Cracked Saints Shine Brighter

By Joel A. Hess

An old man and his granddaughter were marveling at the stained glass windows that decorated their old church a couple of kilometers north of Wissauke. Many of the windows displayed a particular saint like John, Peter, or Paul. Unfortunately, grandpa noticed some cracks in the windows. As he mourned for a moment about the general decay of things, his granddaughter tugged at his coat sleeve. “Grandpa!” She said, “These windows are so beautiful.” And before the old man could point out their flaws, she said, “Especially the cracks that let the sun shine through.” Sure enough, the broken windows shined the brightest!

St. Paul discovered this as he went through his neighborhood with major cracks in his character. He was once the Gestapo stealing moms and dads from their homes because of their faith. St. Peter learned this at the expense of his thrice denial of Jesus only to have the one he denied make him a leader in Christ’s church. St. Tyler, Ingrid, Randy, and even I, the one whom Jesus loved, have seen the Son shine through their major flaws as well.

It’s the strangest thing! But there is nothing more beautiful than seeing the streams of forgiveness slip so brightly through the deepest cuts of man. My worst sins have met God’s greatest grace. Not that we should rejoice in sinning, but it’s going to happen. And when it does, a man truly learns what it means to be saved by grace. Only when someone is completely desperate does he get it! There should be more stained glass windows depicting the thief on the cross! There he hung, broken body and broken soul, yet Jesus spoke light upon him. For the first time ever, he knew what it was like to be loved! 

I have had Christ’s light shine on me through these cracked saints. Tearful adulterers rejoicing in Jesus, fallen hard-working church leaders awoken for the first time by Jesus’ work for them, and most amazingly a woman suffering from cancer and all the crap that comes with that, yet she smiled at me as if I was the one who needed to hear that Jesus rose from the dead! Yes, I needed to hear that.

Jesus collects broken saints. He specializes in them. He brings them together and makes a church and declares that the gates of Hell cannot stop their onward march.

Maybe you have learned to cover up your mistakes. Maybe you have learned to pretend to be a perfectly put together stained glass window and hope that people will admire you from afar and not poke too much into your past, or look too carefully at the welding, band-aids, and frail condition of the windowsill. Stop being afraid. Stop pretending. Your neighbors don’t need perfect saints; they need Jesus. They need to know that they don’t need to look like those stained glass windows in Thomas Kinkade paintings. They need to know that the Sun shines brighter through broken saints!

2 thoughts on “Cracked Saints Shine Brighter

  1. I agree with your point of view and your thoughtful analysis. I am writing this while sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Rivoli in downtown Florence, Italy.. I am finishing a 10 day guided tour with my wife and daughter, and we have already visited Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Venice, on this once in a lifetime trip. I basically do not like to travel away from the US, away from my comfort zone and too far from my daily rituals and routines. Your commentary mentions the “general decay of things,” and I must say…after sightseeing the Vatican artifacts, the paintings, the old ruins and decaying statues of Christian antiquity….it is easy to conclude how much we followers of Jesus got terribly wrong over the centuries. We ignored the simplicity of Our Lord’s words to remain humble and remember that all things, beginning with our own bodies, will decay and perish over time. And all of the decaying monuments and extraneous rituals we prize so highly are anathema to the Gospel. Stained glass does not identify a faithful church. It is an ornamen the only, lIke the prideful ornaments we wear spiritually. We are all broken indeed, as you pointed out, and we need to remember that the cracks are still there, and we cannot conceal them from God. My prayer is that each of us always appreciate the grace of God, lest we stand as the many cracked and lifeless statues around the Vatican and even inside our own churches.

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