There's a beautiful church in the little town where I grew up, built with ancient stones and colorful stained glass windows. The first time I visited it as a child, I stood amazed. I couldn’t concentrate on the message, the songs, the people. Just the windows.
They were amazing. The sunlight poured through the color, changing the scenes minute by minute. They told the story of Christ. Scene by scene, image by image. They showed His suffering, His glory as clear as day. Without using a word. Amazing.
I was an innocent little girl then. But those windows stayed with me as I grew. As a teenager, I sang a favorite “special” over and over in our little country church. It was called “Broken Pieces.” The words are embedded in my mind, even today. The song was about God being able to put things back together, when life has fallen apart. At the time, it was just a song I memorized. But it seemed to speak to my heart somehow. I realize now that God was preparing me, even then. Giving me tools.
Fast forward many years, my well-ordered, perfectly-planned life had fallen apart. I was filled with pain, ugliness and sin. Broken. Shattered in a million tiny pieces that ripped my heart and soul apart with every deep breath I took. I couldn’t go to work, couldn’t see friends or family, found it impossible to walk into church and face people.
But I could pray, and I did. Constantly, without ceasing, asking for Him to restore me, rebuild me from scratch, make me feel whole again. Take the ugliness away.
And amazingly, over the days, months and years, He began to put my pieces back together. One tiny slice at a time. It seemed an impossible, time-consuming task. It seemed hopeless. Pointless sometimes even, at least to me.
Some pieces were jagged and rough. Some smooth and liquid. Some ware dark and stormy, others clear and pale. But patiently He worked, day by day, reattaching the shreds, fitting the tiny pieces gently together and pouring His grace in the cracks.
And a funny thing happened. The more scripture I studied, the more I prayed, the more I suffered, then the more He revealed Himself and His truths to me. I lived in His world. I depended on Him completely, trusted Him deeply, relied on His strength, wisdom, and forgiveness to get me through each hour, each long day. And all that time He was rebuilding me into His plan. In His grace, He still is. All these years later.
As I say often, my favorite Bible character is Peter, without a doubt. Peter, Jesus’ loudest cheerleader. The one who pledged to witness and protect. Big plans, big promises, loud praises for all to hear. But God knew Peter was shallow. Nothing to back up the claims. No spiritual depth or knowledge. And when the chips were down, Peter folded, fell apart. The hardest thing for Peter, I think, must have been the next morning. Waking up to the truth and the consequences. Waking up knowing the world as He planned it was shattered and broken. Wondering where to go from there. Feeling like an embarrassing failure. But Peter is a story of redemption. Of God slowly and lovingly rebuilding him from the ground up. And in the end, God used him mightily, in spite of his own weaknesses. He put Peter’s pieces back together again, just like in the nursery rhyme. Just like me. Me and ‘ole Peter have a lot in common.
These days, I can’t look at a stained glass window without tears springing to my eyes. For they represent what I strive to be. Many jagged, hopeless, shattered pieces that have been restored to make up colorful, changing pictures of Christ. That’s me. Stronger than before, better in spite of the breaks. My edges have been smoothed, my gaps filled in. Yes, I am a work in progress. I have to be maintained, patched up here and there. But I am so much stronger and better that the big shallow piece of clear glass that I once was.
And I hope as people look at me, at my jagged pieces, my different colors and textures, as they delve more deeply into my picture, all they will see are the images that are reflected of His life, His work, His grace and forgiveness. His amazing, patient, loving Restoration.
…That is, just like Peter, the finished picture I want to reflect.