My parents spent a few years living in Hong Kong while my dad was serving in the Asia Area Presidency for the Church. During the years that they lived there, my mom would often find beautiful Chinese treasures that she would give to each of us when she and my dad would travel back to Utah for General Conference. She would always include a story or parable that would tell of the significance of the treasure that she was giving us. One of my favorite things that my mom gave to me is a Chinese shard box. A shard box is a beautiful silver and porcelain box made from pieces of broken pottery. Inside the shard box, my mom had included this beautiful message:
The Parable of the Shard Boxes …
Sometime in the mid 1980’s after the Chinese Cultural Revolution was over, small porcelain boxes in myriads of jagged and unusual shapes began appearing in Beijing. They were made of broken pottery shards from lovely blue and white porcelains, Ming and Qing vases, and jars of double happiness. They had probably been smashed by red guards.
The shards were given new life by Lao Han, The Shard Box Man, who collected these old broken pieces of pottery and crafts them into “Shard Boxes”. He saw potential in the discards of others and thus turns them into treasure. No two shards are alike; each one’s irregular shape is uniquely created by the force that broke it.
Lao Han, a gentle, honest soul, labored in a small workshop. First, he takes a jagged piece of porcelain and carefully molds a silver shell around its edges to fashion a top, and then he creates a matching silver bottom. He knew pure silver alone was too soft to withstand everyday use, so he adds a little copper and a tiny bit of nickel to give it strength. By heating these elements together in a refiner’s fire, he creates the alloy known as sterling silver, which gets its sheen and innate beauty from the silver and its strength to stand up and be firm from the nickel and copper. Finally Lao Han embossed the silver sides of the boxes with beautiful designs while the metal is still hot and malleable from the refiner’s fire. The silver that emerges from that refiner’s fire glows… just as the pure love of Christ makes someone’s countenance glow.
Shard boxes reflect the effort to make something beautiful and useful out of destruction. Beautiful, because each shard, like a piece of a puzzle, reveals part of the lovely pattern of the original unbroken jar. And useful, because the once useless pieces are remade into practical containers that can once again store things, hold treasures, have a purpose.
One shattered vase can create many shard boxes. Where one vase served one purpose, the many shard boxes created from that same vase can have many useful purposes. Whatever crisis breaks the vase also brings opportunities to create beauty in its aftermath. Out of one shattering experience, you have the opportunity to take each piece of your broken heart, bind it with the pure love of Christ, and come out of your trial of fire with many beautiful and useful shard boxes born of your pain.
The Lord, like the shard box man, molds you and leaves His mark upon you after you have gone through the refiner’s fire—while you are hot and glowing and humble. In the end, there are more parts to you than there were before; more practical experience, more wisdom, more compassion, and even more happiness. You are different, but in a new and infinitely better configuration.
–Marti and Marci Hoffman
When I look at my shard box, I am reminded that all of my broken pieces – my tests and trials, my weaknesses, my heartaches, my sins, my sorrows, my hard days, my struggle with feelings of self-worth – can be made into something new, something stronger, through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know He can take all of those broken things about me, and through His grace, make those broken things become a thing of beauty.
I love what Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, has said,
“He takes us as we are and makes us more than we ever imagined.”
The Savior loves each of us more than we possibly know. Just like the shard box man, He will take the broken, shattered pieces of our lives, put us back together, and create something strong and beautiful.
How has the Savior taken your “broken” pieces and made them into something new and beautiful? How has it made you stronger?