Eggshells. Brittle things, really. Easily broken. Useful only to throw out after eating the egg within. We may use the metaphorical expression that we are ‘walking on eggshells’, indicating how fragile or risky a relationship or social situation is. But the reality is that not only do we sometimes walk on them, but that we are them. We are eggshells, really. Fragile, easily wounded and broken.
Recently I was in Nepal helping lead a training program and met a very gifted artist from Bangladesh named Kuel. He is a painter and creator that uses unique materials for his work, including eggshells. As we taught on the challenges of being often broken, wounded leaders in a very fragile world, Kuel created a work of eggshells. Broken pieces of shell covered over with a golden looking paint. My photo of Kuel’s work appears with this post. But it is hard to catch in a photo the power of this simple yet profound creation.
Kuel gifted me with this ‘painting’, but since it was made of eggshells it was too difficult to carry in luggage. I had to leave it with a friend in Kathmandu for the present until a future time that I can take it. Even trying to carry it from one room to another resulted in the crunch of another eggshell breaking. Yes, so vulnerable, so easily breakable.
Sounds like us, like me. Yet on the outside we try so hard to seem strong, to seem like leaders or people that are impervious to the pain of the world around us, or within us. Right now as I write this the world struggles to face a growing threat of the coronovirus. In my organization two leadership meetings I was to attend in the coming six months have been cancelled. In my home state of Washington in the United States, there have been 10 deaths so far and a growing number of infections.
We are so fragile, so broken. We are eggshells that crack so easily. Two weeks ago the truly awful news came of the completed investigation of a hero of mine, who died a year ago. He was the founder of a beautiful ministry to the disabled in our world. Yet the investigation found that he had been sexually involved with at least six women over many years in hidden and non-consensual ways. I am still grieving this news. When we hear these things, we feel like there is no one immune, no one holy. And especially not ourselves.
Yet our broken eggshell lives have a beauty to them as we embrace and surrender to grace. As we are joined to others in love, leaving isolation, we together create a work of art. A painting of broken eggshells that has the gold beautiful layer of compassionate grace and love. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament, we have the treasure of the life of God in broken vessels. Or in broken eggshells, that the exceeding power may be seen to not be of us.
There is a love and grace that shines through broken eggshells. There is much fear in our world today, much uncertainty about what is ahead. Find other broken eggshells in your life, and love them. Leave isolation, and embrace your own fragility. Hope is found not in having a veneer of strength, but of living authentically into your weakness.
A painting of broken eggshells will never win the greatest prize in the world’s art competitions. Or maybe it will. It may win the prize for most authentic creation, one most fitting reality as it really is.
Next time you feel like you are walking on eggshells, embrace the reality that you are a life of eggshells.
Join the crowd.