Damaged Goods

Damaged Goods

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1965 Glasspar Goldcup

This is what I saw in my mind the first time I saw the boat, though I knew it would take a lot of work to get it to this poiit

I have an old Fiberglas boat, it is a 1965 Glaspar Goldcup  16' runabout with a 1965 Johnson Super Seahorse outboard that I bought at a city auction in Omaha, Nebraska years ago to replace a little fishing boat someone relieved me of in the middle of the night. I paid $250 for the boat, trailer, engine and the whole shebang, but when I bought it, it wasn't exactly seaworthy. I had to put a lot of time, effort and money into making it usable, and even more to get it to where I envisioned it when I bought it.

When I hauled the boat home so I could start working on it it was a mess, to say the least. All but one seat was missing, and the one that was there basically consisted of a piece of foam, splinters of wood and few shreds of the vinyl that used to cover it. The floor was rotten and spongy, the transom was so rotten that it barely held the weight of the engine, the steering cables were rusty and would not allow the steering wheel to turn, there was mold and hornets nests everywhere and both wheel bearings went out half way home to Lincoln, 50 miles away and the tires didn't last much farther.

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How I found it

This is the condition I purchased the boat in, but I had no intention of leaving it the way it was when I purchased it.

At the time I worked as a tour bus driver and when I wasn't on the road  my employer allowed me to use the bus garage on evenings and weekends to work on the boat. After removing the outboard and starting work on the transom I realized the wood was so rotten and water logged that I could remove it with my bare hands and it was almost miraculous that I didn't loose the outboard somewhere on I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln. It took me at least fifty hours to replace the transom, and after that I had to build seats and cover them, replace the floor, replace the steering cable, replace all the fuel lines and a few gaskets, rebuild the fuel pump, replace the water pump, replace all the lights and the horn, buy a battery and a few other things. I finally got around to painting the boat and putting carpet in it last summer. I have no realistic estimation of the time or money I have invested in that boat, but it is a lot. I hate to admit it, but I put more time and effort into my boat than I have some of my relationships, which may be part of the reason I am single.  

Why did I tell the story of my boat? If you were to say that I love the old boat and I am proud of what I have done with it you would be right, but I mostly mentioned it for another, more relevant reason. There is a parallel to my boat and the potential I saw in it when it was at its worst and didn't give up on it and how God sees each and every one of us. Most of us, at some point, and even now for some, has seen or sees ourselves as damaged goods, something not worth wasting time on. Most of us also look at some other people as damaged goods, even if we are not willing to admit it. I have a cousin who loudly proclaims how poorly they think of those who have made mistakes in their lives and does not see any reason to give any of them a second chance. This cousin writes people off and, so far as I can tell, doesn't have an ounce of compassion for those who are suffering in this lost and dying world, and I suspect it is partially because my cousin is also broken and suffering.

We are all lucky that God doesn't look at us the way in which we look at other people or the way in which we look at ourselves. When we, as imperfect and broken people look at people we see their faults, their failures, their brokenness. We estimate the value of people by their failures and judge them to be worthless. A homeless person is seen holding a sign and it is immediately determined that he or she is only in that position because they are too lazy to work or because they are an alcoholic or an addict. A single mother is often thought of as someone who has loose morals and it is assumed the child or children were born out of wedlock. When a woman files for divorce it is more often than not assumed that her husband was either unfaithful or cheated on her. We often don't know those people we are judging and if we were honest we would be forced to admit that we are every bit as messed up and broken as they are, though perhaps not as visibly.

When we ask people how they are doing we are typically expecting a "fine" so we can move on but are irritated when the person goes on to explain that his or her world is imploding around them and they are not coping well because we don't want to involve ourselves in someone else's problems, especially if they are a stranger. We want to associate with people who can do things for us and people who make us look better to other people, not people who will cause us to be judged just by our association.

One of the many tasks that I am responsible for at work is opening the incoming packages, inspecting them to make sure they are what we ordered, that they are not damaged, and to make sure they get to the correct person or department. One package that arrived a few weeks ago had a large orange sticker on it that said, "Don't accept if damaged," and at first I started to throw away the now empty box but thought again and removed the sticker and kept it. The reason I kept the sticker is because it occurred to me that humans look at each other, and sometimes themselves, like they have a sticker that says not to accept them if they are damaged.

If we are honest, everyone is at least a little damaged, even those who appear to have it all together, and sometimes especially those who appear to have it all together. Sometimes the tough exterior and the confidence are just a facade to hide the damaged core.

When I was young, somewhere in my teens, I was watching a popular television preacher by the name of Robert W. Schambach, and before the sermon started one of the people involved with the program said that God wants you to come just as you are. This was one of Schambach's televised tent revivals that was also broadcast on the radio and a passing man saw the signs or perhaps heard the invitation over the radio and walked into the service. To the best of my recollection, the man was wearing jeans, boots, a flannel shirt and a ball cap. The man tried to slip in unnoticed and sat down in the first open seat he saw.

Just before the man walked in Schambach was saying that when God is on the move the devil will always try to disrupt it somehow, so when he saw the man from the pulpit he stopped preaching and yelled, "That man is wearing a hat in the house of the Lord. Get that devil out of here! Get that devil out of here!" and with that two of the staff members rushed in and grabbed the man under the arms and drug him out of the tent. Apparently "come just as you are" had a different meaning to Schambach. I consider it to be disrespectful to wear a hat in a church or in someone's house, but I would never consider reacting in the manner in which I saw on that program; I just politely ask for the hat to be removed, and if it isn't, I don't make a big deal out of it.

