Broken and Beautiful, Part 2

Earlier this month, my family and I took a trip to Haiti through the Global Orphan Project. The following is a reflection on our brief time there—part 1 was posted yesterday and can be read here.

What do You want to teach me? I asked God. I know there has to be a reason I’m here . . . so what is it?

We had reached day three in Haiti, our last full day there, and I still didn’t know why here, why me, why this trip. Does there have to be a magical reason? I wondered. Can it just be a good trip without being a life-changing one?

It was Sunday morning, and our whole group rose early to have devotions before heading to church. One of the men on the trip shared the illustration that life is like a needlepoint project. We see the knotted mess on the bottom, while God sees the beautiful picture on top.

Something about that picture struck me, but I couldn’t place my finger on exactly why. The image drifted to the back of my mind as we left for church.

Without air conditioning, the church building was warm, and the small children who clambered onto our laps or beside us on the seats acted as portable heaters. Every time a breeze blew by, I closed my eyes to let out a sigh of relief.

Despite the heat, there was something to that service—something lively and beautiful and precious. The people sang songs with fervor, and the familiar melodies paired with unfamiliar words made my heart smile. When one of their leaders rose to pray, I had a hard time staying awake because the room was so warm, his prayer so long, and my knowledge of Creole so incomplete, but I loved the passion with which he spoke.

Why don’t we pray like this? I wondered.

Maybe because we don’t have to depend on God the same way the Haitians do, I thought.

We sit in our air-conditioned services, counting the minutes until we can leave to go out to our car and drive down our paved street to a nice restaurant for an over-sized lunch. Where does desperate dependency on God fit into that picture?

After church, we went to one more orphanage where I watched with some amusement as the little girl I was with pushed several other children away from us, claiming me as “her white person.”

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But a part of me was still musing, my thoughts scattered. What do You want me to learn? . . . We see the mess, You see the full picture. . . . There’s something different to the worship here. . . .

That night, we gathered on the rooftop for one last debriefing and bead ceremony. One of our team members gestured to the floor beneath us—a mosaic of broken tile created by one of the local pastors. I honestly don’t remember exactly what he said because one phrase in particular caught my attention: broken but beautiful.

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With that, several strands of scattered thoughts twined together. My life over the past few months has felt very unsettled, and I have little idea what the future will bring. A co-worker said to me recently, “It sounds like you’re looking for your place—does that sound right?”

“Yep, pretty much” was the only reply I could give.

To me, my life feels a bit like a needlepoint picture, a bit like that broken-tiled roof. But God is an artist, and He has been creating masterpieces from broken things for millennia.

It’s okay, I thought I heard Him say. Being broken is beautiful. It’s okay.

I think broken and beautiful is what I caught a glimpse of in the Haitian church that morning. The people of Haiti face many struggles—a corrupt government, crushing poverty, a tragic lack of jobs, far too many broken families—and all the while, they are trying to recover from the earthquakes of 2010.

But then, I look at my life and the lives of my family and friends in the United States and wonder if we have it quite as good as we think. We enjoy far more physical comfort to be sure, and many of us have far more social and emotional stability because we don’t deal with the same level of poverty. But I think we’re missing something, a vital spiritual spark I saw in Haitian believers.

The bottom line is: we’re all broken. Every single one of us.

When we returned to the United States, someone asked us: What is the one thing you think would need to happen or we would need to do to fix what is going on in Haiti?

It’s a fair question, and one that I think naturally arises when people from the U.S. go to Haiti. But I’m not sure it’s one that can be, or even needs to be, answered.

Haiti doesn’t need to be fixed. Not like that anyway. The only fixing Haiti needs is the same fixing that you and I and every other human on this earth needs, and it’s a fixing that won’t happen fully until Jesus returns.

Haiti is broken, yes, but beauty is there for those who look.

I am broken, too, but my Jesus says there is beauty in the brokenness, so I’m praying for eyes to see it and a heart patient enough to wait for the final picture He is creating in me.

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