This morning I woke up hungover from life and late night reading. I thumped downstairs and, amid the din of chatter, started to scramble through the morning routine. Reaching into the overhead cupboard to retrieve the life-giving coffee ingredients, my hand caught on something, sending half a dozen coffee mugs crashing down on me like ceramic lemmings. I caught two. Three landed safely. But one, The One, didn’t survive the fall. Of all the mugs in the closet to break this morning, the one which shattered was my husband’s favorite mug of nearly twenty years: a Dilbert classic—the perfect combination of nerdy and hilarious.
Usually I am quick to clean up broken shards, but I left the remains of coffee mug out so that I could confess when he appeared at breakfast. “I’m sorry,” I said a few minutes later, “I broke your favorite coffee mug.”
“Oh no!” he said in surprise, “Oh well, everything is just trash waiting to happen anyway.”
I looked over at our kids, bent over bowls of granola, and in that moment my sadness was replaced by a tremendous gratitude that not only had my kids seen me break something, but they’d seen their Dad’s theology in action. We spend a lot of time talking about possessions in our house: trying to temper the wants generated by advertising and peers with conversations about stewardship and generosity. Our kids have heard us ask our one question we always ask when wondering “should we buy this?”, and have seen us try to put this into action.
And, again and again, they have come to their Dad in tears about a lost toy, a broken truck, a misplaced whatchamacallit; asking if we can please buy a replacement. The answer is almost always no, with this gentle explanation given: “I’m so glad you got to enjoy that for a while, but everything on this earth is just trash waiting to become trash.”
This morning I broke my husband’s favorite coffee mug, and our kids got to see him respond: first in disappointment, and then with truth. The things that really matter—every spiritual blessing which is his in Christ, and ten thousand more besides—will never perish, spoil and fade.
I’m sorry I broke his mug, but I’m so grateful my kids got to see what happened next. As great as it is for us to be positive role models of hard work, kindness, academic rigor and politeness, it’s important for them to see us make mistakes, burn dinner, experience rejection, lose our tempers and break other people’s favorite things… because it’s in the moments after everything comes crashing down, that character shines through.
Photo Credit: In Pieces (An Auditory Experiment) – Dusk Photography (Flickr Creative Commons)