God takes our broken pieces, creates beauty

Published 7:30 am Sunday, January 23, 2022

Two weeks ago, a church in a rural town in Tennessee caught fire. According to news reports, an older sanctuary alongside the current sanctuary burned to the ground.

One of my cousins found out about the church fire and informed family members. She knew we would want to know because our grandfather pastored that church in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s until he died in 1972. As a teen, I spent weeks each summer visiting my grandparents, and I heard my grandfather preach many sermons in that old sanctuary.

Years after his death, the congregation’s membership grew and eventually they built a much larger sanctuary. To honor the memory of my grandfather, a beautiful stained glass window of Jesus walking the water was placed above the baptistry. News photos of the church following the fire show the front wall of the sanctuary completely destroyed. The stained glass window must have been shattered and is now a pile of broken pieces.

Since that happened, I decided to research how stained glass windows are made. First, an artist sketches a full-size drawing of the whole window. Different colors are chosen for the design. Then, a dividing iron with a heated tip is placed on the surface of the glass, cutting it into rough shapes as designed. An iron bar with a slot at each end chips away the edges of the glass to create the exact shape designed by the artist.

Next, the pieces of glass are painted and placed in a kiln. The intense heat of the kiln fuses the paint to the glass surface. Then, the pieces are placed on the artist’s drawing and held together with narrow flexible strips of lead to form a panel. To secure the glass and waterproof the window, a semi-liquid cement is applied around the strips.

Stained glass windows have been displayed in churches for over 1000 years. They have been called the “Poor Man’s Bible” because so many churchgoers across Europe during the Middle Ages were illiterate. These beautiful pieces of art helped people understand the Bible. These windows still speak to us today. They tell the Gospel – the story of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. Some depict the Bible characters from the Old Testament, like Moses holding the Ten Commandments, and the New Testaments, depicting the apostles or stories such as the Holy Spirit descending like a dove after John the Baptist had baptized Jesus or the Good Shepherd holding a little lamb.

Thinking about the stained glass window in the Tennessee church, I saw an analogy about life. Troubles happen to us unexpectedly that can cause us to go all too pieces. Sometimes, we may feel as though we are going through a seemingly forever fiery trial and we are falling apart. These times are part of our life story. Just like stained glass windows, God can take our broken pieces and skillfully fit them together into magnificent murals that reflect His glory.

God’s Word promises that He “is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 24:18). Knowing the tough times of his childhood, it’s remarkable that God called my grandfather to become a minister. God used the broken pieces of his life and made a lasting legacy of faith.