Visual Verses #11

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

I’m well aware that the deep insides of a glacier have an almost unbelievable capacity to bend and flow, but the brittle exterior of a glacier is riddled with cracks, fissures, and enormous crevasses. Even as I approached the glacier from the middle of the lake, I was already contemplating its broken appearance. This passage from Psalms didn’t spring to mind. Instead, I was thinking of the line from the song that says, “Heartache, broken pieces, ruined lives are why you died on Calvary.” If you’re familiar with hymns, I’d be surprised if the tune doesn’t come to mind, and you’ll find yourself wanting to finish the rest of that phrase. It turns out that glaciers are at their most photogenic (awesomely beautiful) when they’re broken. When a surface remains intact for a length of time, it weathers. An opaque white barrier replaces the translucent deep blue. It is only because of the continual movement and subsequent breaking into pieces that the hidden qualities of the ice become exposed.

Following the patterns of our human nature, we would just as soon stay in one piece. We want to be like a block of ice separated from its glacier source – to stay in one place and put on an outer barrier. My most consistent thought when I hear about people doing something new is how glad I am that it’s not me. Neither am I excited about opportunities to let my guard down. On the inside we’re insecure, and if we’re being honest, it’s worse than that. On the inside we’re weak.

Fortunately, where we see inability, God sees opportunity. It turns out that the best we have to offer comes from what we simply can’t do on our own, and the more obvious our own limitations are, the more glory God will receive for Himself. God values the offering of a broken spirit because that is something he can use. A stagnant and solid block of ice is of practically no use at all and will eventually just melt away. Surrendering to God is like remaining a part of the active glacier where ice, despite the inevitability of fractures, continues to perform its erosive duty and reveal its inner beauty.

"Broken Pieces" - fractured ice at the face of the Mendenhall Glacier