While I was on Sabbatical Leave in autumn 2012 I took a week’s retreat at the Society of Mary and Martha in Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor. It was a wonderfully refreshing and relaxing time. On my last day I went into their little shop and saw a small stone angel, praying. I felt that it would be a nice reminder of my time on retreat, and also a reminder of the on-going prayerful support of others in my life, and how I can be that for others too. So I bought it (along with some wonderful home-made chutney).
I placed it on our mantelpiece at home and it sat there happily, praying, until one day the angel got knocked off. Despite having wings it did not so much fly as plummet and hit the stone hearth below. It split into fragments. I managed to find most of them, but could not find the ‘hands’.
I thought about throwing it away, but I couldn’t bring myself to, so instead I glued the angel back together, hoping that I might later find the ‘hands’ to complete it again. If this was a lovely story the next bit would be about me finding the ‘hands’ when I least expected it and in an unexpected place. But it’s not a lovely story – I have never found the hands. It is a story about learning from God.
The damaged praying angel now sits in my study on my desk – not lovely enough for the mantelpiece. I looked at it a little earlier and felt another urge to throw it away. It is still damaged and incomplete.
Then I paused. Perhaps the damaged angel is now a reminder of different things. It is a reminder that God loves and values me no matter how broken or damaged I am. He is not going to discard me. It is a reminder that my praying is not perfect but is still appreciated and important. It is a reminder that God’s Spirit is restoring me, but that work is not completed this side of death. It is a reminder that it is better to come to God humbly aware of our brokenness and failings than to come proud and full of self-righteousness and self-importance.
So the broken angel has an important place on my desk. And those reminders have an important place in my life.
Be blessed, be a blessing.