Broken Pieces

There’s this piece of wood attached to my deck that’s become undone. Nothing real uncommon about it, and most people never notice it. In fact, there are about 30 other pieces of wood that make up the support system to the railing. All are about 16 inches in length and all serve the same aesthetically pleasing purpose. I’m sure not many people have noticed this one loose piece. But since i’ve been on the deck so much, and because the deck belongs to me I have taken notice.

I’ve often pushed the nail back into it’s designated slot, but no matter the effort it always greets me unhooked when I step out on the back deck. I have even thought of replacing the nail and reconstructing this particular part of the deck, but never done it. The deck still works. No one is in danger because of this one loose piece. I would even say it gives the deck some character. It’s difficult to think that any deck is as perfect as it looks. It doesn’t have to be a deck, but take any part of a house, material or object and it would be hard to persuade it’s meticulous perfection. However, at a passing glance it would look perfectly normal. But take any object you have in mind and I’m sure there is some characteristic flaw to it.

We, as people, are the same way. I don’t care if it’s one piece or many, there are a variety of “undone” pieces to us as humans. Some, more than others, would seem normal or even perfect at a passing glance. And this is how many of us live our lives. Looking at other people for a short while grants a skewed perception of the reality of the situation. Others are less convincing, but in the grand scheme of the matter it doesn’t make much difference. The point of it is that there are flaws to a work of art. But it is often in the eyes of it’s beholder.

Now, I didn’t build this deck, I wasn’t there at the conception of it, I am not even the first owner. But I notice the flaws because I have come to know it well. Ask any artist their opinion of their work and for every compliment you have for it, they will have 2 more flaws they see in it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of their work, but they notice every detail. They know when each part was put together and when each mistake was made. And at the end of it, we seem to add the negatives on a greater scale than the positives.

This ought not how it should be. Let us look for a moment at us – people. We are a work of art. There are not many people that would disagree with that. I mean, just look at what we can do. The very fact that we can perceive, think and react is an amazing thing. And we do this every day. In essence, perceiving, thinking and reacting is what makes us human. But we have gotten to know ourselves well. And others. And when we like what we see in another, we think it is better than what we have and begin to look at ourselves a little different. This happens on a variety of different scales and in many different tiers. Nonetheless, it is not normal. Although it has become the norm.

If you are familiar with the Adam & Eve story, it is easy to see the truth of the “original” norm. Adam & Eve lived in a beautiful garden at the beginning of time, thought nothing of their weight, hairstyle or personality. And when they embarked on a road of destruction, they were ashamed of who they were. And they hid.

We’ve come a long way from that. And not necessarily in a great way. With so much exposure to people and media, it’s dizzying the amount of “stuff” we see on a daily basis. So why couldn’t they have stayed in the garden? Without jealousy, envy or hatred? That sounds like a better life. I would much rather live a life resembling a “Garden of Eden” mentality.

There’s something to be said about the man or woman that people follow. A. W. Tozer points out that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are. The Kings, Presidents and idols set the moral pace for the people. I began looking at the characteristics of leaders. And what I found surprised me. It isn’t great speech or a grandiose of followers that make people want to resemble another. Great leaders can be simplified into this: confidence in the man or woman they are, and the comfortability to admit their flaws. It takes a proud man to ignore his “broken pieces”, but it takes a humble one to accept his flaws and allow himself to be mended.

At the end of this post, I stepped back on that porch where the piece of wood hangs loose. At the end of the day, it’s up to me whether I will fix it or not. But as I stood there, my attention turned to the support the deck gave. The strong foundation and the craftiness each piece brings to the construction of the deck. There are some things in life that need immediate repair. But for the most part, we just need a little perspective change.

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A Boat Called “Layla”

There was this dream floating around that I would own a boat one day and sail the seven seas. I figured “why not?” The seas aren’t going anywhere and pirates are probably really nice people. I was 7.

But to be honest with my 7-year old self, it was never really about the open water or befriending pirates; it was about the boat – “Layla”. You see, Layla and I were destined to share in great adventures with one another. I would take care of her, paint her and scrub scallops from her underbelly, and she would get me through the storms and unexpected tides of the deep blue. And hey, if we did meet pirates Layla and I would be the best hosts they would have the fortune to meet.

As the story would have it, I met Layla on an old dock in Maine’s northeastern shore at the first dim light of evening. I would remember it so well because as the sun was just setting this particular eve, she was the only jewel still glowing. Her pearl white complexion contrasted with utter perfection against her deep oak wood belly. The sails, smoothly caressed by the wind and gently splashed sea water, beckoned for a captain worthy to sail such an elegant craft.

The next morning she was mine.

From that morning on, I had a duty. A commitment to Layla and to myself that I would take care of what was mine and she would be the best looking boat in any dock we set anchor in.

Layla wasn’t perfect when we met. But Lord knows I wasn’t either. We started with her. A fine scrub did her well and new intricately sewn sails were all so fitting for a boat of her stature. A fresh paint job did us both in; bringing her a beauty that was untouchable and developed in me strong character. The interior needed work too. There was that cabinet that would never stay shut, and, oh, that flickering light in the bathroom drove me nearly mad.

Layla taught me something more, however. There are some things that shouldn’t be fixed. They don’t need to be. You learn to love them all the more because of their quirkiness and imperfections. It’s what gives them character and they soak into the deepest part of your heart.

Layla put up with me as well. Especially in the early days when I was so rough with her sails and could never catch the current just right. She never let us tip though. I give credit to her patience with me. And before long we made it. And when we did, we realized something. The seven seas were ours. The open skies and all the deep blue water we could want was at our fingertips. To this day, I believe our bond was certified by this moment. A sort of marriage if you will.

But that’s as far as the story goes for now. My imagination can’t push out another drop of possible adventures quite yet. Perhaps I’m waiting to meet my own “Layla” to share in adventures with. My life isn’t at a stand still and I’m not in agony that the story is currently incomplete. But I’m hopeful that one day “Layla” and I will search those seven seas. And that we will see unforgetable sites and turn strangers into comrades. By the way, I’m sure pirates are really nice people. See you soon “Layla”.

Context for “A Boat Called Layla” here.