“The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel.” Judges 21:15
My wife and I just spent a few days at a retreat with an eclectic group of leaders. I had been invited to share some thoughts on worship in relation to solitude and silence. As a part of the presentation I asked my wife if there was something she might provide by way of an experience that would help further advance the theme of the time. As a result we did an “arts and crafts” project during the session that involved coloring on a piece of white paper with various colors of crayon, creating a somewhat random piece of art. She then had them take their precious piece of art and cut it up into twenty squares of equal size. Many in the room were a bit uncomfortable with this destruction of their creation, but they did as they were asked. Then she had them randomly select nine squares and glue them to a black piece of paper. Beneath each square she had them right a meaningful word, phrase or feeling they had encountered after having read Psalm 150 from the Old Testament. In the sharing that followed they all discovered a different beautiful picture created from the random pieces, much like a mosaic created from broken pieces of tile or glass.
I have been reflecting upon the stories in the Old Testament book of Judges of late. One thing I have noticed is the repetitive disconnection from God that Israel exhibits throughout the various stories. This disconnection from God leads to all sorts of difficulty and ultimately results in a deep brokenness that affects not only individuals, but all the twelve tribes. In the final chapters of the book of Judges this brokenness manifests itself internally as one tribe, Benjamin, sets itself against the other eleven tribes of Israel. Having been abused by Benjamin, their brother Israelite, the eleven tribes seek justice for the abuse and war breaks out with lives being lost on both sides. In my reflections it seems that the results of turning away from God ultimately lead to not only personal heartache, but also heartache in the community. The meaningful whole that was Israel was fragmented and broken. Yet in the last chapter an offering of forgiveness and peace is offered to the tribe of Benjamin, who have been defeated and are now in a place of desolation far removed from their homeland. The eleven tribes grieved over their broken relationship and sought to be whole again. In the mercy, indicative of having been in the presence of the Lord, they reached out to offer healing. The fragmented and broken pieces were made whole and beautiful in a way consistent with connection to the Lord of grace and mercy.
Thinking back to the “arts and crafts” project, I am amazed at the beauty that can be achieved with what is broken and fragmented. It is the very thing that the love of God does in our broken and fragmented lives. As I encounter the places of fragmentation in my life and relationships I see a mess, while God, in His love and mercy, sees the pieces of a beautiful mosaic, which in His powerful and skillful hands can be restored to the beauty and purpose He intends. It often takes the hiddenness of solitude and silence to hear the voice of the one who speaks the loving and integrating word of life to us, which is then reflected in a heart of worship. Too often we remain outside and disconnected from that place of hiddenness. There we are, outside in the hurried and busy world that easily can be more disintegrating than integrating to our souls.
As you consider your own life this day you may notice places where you are defined by disconnection and fragmentation. God longs for you, as He does for me, to turn to Him, enter the hidden place and allow Him to take the broken and disconnected pieces of your life and create something truly amazing, beautiful and purposeful. May you discover this day His offer and word of peace, wholeness and restoration. And may you come to see your brokenness, not as something to be hidden, but something to be laid out before the Lord of life who can bring beauty and integration out of the rubble, who creates the artisan mosaic out of random pieces.