The Blessing in the Breaking

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

– St. Francis of Assisi

This afternoon, my mother handed me a card with a photo of St. Francis and this prayer written on the back. The card announced the death of an uncle, one year older than my mother, ending the long journey with cancer but entering into eternal rest.

For one brief moment, I saw her truly—head bowed, hand trembling, voice quiet—a child wrestling with darkness. She opened her mouth and whispered again the question, the question that hounds us, the question she has spoken only once in these last two years: what if God chooses not to heal me?

The question hung there, heavy.

She looked at me, seeking hope and reassurance, seeking insight: a mother turning to her child in desperate need.

And in the silence, I sifted through my storehouse of encouragements—verses and testimonies, prayers and promises—and I found each one too trite. What word is worthy to break a moment heavy with holiness?

So I offered the only thing I had to offer—my presence, my silence, my listening ears. And I saw in her eyes no fear, no anger, no regret, just a calm, quiet assurance.


Eventually, she moved into the other room to play old hymns on the piano, her fingers hesitant and delicate on the keys, weak and numb from treatment. She played a song of casting cares on Jesus, a song of gratitude—and I heard her heart: a deep, quiet trust, a leaning into the will and ways of God, a surrendering, a rest. And, in that moment, I was Saul and my mother David, and her song spoke peace to a tormenting spirit.

In the kitchen, sorting through the last tomatoes of the season, I bowed my head and awakened. My eyes opened to the gift hidden in plain sight: my mother at the piano; my father brewing a cup of coffee, who, one year ago, was fighting for his life; my brother bent over his math homework, who curled up in my lap only just two days ago, sobbing for the death of a dream; these tomatoes baptized in tears; the sun setting behind the trees; a heavy peace resting over all and in all…and I whispered a prayer I had not prayed in years: “Time, time, stand still here.”

And I felt again that deep, elusive contentment, the joy with the hard edges, the gratitude that knows the blessing in the breaking.

3 responses to “The Blessing in the Breaking”

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