Ring the bells you still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.
A Story About Cracks and Flaws
Let me tell you an ancient story about cracks and flaws. It is about a girl whose morning chore was to walk to the river and fetch water for her household. Suspended from a pole across her shoulders were the two water pots that would hold that water, one on each side of her body. One of those pots was perfect, but the other was cracked. By the time she returned home each day, the cracked pot was only half full.
After some time, the cracked pot, ashamed that she wasn’t able to function at full capacity, expressed her sense of failure and embarrassment to the girl. “Why do you keep using me when all I do is leak? Why don’t you get a new, perfect pot?”
The little girl responded, smiling, “Have you seen the beautiful wild flowers that grow along the path we travel on each day? You know, the one between the house and the river? And have you noticed that they only grow on your side of the path when we walk home each day?
That is because every spring I plant seeds only on your side because I know that you will water them as we walk home each day. And every year I pick those flowers and they fill our humble home with beauty and fragrance. Those flowers bring the whole family joy. What you thought was a flaw has been a gift to us all.”
Letting The Light Shine In
This may seem counterintuitive, but I have been inspired lately by how many cracks and flaws we all have. I have seen how those very imperfections are the portals through which we are called into the world to share love and hope. It is through our brokenness that authentic beauty has the potential to be exposed, and we develop creativity and grit. It is also how e reveal our need for one another. I believe it is also through our brokenness that we might understand our need for God, for something bigger and more eternal than we are.
Of course I could tell you dozens, probably thousands of stories of the cracks in people’s lives, including my own. I could tell you how those cracks became the very thing that created the opportunity for transformation, love, and light. After all, as a therapist and spiritual director, I hear these stories and I get to work with these stories each and every day. Lucky me. Let me tell you just two recent ones.
The power of grit
My daughter got married recently and I splurged and had my hair and make-up professionally done. I didn’t even do this for my own wedding so this was a big deal for me. Mary, the hair and make-up artist whom we hired, was a fun, beautiful, and talented human. While she worked her magic, I asked her how she got into doing what she does.
So she told me the story of how she desperately needed to get out of her home, how she got pregnant right out of high school and had this precious baby boy. She told me how she wanted to make this boy a priority and wanted the best for him: best schools, best home life, best mom. So, smart human that she is, she found a career—cosmetology— that gave her flexibility and a path forward.
She worked with celebrities for a while, and then became a teacher in her field. After some time, she decided she wanted more flexibility, and she steered herself in the direction of wedding and event make-up With this in mind, she moved to the best school district she could find so her son would have the best education. And now she has created this profitable business for herself, using her artistry to make special days like my daughter’s wedding even more special. Out of that crack in her pot, she has created beauty.
Necessity and Creativity
Many times, our cracked pots require a creative solution. Do you know the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” ? My mother often said that when she had a creative solution to something— a missing ingredient for a recipe became an opportunity to try something new, not enough fabric to make a dress became an opportunity to make aprons for Christmas presents, an old gas stove that she refused to give up became the very way we fed the neighbors more than once when the power would go out. Necessity begat creativity and invention!
Here’s another story.
My marriage almost failed one year. My husband and I had too much big emotional stuff all at the same time—infertility, early death of a parent, career changes, graduate school, moves, lack of local family and friends, and bad choices. We were cracked, separately and together.
What came out of this crack in our marriage has been a blessing. Thankfully we didn’t both give up at the same time, even though there were times we wanted to. What we did do was dig deep. We found the best marriage therapist we could find. We got honest and intimate with some friends we thought could support us. Importantly, we both became more vulnerable with God, ourselves, and each other. A marriage that is more vibrant, connected, and intimate is what grew out of that time. Additionally, we forged a sturdy friendship, and an on-going passion for creating the kind of relationship we want to live in.
The strength of cracks and flaws
Have you ever had a stress fracture? These slim, annoying fractures don’t completely rupture the bone, but they compromise the bone. And they hurt like hell and are often hard to diagnose. Treated properly, though, when a stress fracture heals, the site is even stronger than before. New bone builds over the old bone and the original damage is now shored up and stronger than ever.
Now our marriage not only brings out the best in each other—at least most of the time— but it can be a light in the world, a place of hope for other relationships that are hurting and fractured. Our crack turned into beauty. In an earlier blog, I spoke about the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, a philosophy built around the realities of imperfection and transience. Accompanying this philosophy is the practice of kintsugi, literally meaning gold-joinery. When a pot or a piece of china is cracked, liquid gold is used to join the pieces back together, making a stronger and more beautiful work of art.
Your cracks and flaws are beautiful
Whatever your cracks and flaws are, whatever you wish you could discard or avoid, perhaps you could consider that this might be the exact thing that is paving the way for something beautiful, strong, authentic, and totally human to be created. Ring the bells you can ring, Friends. Imagine and use the ideas of gold-joinery. Allow the marvelousness that is you to shine light.
I have a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. A few years ago my book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. I am passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com
You can email me at [email protected]
*Even though I used an Amazon link here, I highly encourage you to order from your local bookstore. Here in Columbia that is Odd Bird Books. Tell Ben we sent you!
WE WROTE A BOOK! AND THERE IS ANOTHER ONE ON THE WAY!
(And we think it is beautiful!)
No one is too young or too old to develop or refine your Adulting Skills!