56: Broken Dishes, Healing Hearts

56: Broken Dishes, Healing Hearts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

Broken Dishes, Healing Hearts

By Jennie Bradstreet

“. . . Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them. . .”

~Joshua 4:5-7

For months, my husband Erik had been battling cancer. Nearing the end of his treatment, his pain had grown increasingly worse. Every movement caused excruciating pain, and noises — even happy ones — over-stimulated him. I was on constant guard to keep the kids quiet, but it was becoming an unreasonable expectation.

One specific night seemed worse than most. Parker, our nine-year-old son, had been badgering and irritating his eleven-year-old sister, eventually provoking her to act upon her redheaded temperament. I had interrupted and shushed arguments all night long when I finally blew my top. I didn’t realize how much frustration was pent up inside of my son because he threw the mother of all temper tantrums. In horror, I watched as he threw himself to the floor, thrashing and screaming. I was very close to joining him in his meltdown when I heard God’s quiet voice saying, “Let him break something. He’s angry.” Then the image of my kitchen dishes came to mind.

I ran to the kitchen and gathered as many plates, cups, and bowls as I could carry and went downstairs. With my arms full, I told Parker to follow me. With an angry sigh, he followed, probably expecting to be punished for his outburst. Instead, I handed him a plate, pointed at the wall, and said, “Throw it.” He looked at me, raising his eyebrow, so I grabbed a cup and threw it against the wall. This time, he looked at me like I had lost my mind.

“Throw the plate,” I repeated. With a tentative look and a sissy throw, he tossed it, not even breaking it. So I said, “Pick it up and really throw it. Smash it like you mean it.” I picked up another dish and threw it. “I hate you, cancer!” I yelled.

Finally understanding what I was doing, Parker picked up the dish and chucked it hard. “I hate Dad being sick!” he yelled, smashing a plate against the wall. “You suck, cancer!” Another dish shattered. “I want my dad back.” More shards of dishes littered the floor. And, finally, he shouted, “I don’t want my dad to die!” He dissolved into tears.

Reaching the end of our rampage, we sat on the floor in the midst of all the pieces and cried. Relief flooded our hearts. The pressure valve released.

We ate from paper plates for a while. Our friends and family thought I was crazy for destroying every dish in my kitchen. I realize they only saw the “value” of my dishes, but that night was one that neither Parker nor I will ever forget. It was when he realized that I valued his emotions and wellbeing over any material thing in my house.

Shortly after this took place, I read Joshua 4:5-7: “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder. . . to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them. . .” It sparked an idea.

A few months later, when Erik finished treatment and got back on his feet, Parker and I created a set of mosaic stepping stones from the broken dishes. And someday, when he has a home of his own, I will give him one so he will always have a reminder of the healing that took place that night.

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