Last year, I came across this picture – or I guess I came across this idea. I thought about it a lot, and I still do, which is why there’s a copy in my office now. I don’t have very many conversations about what to do when life is going really well, people don’t pop in to chat quite as often when their relationships are new and exciting  and wonderful. People know what to do with that – admire it, hold it, love it, keep it safe. We work tremendously hard to do that. But the world is not perfect, and we are not perfect, and sometimes our very best intentions are not enough to prevent the occasional chip or crack.

In my experience, very few of us ever intend the damage we cause to others. The bowl wasn’t hurled deliberately at a wall, it just slipped through our fingers faster than we could close them. Careless actions and thoughtless words that got away in the heat of the moment. Even when our tempers flare, and we know our words will hurt, very rarely do we intend the harm they cause.

That gold, though, that precious line of repair – it is very deliberate. When we are suddenly faced with the reality of pieces that we never meant to break, we gather them up and begin the work of carefully and gently repairing them. Those gold lines are the attentive, thoughtful acts, the kind and gracious words, the gentle and patient touch that we invest into restoring what matters to us, because it is far too valuable to let go. They are a far more honest reflection of our love than the unbroken or the breaking ever was.

Is it more beautiful than it was in the first instance? I think so. Is it stronger? I’d say so. Would it have been better not to break it? Yes, probably, but treasured things shouldn’t be locked away so they can never get hurt – they should be looked at everyday, and enjoyed, and repaired lovingly along the way. Without the gold, it’s just another bowl. Valuable yes, but not so precious, and certainly not unique.

Perhaps the same is true for us personally – most of us don’t learn our most important lessons from our glorious, shining moments. We learn them from our heartbreaking ones, from our failures, from our missed opportunities. Some of my flaws still run very deep and wide, and there is nowhere near enough gold in them yet. But they are mine, and they make me who I am.