Broken

My daughter dropped her new iPhone on the hardwood floor of our hallway.

Big mistake.

I heard it when it hit the floor, and there was a sharp SMACK. She was down the hall, and I didn’t see what happened, but, as a dad, I just had a sixth sense that it was that shiny new phone that had made the sound. The moan that followed from the hallway confirmed my hunch.

“Oooooohhhhhhhhh,” was the exclamation that I heard, and it swelled in intensity at the end.

She couldn’t look at it, not at first.

She brought it straight to me, cradling it in her cupped hands, holding it as she would a wounded bird that might, by some miracle, be nursed back to health, and find its wings again.

It had landed on its face, and she had picked it up gingerly, not turning it over for fear of what she would find.

“Dad, I just dropped my phone, and I think it might have broken the screen.” Her face was scrunched with a mixture of terror and pain, mingled with shining eyes that were at the very verge of tears. “I haven’t looked at it yet, and I can’t! Please, you look at it, and tell me if its broken.”

I took the phone, and turned it over.

She had only had the phone a few weeks, and the word proud is a bit tame to describe her general emotion upon leaving the Apple store.

To her credit, she didn’t flaunt it; but if her brother so much as breathed in the general direction of that shiny bit of technology, the war was on. Battle lines formed in our home very quickly when it came to that certain little mixture of metal and glass.

I still had the old iPhone 4, and her mom was a little ahead of me with the iPhone 4S, but our firstborn had the distinct privilege of being the only one in the house with the bad boy, the iPhone 5.

Pride certainly does come before a fall.

And it happened to fall in that perfect way, head over heel, striking the floor at that exact angle, on its corner, to shatter the glass in a spiderweb of cracks, covering the digital time, the faces of her friends, and the current weather conditions with what looked a cracked, dry riverbed of glass.

She was watching my face intently, full of dread, but still hoping that the verdict was a positive one.

My lips tightened, and she knew.

My eyes narrowed and darted up from the ruined screen, and the tears that had been threatening since that fateful slip poured out.

“Nooooooo!” she cried. Her cheeks instantly grew red, and her forehead wrinkled with the obvious stress of losing a loved one so close to you.

She took it from my hand, and peered into the depths of the shattered shards. And then she did the most natural thing.

With her thumb, she swiped the screen, near the bottom, to unlock the device.

She only wanted to see if the phone still worked. She wanted to see that, though broken, the poor abused phone could still perform, still work.

She just wanted to make sure that all was not a total loss, and, though marred, her once beautiful phone would live to perform another day. She could live with a superficial loss, but not a total one.

But she got more than she bargained for.

The phone opened to her home screen, and also opened quite a long gash on the pad of her thumb. The broken shards of glass attacked and pierced this one who had handled them so carelessly, as ants ravage the unfortunate toes of one who dares break the crusty mound of their home.

“Thhhssssssssss!” She pulled her breath in sharply, and almost dropped the phone again in the process. Her wounded thumb went straight to her mouth, and she sucked at it, as if locking her thumb away in the home that it often enjoyed during childhood would make it all better.

Before me stood a crying, hitching, bleeding mess. Not to mention a broken $800 piece of technology.

How does life degrade so quickly?

It seems all is right with the world, and suddenly we find ourselves holding broken pieces, and those pieces that we hold are turning on us even still, cutting and slicing at us without remorse.

“Well,” I said with regret, “you should have been more careful. I know it was an accident, but accidents happen. I hate it, babe. But you are just going to have to live with it.”

The cries escalated at that point. It seems that harsh bluntness and matter-of-factness continue to be my go-to response, and that response doesn’t translate well when dealing with a weeping, emotionally distraught thirteen year old girl.

I reached into the drawer beside our bar, and pulled out the Scotch tape that we use to wrap Christmas gifts.

“Let me see if I can fix this, at least temporarily,” I said with a sigh. I peeled off tape strips and tore them at the jagged cutting edge of the dispenser. “Let’s take the case off, and this will keep you from getting cut again. Hopefully the phone will still work.”

The tears continued, but the flow was partially stemmed by this new development. Could it actually be fixed so easily?

I stuck the tape to the front of the glass, pulling the small, loose shards away from the surface. I kept sticking and unsticking the tape until I felt pretty sure that all the stray glass was stuck to the tape.

Then, I stuck strips of tape to the front of the iPhone, wrapping them all across the front and sticking the edges to the back of the phone. Pretty soon, the whole front of the phone was “bandaged” with tape.

You could see through the clear tape to the screen below, and the touch capacitors which operate the mechanisms of the screen still worked fine. All the cracks in the glass were covered, and this meant no more bloody fingers every time the phone rang and had to be answered.

Was it perfect? No.

Was it pretty? No.

Was it still functional? Fortunately, yes.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t too hard on her about it. I thought the lesson of being careful with a fragile device like that had already been learned. The hard way, unfortunately.

But the real reason I took it easy on her was simple; I had dropped my own phone more times than I could count. It’s easy to get careless with something that is common to you.

And it is easy to get careless with something that you begin to take for granted.

Fact is, I’ve dropped something a lot worse than my phone.

I’ve dropped people.

People who were very important to me, but, because of familiarity, I handled them a little too carelessly.

Tossed them and their feelings around without much thought, and used them like you would a lifeless piece of metal and glass.

Pulled what I could from them, and only thought about their usefulness to me, rather than considering their importance, their desires, their thoughts, their emotions.

And some of them broke. Some of them landed hard, face first, and they broke.

My carelessness resulted in their broken spirit, and the next time I got close enough to touch them, it was me who got cut.

Cut by my own carelessness. My own mishandling. My own abuse.

You might put a little bandage on it. You might even make the relationship functional.

But you can’t fix the broken parts. They just have to be lived with.

~

We eventually replaced that broken, abused old phone. We traded it in on the newer model, and wouldn’t you know that it was bigger and better and faster than before.

But when people are broken in our lives by our carelessness, I believe that God wants that relationship mended. He will not allow us to simply “write off” that relationship, because he knows we will be just as careless with the new one.

(By the way, that brand new iPhone that my daughter received to replace the old, damaged one? The screen is already cracked.)

Instead, He wants us to mend it.

He wants us to pick up the broken pieces that we were so careless with, and He wants us to tape it, paste it, glue it back together, the best that we can.

He wants us to remember the damage.

He wants us to feel the rough edges.

He wants us to look at the scars from the cuts that our dark hearts created. And He wants us to make sure that we can learn to handle the people in our lives with care.

When we can handle others with love and care, and consider them not as a tool from which to receive, but as a friend with which to share… We will wake up one day to find that the relationship truly has been mended.

When we make the choice to live with the regret, learn from the regret, and not throw the person away, we will find that God, through His forgiveness, has given us a new heart, and that the relationship with the broken has been restored.

He works best with the broken.

He teaches us how to love, to cherish, and to forgive.

He reshapes the old with something greater than we ever had before.

The same, but better. Newer.

And that is when God gives us the upgrade.

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