For all I know, the man getting dragged out could have been planned as some sort of an object lesson, but I doubt it. It is more likely that the man just happened to walk in at the wrong time and Schambach decided it would be a good opportunity to illustrate that what he was saying about the devil causing a disruption was true, only I see the devil working through Shcambach and not the man with the hat. The man wearing the hat was simply answering the call to come to the Lord just as you are and Schambach denied him that, and in effect, was doing the devil's work.

Let us consider the ramifications of what happened. What if that man was in a vulnerable place, suffering from loss, heartache, or even suffering from an addiction and racked with guilt from bad decisions and sincerely wanted to hear about Jesus and wanted to give his heart to God. If this man was not a person who regularly attended church the probability of that being the last time he stepped foot in a church, or even considered it, are extremely high. From all we know, a sincere seeker of Christ was turned away when he needed Christ the most by a man who claimed to represent Christ, all because he wanted to use the unfortunate man as an object lesson to stoke his own ego when his only goal should have been to bring such a one to Jesus.

The very first time I attended the church that I now attend, almost three years ago, I was immediately impressed how open, loving and welcoming the people there were. There was a couple there who made it blatantly obvious that they put no effort into dressing appropriately for church or into living any aspect of the Christian life, and it was also obvious they only attended for the free donuts and coffee and in hopes that the church and the members would help them financially. Still, that couple was treated with as much love and respect as the well dressed family that showed up in the Escalade. I don't know where that couple is today as they moved on once they ran the financial generosity well dry, but I hope they are doing well and I pray for them often. I pray that they find Jesus in a real and lasting way that changes their lives. How you dress to church isn't all that important, but whether or not you accept Christ and whether or not you make an effort to live like you are saved is supremely important.

Some people view the broken as useless and not worth merit and try to distance themselves from such people so their friends won't think they associate with such unsavory characters. I often like to make a parallel between our brokenness and how God repairs us and the ancient Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, which translates to "golden joinery." In an article about Kintsugi I read recently I learned the history of the art.

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Kintsugi

The process of mending broken things with gold, which makes them more valuable then they were before they were broken.

"Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or  tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and Kintsugi was born.


Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change." (1)

When we are broken it leaves a hole or a crack that only Jesus can fill and when it is filled the whole is more beautiful than it was before it was broken. Please don't misunderstand me; I don't think that God orchestrates or plans our suffering, but He does use our pain and suffering for our own good and for the good of those around us. In Kintsugi the dishes are filled and repaired with gold powder in a resin, but the resin Jesus fills our cracks and brokenness with is more precious than all the precious metals in the world.

One of the popular ways in which people discount other people is to say that they don't want to get involved with anyone who has baggage because they don't want anymore drama in their life. Jesus sought out the broken and those who had baggage and drama. We, of course, should not feel compelled to get involved with other people's issues and baggage, but we can overlook their baggage and love them like God wants us to love them, the way we want God and others to love us. Jesus did not spend the bulk of his time with the rich and powerful but rather the poor, the sick, the outcasts, the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the sinners.

In Luke 5: 27-31 we read about how Jesus felt about those who were broken and how others looked at Him for it.
'After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

'Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'

'Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus did not come to save the righteous, and by the way, the only way to be righteous is though Jesus which means that everyone needs His saving, He came to save the broken and the sinners. Jesus didn't come to buy a perfect product, he came to save the damaged goods.

Even when Jesus went to Samara, a land populated with people who were hated and despised by the Jews, He found the one person who was the most outcast in the entire city and talked to her with love, compassion and understanding. Jesus pointed out the woman's sins, but not in judgement; Jesus wanted to make the woman aware of her sins and aware of the forgiveness that only He could offer. People often look to the wrong sources to fix their brokenness and emptiness.

In the popular nursery rime Humpty Dumpty by Mother Goose it speaks about Humpty Dumpty, who was assumed to be an egg but was never specified in the source material, his disastrous fall and the subsequent attempts at putting him back together.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

I often wonder if, perhaps, poor Humpty Dumpty might have had a better chance of survival had all the king's men had made an attempt at putting him back together before all the king's horses tried, stomping him and mixing him about with their massive hooves. In life we often go to the wrong source to put us back together, we think that when we are broken that new clothes or shoes, a new car, a new house, a relationship or the praise of people will make us whole, but like poor Humpty Dumpty after the horses tried to put him back together, we are more broken than ever. Often we see ourselves, or others, as too broken to fix, especially after the incompetent and clumsy horses of the world and the slightly more capable but still utterly incompetent men tried and failed to fix us or them. We think we, or they, are too far gone, so broken, so wrong that even the master of the universe can't right us.  

My three favorite poems are Hard Rock by Ethridge Knight, The Village Smithy by Longfellow and The Touch of the Master's Hand by Myra Welch Brooks. From the time I first heard it, The Touch of the Masters hand has been my favorite poem, no small part of which is the way it portrays people as a parallel to a battered and abused violin that is made precious beyond the telling by the master violinist.


'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.

"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

"And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

- Myra Brooks Welch

I have always found that poem to be so beautiful because it teaches that though we are abuse, scarred and broken and are considered by the world to be damaged goods we are precious in the sight of God and regardless of what has happened to us in life, what he have done or how many scars we have, the master can still make us worth more than all the gold in the world. We were made by God and He knows exactly what we are worth, and in fact, He thinks we are so valuable that we are worth the life of His only son, Jesus, the only person to ever live a sinless life.

NOTES:
 Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold,  https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

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