God delights in building beautiful things with broken tools.

One year ago today I fell from a ladder. I broke my nose and a couple teeth and tore a gash through my lip & up through my nose. God provided amazing care at every step of the way, from the folks that came to my aide where I fell to my ER nurses who got me prepped for surgery to my colleagues who operated and provided anesthesia to all those who helped me and Michelle through the recovery process.

As I reflect on that harrowing ordeal, and many other, smaller interruptions to my plans for how best to serve Christ, our students, and our patients here in Kibuye, I come back often to one question:

My plan (continuous, constantly-improving productivity) seems so effective at accomplishing those good things I know God wants, how is His plan (stuttering progress, occasional “wastes of time”) an upgrade? Or, in other words, what valuable treasure has God hidden in these pauses, delays, and lapses of productivity?

I don’t have every answer or even the answer to any particular pause (e.g., what was the point in losing the screwdriver attachment to the cordless drill today on the way home from the shop where I made a bed frame for us, requiring >45 min of searching before Michelle finally found it on the side of the trail), but I like how the question keeps reorienting me towards God and His plans. It is, after all, a principle in safe surgery that the timeout before beginning allows you to verify you are about to perform the correct procedure on the correct patient. Or, as one author of many books on productivity writes, “make sure your ladder is leaning against the right tree before you start climbing.” 😉

Yet even beyond that, it compels me to repent again of thinking that somehow the realization of God’s plans for individuals, families, & communities depends on me. God doesn’t NEED me…yet He is pleased to use me. The interruptions reveal the generous grace of God. He includes us in His work not from necessity, but from benevolence. And now every time you see my crooked smile, you too can be reminded of the God who delights in building beautiful things with broken tools.

ER lead nurses Josiane & Jacqueline visit one day after the fall. We are all smiling.
Servat cares for patients in our HIV/AIDS Clinic at Kibuye Hope Hospital and ran with me 2 weeks after the fall to raise money for African medical educators. Again, both of us are smiling.
Butoyi just retired after 30+ years serving the missionary community at Kibuye and walked >2 km on his lame left foot to greet us when he heard we were back in Burundi. What a gem!
The ultimate smile-generator herself, my lovely wife Michelle. I call this photo, “Beauty & the Broken Tool.”