Posted On June 20, 2010
Pulling up in front of the two-story gray house with the black shutters was a destination quite familiar to Jim. He’d been friends with Bill ever since they were in their freshman seminar class together many years ago. The passing years had changed many things about each of them, although it had only served to deepen their friendship.
Walking up to the front door, Jim rang the bell like he did every time he came to visit. “I’m out back in the sunroom” came the reply from inside. Snaking his way through the living room and kitchen, he arrived at the project that had dominated Bill’s free weekends and evenings for the last two years. “I don’t know why you always ring the bell when you come over, you know you can just walk in” Bill commented with a sly grin. “I’d just feel weird barging in like the FBI on a sting” Jim commented. The two friends just looked at each other and started laughing.
“The room really is beautiful, you know.” Bill was quite a craftsman. Even though he was a newspaper columnist by trade, Bill’s dad had taught him many things; carpentry and architecture were his favorite pastimes. Jim thought back to the day ten years ago, standing in this very spot, where Bill had spoken of his dreams and plans for what was then a small deck on the back of his house. Even though it had taken much longer than he had anticipated, (some back surgery, an untimely layoff, and the birth of his first son pushing back the timeline,) in the end, Bill’s dream had come to fruition. Officially he had built the addition of the sunroom for his wife Sally. She loved spending time outdoors, but her allergies prevented her from doing so most of the time. The sunroom was a way that Bill could help her to feel surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation while still being safely protected from the pollens that made her so sick. Unofficially, Bill had constructed the room in remembrance of the time he had spent with his dad growing up. His dad had always dreamed of building a sunroom for his mom, but they hadn’t ever been able to afford it.
“It just feels like something’s missing though,” commented Bill. “I can’t put my finger on it, and it’s been bothering me for several days now.” Jim hadn’t really thought much about it, but he was right – something did seem to be missing. As if struck by a bolt of lightning, suddenly he caught Bill’s vision of the room. “Color!” he thought. “It needs color!” A plan begun forming itself in Jim’s mind, almost as if he could see the project completed already. In his spare time, Jim loved making glass. It had started out by accident actually; his senior year of college he needed three extra credits, but didn’t know what to take. A class on glassblowing caught his eye (or rather, Sarah, the girl he’d had a crush on since he was a freshman, caught his eye, and she just happened to be taking that class.) Over the course of the semester, two loves formed in his life. A love for Sarah (as they spent time together working on projects,) and a love for making glass. Even though he didn’t get to spend much time with his hobby, he truly had a knack for making beautiful sheets of the most vibrantly-colored glass most people had ever seen. Whenever people witnessed the results of such a unique hobby, comments such as “Tiffany” and “La Farge” could often be heard whispered under their breath. Jim just thought it was fun. “How many guys get to play with fire and dirt for a hobby?” he would comment.
Jim made no mention of his plans to his friend. As soon as he got home though, he started laying out the ingredients. He had noticed that at the top of each section of wall, there was a small solid glass window about a foot tall and three feet wide. Jim begun the painstaking process of making seven sheets of glass to fit in these openings, each a different color, and each color so vibrant it looked as if you were standing in the middle of a rainbow. Deep red that looked like he had somehow captured a piece of the early morning sunrise. A blue so vibrant that it looked like a piece from the clear sky on a beautiful spring afternoon. Green as soft as the grass that Jim still loved running through barefoot whenever he had the chance. Yellow and orange that caught your eye like the leaves of the trees in the fall. Indigo that was so perfect it looked like a sheet of pure amethyst, and a violet so rich it just screamed “Royalty.” For weeks, Jim worked on his project in secret, and as the time passed and each piece was completed, he could feel the excitement growing in his heart. He simply couldn’t wait for the day he’d get to present his best friend with this beautiful gift.
