Tonight I’m remembering a valuable dish that broke, the most valuable dish I ever owned, and I’m feeling glad that it broke.
The dish was a gift from one of the sainted widows in my congregation, a token of her esteem for me. She called it “Kitchen Ming” because it was from the Ming dynasty, but nothing fancy. She assured me she’d used it as a serving dish for years. It was blue and white, quite hefty in the hand, a perfect size to serve potatoes to a table of 12.
A little awed by it, I put it on my coffee table, and occasionally filled it with pears or clementines. The blue was a nice addition to my living room, and I loved knowing that it had value. A glance at it reassured me that my years of ministry had value, that somebody noticed.
Fast forward a few years — parties, visits from toddlers, ordinary comings & goings — and still the Kitchen Ming was intact.
Until one day it wasn’t. The person who broke it was tidying the room, being helpful. She had no negativity in her heart, no malice of forethought, no intention of harm. The dish simply slid from the table and improbably shattered into a dozen pieces, even though it landed on a rug.
From the other room, I — who pride myself on not being a materialist — gasped in dismay.
“Not the Ming!” I cried.
She tried to glue it back together, inconsolable. The glue lines showed. “We can send it somewhere, have the repair done properly,” I said. “I don’t care.” I wanted to believe my own words.
The tears did not stop. “It was the only thing you cared about!” she said. Which was true.
“But it’s only a thing,” I told her.
In 24 hours I believed my words. It WAS only a thing. And I still have the pieces, in a box.
I wish I had not exclaimed at all, that I hadn’t intensified my daughter’s distress. How could any dish compare to the love I feel for my daughter? It is a silly comparison.
Tonight I’m remembering that broken dish with a glad heart because it taught me a lesson. Like a Buddhist might say, “Oh, so THAT’s how it broke.”