers, and now we have these grown up men with wives and children of their own. And we have healthy relationships with them.

But then I got distracted from my self-satisfaction long enough to hear Jackie say something I realized—like an arrow shot—I could relate to. She spoke of a family that “stigmatized” her. It’s a harsh word, one I’m fairly certain none of our sons would say was inflicted upon them in our home. But there it was, out loud and pointed and very clearly meant for me to hear.

***

We’re personality test kind of people. We, Bill and I, relish the inner-dissection you can perform once you have a viable label to apply to yourself. I’m a High I on the DISC, an ENFP on Meyers-Briggs. But you know how it goes with your kids. You don’t need the tests. You know who they are before they can speak. It’s like they wear a personality profile penciled on their chests that you, the insightful parent, can see more clearly than anyone else. So our Matt was a rebel, David was sneaky, Stephen was driven, and Andrew was a responder. You see what I just did?

These labels represent our children’s strengths, but I’ve given them a subtle negative twist. A weakness is the immature version of a strength. And because children, by definition, are immature, their strengths emerge as weaknesses before they begin to look like strengths.

Early on, I began to identify each of my children’s unique strengths. Soon that became their identity. But it also—because the other side of that strength was an equally unique weakness—became the stigma I attached to them. And because sometimes, to survive, you have to laugh, the stigma became the punch line in our family jokes about each other.  By assigning a stigma to each of our kids, I put them each in a box. Maybe it didn’t have a lid nailed to the top, but still it was a box. A limitation.

I had to write that on my plate Sunday. The plate broke, and right after I flinched at the sound, I went to my seat, lifted my hands, and sang. Free. Whole.

Our youngest may need to hear me confess this to him. He is the only one I fear may still be wounded by the label I’ve placed on him. But he is not limited by it. The other day, when we were discussing one of his interests, he said to me, “I don’t want that to be my identity.” He, like his brothers, is stronger than any box.

Our children have also had the privilege of being loved the way we all need to be loved: by being known. I know they are more than one-dimensional beings. The stigmas are nothing more than their particular flesh patterns. I have mine and they have theirs. And maybe, just maybe, by identifying those and even laughing about them together, we have all learned that brokenness isn’t something to hide.

I don’t know what to do with Sunday’s exercise in worship. As an ENFP, I live my life on the outside, thinking that everything should be shared as openly and verbally and immediately as possible. (Which is why I fired off a blog post about it, of course.) But that is not all I am. I have learned the stillness and quiet of an inside life by spending time with the only One who defies any stigma. My stillness and quiet may not look like yours, especially if you are an introvert, but for me it is a miracle.

Pray for me Blueprint, that I would know what to do with the brokenness I wrote on my plate Sunday. Maybe I need to have a conversation with my sons, although Bill thinks not, and he’s usually right about these things. But maybe all I need to do is remember the sound of breaking and sing along with you as you hear it, too.