Finally, the day came, and the last piece was complete. Jim lined each piece up in the back of his house where the sun shone the clearest. Each panel glinted, revealing both the vibrant color as well as the beautiful craftsmanship of its maker. He couldn’t wait to see them installed, to watch how the rainbows of color would shine into the room as a tribute to their friendship. Bill didn’t know what was going on, just that his friend had asked him to come over for the afternoon, and for some reason, to bring a blanket along with him. He had learned long ago not to try to second-guess what his friend was up to, but still, couldn’t help from letting his mind wonder what surprise awaited him this time.
As he rounded the corner and walked into the back yard, Bill saw his friend sitting at the patio table waiting for him. The moment Jim saw his friend, the joy in his heart overflowed. Bill noticed the beautiful glass panels laying up against the house, and just stood there, mesmerized. “They’re so beautiful,” he said, barely above a whisper. “Jim, it looks like you’ve captured a rainbow.” “I made them for you, for your sunroom,” he replied. “I thought you could put them up at the top of the wall so that when the sun caught them in the afternoon, the color would dance across the wall, making its own rainbows as the sun inched across the sky.” Bill just stood there speechless, looking at his friend, then at the panels, then back at his friend again. He had watched Jim work before, and he knew the incredible amount of work that went into each of his projects. The amount of time that his friend had spent on this gift was nothing to sneeze at. He knew the immense value of what he was being given.
The two sat on the patio talking for several hours, reminiscing about days gone by, talking about the many transitions their lives had made, but how no matter how much life had seemed to change, their friendship had stayed strong. Even though they now lived several hours apart, their families were still incredibly close, spending most holidays together and even planning their vacations to be able to travel the country as a group.
As Bill got up to leave, Jim helped him carefully wrap the glass panes in the blanket he’d brought. “I wish I knew what I’d needed the blanket for,” he commented. “I just brought an old dropcloth I use when I’m painting. I figured you were going to have me help you work on your siding or something like that.” “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Jim said. “You’ve only got about 100 miles to go, and it’s a beautiful, sunny day.” The two friends said goodbye, and Bill was on his way.
As he pulled out onto the interstate, Bill couldn’t help but think about how much time his friend had spent on the gift that was now riding safely in the back of his truck. He couldn’t wait to get home and show Sally, and to hang the panels with her. Jim had even made special hangers for each panel that would allow it to safely hang freely. “He thought of everything,” he said to himself.
About half an hour into his trip, Bill noticed the clouds starting to gather down the road. “Heh, just like Illinois – if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes and it’ll change.” At first things looked innocent enough – little white puffy clouds floating lazily along over the crisp blue sky. “Reminds me of the blue panel Jim made,” he thought. “I bet that if I were to hold it up to the sky, it’d match perfectly.” As the miles passed by, the little white fluffy clouds grew, and before long, they were big and gray. “A little rain will be good for the garden, it’s been kind of dry lately.” The raindrops started to fall, lightly at first, and then becoming large sloshing drops, almost like little buckets. Bill turned on his wipers and headlights, and then turned the radio up a little bit so that he could hear the music over the “thock thock” of the drops splashing his truck. Much to his surprise, the “thock thock” turned into “thump thump” as the raindrops started bringing little round hailstones with them. “I’m glad we wrapped those panes in that blanket!” Bill thought to himself. The farther he went, the harder it rained, and soon Bill couldn’t see the road in front of him even with the wipers going as fast as they could, and he had to pull off to the side of the road. The roar of the storm was deafening, and the “thump thump” became louder and more frequent, and occasionally through breaks in the downpour he could see that the little tiny hailstones had become big, ugly chunks of ice falling from the sky, some as big as a golf ball. Suddenly, Bill remembered the beautiful panes of glass in the back of his truck, protected by what now seemed like a paper towel. What would happen if they got damaged? He shuddered at the thought, and prayed that they would be ok when the storm passed.
After what seemed like hours (but in reality had only been about fifteen minutes,) the roar turned to a whine, and then Bill could see the sun peeking out from between the clouds. A rainbow shone through the evening sky, and Bill marveled at its beauty. “Reminds me of the glass Jim made for me,” he thought to himself. After marveling at the beauty before him for a few minutes, Bill pulled back onto the road and continued on his trip home.
