Recently, while traveling down the interstate, I noticed a billboard I had passed many times before, yet never really read. Bold white words stamped on a soft baby-blue background read, “Broken crayons still color.” At first I only smiled and continued driving, but then, in the same way a warm breeze can bring back a long lost memory, the big white words transported me back to a wooden table situated in a dimly lit dining room.
When I worked for hospice I often said that I was paid to play, but honestly I learned some very valuable lessons about life, love, and loss while coloring submarines and drawing dragons. This time I had been called to meet with a seven-year-old boy whose dad had been murdered the week before. This particular visit taught me a lesson I never want to forget.
As we sat there rummaging through my box of crayons looking for particular colors to complete our masterpieces. My little friend and I discovered that many of my crayons were bent and broken. I had a bad habit of leaving my coloring box in the car on hot days. I should have remembered my childhood discovery that crayons don’t react well to heat. I had learned this the hard way as I scraped splattered crayon from the roof of my grandmothers microwave after attempting to make finger paint by heating crayons in a Styrofoam bowl.
I apologized to the boy that my crayons were in such poor shape. I remember saying, “I should probably throw all the broken ones away.” He looked at me with a confused expression, selected a broken cherry red Crayola that was missing its wrapper, and said, “Why would you do that? Broken crayons still work.” Whether he realized it or not, this seven-year-old taught me a much-needed life lesson. Broken and useless are not synonymous.
We’re all broken in different ways. Some of us have been broken by the consequences of our own choices, while others have been broken through no fault of their own. We acknowledge that brokenness is an unavoidable part of our world and our lives, yet it seems inescapable and leaves us feeling worn down and sometimes even worthless. Do broken things have a place in God’s kingdom? Can all the pieces ever be put back together again?
The answer is yes. Jesus is the good news in the middle of our mess. He came to make good out of what sin made bad. Great beauty can arise from great brokenness when placed in the hands of a skilled artist. Looking back, I remember the final strokes my little friend added to his picture. I can still see him hard at work, his tongue barely sticking out of the corner of his mouth. When he finished, he proudly held up his picture for my approval, and I have to say it may have just been the most beautiful red rose a seven-year-old boy ever imagined onto paper; and to think it was done with a broken crayon!
In much the same way, God has a way of making a masterpiece out of a mess. He can take the shattered, disorganized pieces of our lives and build a breathtaking stain glass display of grace. I’ve learned not to be so quick to throw away the broken ones because they may be just the color needed to perfect the masterpiece. Broken can be made beautiful when placed in the hands of the Master Artist. Broken crayons still color.
-Pastor Benjamin Webb