By Kathy Berken
My head is spinning. I just read an article about repurposing junk into treasures. Unfortunately, because I’m not creative that way, all I could do was look at the picture of the discarded item and wonder what somebody could possibly do with it, and then I clicked to the next page and saw the miracle before my eyes! Old CDs turned into birdbaths, pop cans into metal sculptures, console TVs into dog beds, lampshades into vases and cans into clocks.
Then I walked into my living room where near the window is my old ‘70s crock pot that I turned into a planter for basil. So, okay, one thing.
I thought about our new lighted water fountain that we use at the Franciscan Retreat center in Prior Lake, Minn., where I work. It was sculpted to look like a repurposed broken clay pot. We set it in front of the altar during our conferences and Father Jim will say how God uses our brokenness to let the light shine through. Beautiful! That reminds me of the lyrics in “Anthem,” by Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in” (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC 1992).
Here is a water jar that can no longer be used for its original purpose, just like the tin cans and CDs that creative minds turn into something else. The sculptor created not only a work of art, but brought light into it and gave it motion with the waterfall effect. When you first look at it you might also immediately see that it is a broken pot that has a new and profound meaning.
But let’s take this a little further. In reality, this pot was made from scratch. It is not repurposed. The sculptor took the image of a broken clay jar, added holes, lights and a pump for water and created a fountain. What you might see as an old broken, discarded pot is now something beautiful! Do we identify with the pot’s brokenness and perhaps think of Cohen’s song, believing we are broken but because of that “crack” we can experience God’s light? Of course that’s a wonderful meditation. Yet, that’s not what the sculptor did here. Instead, he/she started with new materials and created a lighted fountain.
The pot is not broken. The light is not shining in through the cracks; it is shining outward from the inside.
And this reminds me of the day 16 years ago when “Damien,” a core member from The Arch in Clinton, a man with cerebral palsy, stood in front of our community in the living room of Arch II and sang “Be Not Afraid.” I had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was awaiting surgery and chemo. I felt as if Damien healed me that day.
Let me quote from my book “Walking on a Rolling Deck:” “. . . he stood up, his hands twisted and bent in on themselves, his face scrunched, and sang ‘and when you face the power of hell, and death is at your side, you will see the face of God and live. Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come, follow me. For I will give you rest.’ Three days later I was with Damien at Mass. Completely at random, I flipped the pages to ‘All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things will be well.’ Damien’s not broken. None of us is. None of us ever was.”
I believe that I am whole as I am, and whatever I have determined to be broken and cracked is what the sculptor created so that God’s light can shine through from the inside.
(Kathy Berken has a master’s degree in theology from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn. She lived and worked at The Arche, L’Arche in Clinton 1999-2009 and is author of “Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark (stories from The Arch).”)