Pulling into the driveway, Sally stood watching from the front door. “I was worried about you,” she said. “That storm that came through was really nasty there for a bit, I hoped that you weren’t out in it.” “Yeah, I had to pull over for a while there when it got really bad,” he replied. They hugged, and then he took his bride of fifteen years by the hand and led her to the back of the truck to show her the beautiful creation their friend had made. “You’ll never believe what Jim made for us,” he said, the wonder obviously in his voice. “Jim spent I don’t know how many hours making a rainbow for our sunroom.” Sally looked at her husband and smiled; he always had such beautiful ways of phrasing things. As Jim picked up one corner of the blanket to unwrap the precious gift laying in his truck, he heard a slight “plink” sound. “Oh no,” he muttered under his breath. Unwrapping things further, he discovered the heartless acts that had been wrought by the cold pieces of ice on the gift he had been given. “They’re all broken,” he said, tears coming to his eyes. “Jim spent so much time on these, and they’re all broken.” He felt absolutely awful. If only he had brought a thicker blanket. If only he’d taken his wife’s car instead of his truck. If only he had looked at the weather report before hitting the road. If only….
His thoughts were interrupted by the phone ringing from inside the house. “Dad!” his son Ben yelled from the front door. “It’s Jim calling for you.” “Tell him I’ll be right there,” Bill said, a sudden sense of dread coming over him. How would he break the news to him? After he’d spent so much time on them? He was so excited about them; they’d already made plans for Jim and Sarah to come over the following weekend to see how they looked installed. Bill was heartbroken.
“Hey Jim,” Bill said, trying unsuccessfully to disguise the pain in his heart. “What’s wrong? Are you ok?” Jim asked. “I was worried about you, after you left I heard about the storms that rolled through the area I knew you’d be traveling. They blew down the old school in Harrisburg, and when I couldn’t reach you on your cell, I started to get really concerned.” “Sorry about that Jim,” Bill replied. “The battery died, and I’d left my charger in Sally’s car,” he replied quietly. “Ok, I’m glad to hear that you’re ok. That still doesn’t explain your voice though – what’s wrong?” Bill knew that he couldn’t lie to his friend, they’d been through far too much together for that, and each knew the other almost as well as he knew himself. “It’s the panels, Jim. I guess the blanket wasn’t enough protection, and the hail broke them. I’m so sorry, I just feel awful. I know how much time you put into them, and how excited you were about getting to see them hanging from the window. I’m so, so sorry.”
“How bad are they?” Jim asked. “They’re pretty bad, it looks like someone took a hammer to each of them.” “Tell you what. When Sarah and I come by next weekend, I’ll take a look at them and see what I can do. Sound ok to you?” “That sounds ok, Jim. I’m so so sorry though. I know how proud you were of them, and how much time you spent on them, and how excited you were to see them hanging there in the sunshine. I feel absolutely awful.” “Don’t worry about it, Bill. When we come by next week, I’ll take a look at them, and we’ll go from there,” his friend said tenderly. As the two friends hung up the phone, the mind of each was headed in different directions. Bill’s heart was downtrodden, and it was two days before he even felt well enough to eat dinner. Jim’s mind, however, raced with ideas and anticipation. All week he formed plans to turn what seemed like the disasterous outcome of his plans into a beautiful creation once again.
Arriving at Bill and Sally’s house later that week, Jim was able to see first-hand the destruction that the hail had caused – both to the glass as well as to Bill’s truck. “You didn’t tell me how badly it had dented your truck up,” he commented. “To be honest, I didn’t notice it until the next morning – I was so crushed by what happened to your present.” Bill replied. “Do you care if I take them back with me?” Jim asked. “Of course not. I don’t really know what to use them for now. Maybe you can still make beads or something like that out of them.”
