God’s Grace in Small Things
Lessons from a Broken Crystal Glass
It happened so suddenly – the swiftness of it all. I was at the kitchen counter pouring water into the kettle which stood too close to two crystal glasses left to dry. Wiping a small spill of water, my hand accidentally knocked over one of the crystal glasses. It broke.
My heart sank in disbelief. The finality of it all. Only yesterday I had enjoyed a homemade Kombucha drink from that Bohemian crystal glass. It was a gift from a dear elderly lady connected with my wife’s now deceased relatives in Heřmanův Mĕstec whom we had visited over 20 years ago. The glass had survived being transported around the world. Now, in a moment, it was gone.
Three realities of life quickly reinforced themselves in my mind – its impermanence, suffering, and the need for less attachment to our material possessions.
For a while I mourned the loss of that Bohemian crystal glass. Firstly, the denial. Momentarily, I couldn’t believe that the glass was broken – never again would a drink be enjoyed from it. Secondly, the anger. Why was I so careless? Couldn’t I have been more mindful? Why did I have to wipe that little spill of water anyway? Thirdly, and predictably, the bargaining. Could the broken piece somehow be glued back into place? Gingerly I picked up the sharp piece of glass and tried inserting it into its original place. But, how could the piece ever be imperceptibly glued back in? Impossible! Finally, a momentary depressed feeling came over me. The hopelessness of it all – the glass was broken for good.
In looking back, I realized that I had lived through the stages of grieving. This was indeed a process that I had to work through by myself – no one could come alongside to either deny the feelings or accelerate movement through the stages. Mourning a loss is always necessary to release the pain. Unexpectedly, however, another phenomenon can occur in grieving – and that is the reawakening of older and unresolved feelings. David Viscott in his book, Emotional Resilience, writes that these companion feelings may appear as intensifiers of the loss, or as a bad mood that seems to appear from nowhere.
I also noticed that these stages of my mourning all dealt with what had happened in the past. I had to let go of the past. This is easier said than done because of the feelings involved. But the past can never be changed or relived. Asking a lot of “why” questions is fruitless.
In the end, I reached acceptance – accepting what I had caused to happen. In doing so, my consciousness shifted from the past to the present. In place of “why” questions, I could focus on “what” questions – what lessons could I learn from this experience, enabling me to live more mindfully today? To further understand acceptance, again I turn to Viscott for the following insights.
The truest healing comes through acceptance of your pain and suffering as it is happening. Acceptance means:
▪ Letting go, without denying the hurt.
▪ Embracing what has happened, even if you do not like it.
▪ Welcoming the truth, even if it hurts.
▪ Being on friendly terms with your pain.
▪ Being willing to admit failure, abandonment, loneliness, powerlessness, and hurting others – all without giving up.
Acceptance is not easy, but it is your only hope for happiness and peace of mind in the face of impossible odds and unthinkable losses. If you don’t accept the loss, you are:
▪ Forced to harbor the pain.
▪ Bound to the past, and have mortgaged your future to suffering.
Some losses can lead one to look at life from a higher perspective. The Scriptures hold out these comforting words: “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (First Letter to the Corinthians). In the broken crystal glass incident, suddenly my wife remembered our having one other crystal glass from overseas, which had rarely been used. In God’s providence, my suffering over this small loss was made bearable.
© Text and photo: Alex Peck
Ref: David Viscott, Emotional Resilience: Simple Truths for Dealing with the Unfinished Business of Your Past (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996), 126.