Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Shards of Truth

I never liked the taste of coffee. When I was younger, coffee was simply coffee. During college, friends around me consumed large quantities to stay up late studying for finals. Straight out of the pot, with no fanfare. Then coffee became a thing—suddenly there were specialty coffee drinks, and coffee toppings, and coffee-flavored ice cream and coffee bean-scented candles. And the price of a simple cup of joe skyrocketed.

This affected me none because I’m a hot tea drinker.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prissy, pinky-out kind of sipper (although that pinky-out thing is actually incorrect etiquette). I’m a tea-bag-in-a-mug sort of consumer. But there were a number of years—early on, before children—when I toyed with loose tea imported from the Far East (Savannah, Georgia) with such superfluous names as “Madame Butterfly” and “Emperor’s Bride.” It was during this very decadent time in my life when loved ones gifted me with fancy teapots and teacups and saucers. My cupboards and armoires were absolutely bursting with them.

Then I had kids. And I would find my tepid mug of tea in the microwave hours after I had stuck it in on reheat. Pinky out, indeed.

Which is why I recently donated one of these precious teapots to be carried to the top of a staircase at my daughter’s high school, only to be dropped and smashed on the concrete floor below. Painted porcelain in broken pieces on the ground. This was all for a good cause, of course. My daughter’s ceramics class was taking broken pottery pieces and making them into repurposed art.

I forgot about the teapot the moment I handed it over for smashing.

Imagine my surprise when months later, I opened a Christmas gift to find a necklace made from a broken shard of the red-and-white teapot. This daughter also gave porcelain-piece necklaces to her grandmothers while making rings from the shards for her sister and herself. It was a creative way to breathe life to something dormant, long forgotten behind the armoire door.

It wasn’t until I was wearing my necklace one day that the symbolic nature of the gift really hit me. Sure, I’ve read about broken vessels letting light shine through, and I love the analogy. But carrying the brokenness around my neck for all the world to see (and comment on) made me feel something even greater. The pot was never mended but it was transformed—and it was transformed by sharing the shards with others. Now something precious and dormant was suddenly vibrant and vital. And it was a gift of love.

How many times have I hidden my brokenness so that others would only consider the untouched teapot on the shelf? Perhaps they could imagine a high-tea version of my life so that the crumpets (and not the crumbles) were my real truth? When, in fact, sharing my messy storyline would actually encourage others to share—and hopefully be healed—by sharing the messy shards of their truth? And we could carry the burden for each other.

Yes, it’s a messy life filled with brokenness and spills. And life isn’t made any easier by the picture-perfect posts of our social media world. But we have a chance to put together an ensemble with pieces of our past for all the world to see (and comment on) if we could only be brave and strong enough. It would make this season we all share on earth that much more palatable.

It will cost a lot (our quest for perfection), but the end result is something even more precious than the vessel that we started with. I’ll buy you a fancy cup of joe and we can discuss.