Upon returning home, Jim begun the slow but intentional process of turning his once beautiful creation, that had been smashed into a million pieces by the storm that his friend had encountered on the drive home, into something beautiful once again. Even though the glass was badly broken, the pieces were still fairly good sized – exactly what Jim had hoped. He carefully picked out and cut each piece, shaping and polishing the fragments until they perfectly matched the layout he’d made on his draftboard. Even though he was very careful with the contents of the box of shards, more than once he found himself sitting under the light in the kitchen with a pair of tweezers, picking glass shards out of the tips of his fingers. After the pieces had all been prepared, he began the slow, but intentional, task of joining them back together. However, he didn’t work at making singular panels of color as they had once been. He had something different in mind this time.
When Bill arrived at Jim’s house a month later, this time he arrived in Sally’s car. In the back seat was stuffed what looked like every blanket they owned. Jim laughed at his friend, asking him if he planned on making them into a big pile and jumping off the roof again, like they’d both tried one evening back in college. “I just didn’t want anything to happen this time,” he replied. “You know what happened last time when I wasn’t properly prepared,” the regret still very clear in his voice. “Don’t worry about it,” Jim commented to his friend. “Follow me, I’ve got something to show you.”
As the pair rounded the corner of the house, Jim walked into his workshop. There, laying on the workbench, was a beautiful piece of stained glass artwork., a full three feet tall and three feet wide. It depicted a beautiful sunset, complete with trees, grass, and a stream bubbling happily along. Right then, the sunlight caught it through the window, and it glistened as if it were made of crystal. Bill just stood there in awe, mouth slightly ajar, as he looked at what his friend had created…again. “Close your mouth Michael, we’re not a codfish,” Jim said in his best British accent, the smile on his face shining almost as brightly as the sun through the window. “You like it?” he asked, already sensing the answer. “You bet I do!” came the reply. “You know, I never thought I’d say this, but I think that it’s actually more beautiful than the panels you made before.” “Just think,” Jim said. “If it weren’t for that storm, and the devastation it caused, this wouldn’t have been possible.” Jim always had a way of looking on the bright side of things. He also had an insight that to this day amazed those who were fortunate to know him personally.
“It’s a lot like our lives, you know. Originally, God created this world, and it was so incredibly beautiful. When He’d finished creating everything, he stepped back and was like, ‘This is awesome!’ But then, sin entered the world. Just like the hailstones that crushed and shattered the glass panes I made for you, sin shattered the beautiful creation that He had made. For thousands of years, He watched as His creation, that was once so beautiful and perfect, was torn to pieces. But even though it seemed so hopeless, He had a plan. At just the right time, Jesus came to the earth, lived with us for a few years, and then allowed Himself to be murdered and die in our place. Through His resurrection, He took the box of broken shards that is our world, and turned it into something beautiful once again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not perfect. And it’s far from what God had originally created and intended. But just as I was able to take the broken pieces of glass and turn them into something beautiful, God is able to take our lives, which have been broken and ruined by sin, and once again turn them into something beautiful because of what Jesus did. He calls this redemption – restoring the value of something that was lost or broken. But just like the glass panels, we have to admit that we’re broken. You could have hidden the fact that they had gotten broken from me, and in the end, you would have ended up with just that – a worthless box of shards. But by telling me what had happened and giving me the pieces, that allowed me to turn them into something beautiful once again. It’s the same way with God. We all know that our own lives are broken messes. And we all try to fix them ourselves. But all we end up with is a broken mess with some glue or tape slopped in on it. Or worse, some people just give up and throw the pieces away. But when we tell God about what’s happened and give our sin-shattered lives to Him, He takes them, polishes the pieces, and turns them back into something beautiful once again.”
“Wow, you know, it amazes me how you’re able to look at something so common and see something so deep in it,” Bill said after thinking for a few minutes. “I guess it’s because that’s how I learn best,” Jim replied. “I’m very visual, and so I understand things much better when they’re explained to me that way. Now, let’s say we work on digging all those blankets out of your car so that you can actually take this with you, shall we?” Jim replied with a smile. “I think that sounds like a wonderful idea,” Bill replied, as the two old friends walked out to the driveway, both eager to see what the future held for their lives.