“Understand me. I’m not like an ordinary world. I have my madness,
I live in another dimension, and I do not have time for things that have no soul.”
There’s a little coffee shop in town where I like to write. The last time I was there, I noticed a massive crack in the concrete floor that ran like a fault line right beneath my chair. It made me think about cracks in general—places where a shift or break occurs—like a canyon or a fracture or a deep scar. Cracks can be a place of weakness or trauma. They are also a place where something richer can break through the surface.
All my life, I’ve been reaching for these cracks. Most of my searching was unconscious and looked like discontent or distraction, unable to accept the world at face value. One of my favorite poets, Linda Pastan, said in an interview with PBS, “I’ve always been interested in the dangers that are under the surface, but seems like simple, ordinary domestic life. It may seem like smooth surfaces, but there are tensions and dangers right underneath, and those are what I’m trying to get at.” As I read her words, I realized that this was my obsession too.
I found this old sketch I did in college. It’s a picture I drew of my own hand, reaching for God-knows-what. If one image could sum up the existential crises that frequently occupy my mind, this might be it. Reaching for meaning beyond the external realm has led me to the language of art and poetry. It also drew me to a job as an operating room nurse, where I see surfaces cut open every day, the flesh and bones of the body exposed. As one of the plastic surgeons I work with says: “Anatomy is beautiful.”
I’ve been reading through the gospel of John this summer, mindful of the ways that Jesus exposes the tensions that lurk under the surface. He saw the cracks inside of people—the beauty and brokenness of their anatomy—and called them to a life of radical love. I am struck by his encounter with the Samaritan woman, when He said, the fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. He didn’t use her flaws against her, He invited her into His Kingdom.
Not only did Jesus see the cracks in people, He exposed the cracks in their religious systems, hierarchies, and cultural norms. In Jesus, I see a man who is compassionate and loving and irritated by people’s incompetence. He had no time for things that lacked soul.
Jesus had a heart for women and called forth their beauty, strength, and power in a way the culture did not, and in many ways, still does not.
I think about the woman in Luke 7, cracking open her pint of expensive perfume, pouring it upon Jesus as she wept over His feet and wiped the wetness with her hair. What an awesome display! The religious leaders of the time were appalled by her gesture. How could Jesus allow this “sinful woman” to touch him? Jesus said to her, your faith has saved you, go in peace.
Sometimes I feel like the woman in Luke 7, fumbling around to find a strand of authenticity and heart, looking foolish and sloppy in the process. It’s human nature to want to run away from our cracks and present a composed exterior, but we connect with others through our vulnerabilities, not our strengths. Jesus sees the flesh and blood of our inner anatomy and is not put off by it.
He heals our wounds and calls us beautiful.
The cracks in our lives and in our hearts become the territory where the supernatural can break into the physical world. Find the cracks and you find the life.
I will close with a poem I wrote that day at the coffee shop, inspired by the jagged crack in the concrete floor beneath me.
Wherever you are on earth
there is a rock beneath you.
Find the cracks and you
find the core that holds
this whole thing together.
Think of wrinkles around
the eye, fissures across
the brain, opalescent
stretch marks that spread
like fault lines across
the country of your skin.
I remember seven years ago
when the cracks found us.
We thought it was the Amtrak
passing behind the house until
the ground moved like waves
beneath us, the screeching sound
of metal roaring into the room.
Grab the kids, you said, and
we flooded beneath the door frame
until the crust of the earth
stopped rolling. That’s when
I knew that even a fracture
can become like an ocean—
a rocking womb we hold onto
as it carries us back to the core.
Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, and Literary Mama. A veteran of the US Air Force Nurse Corps, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as registered nurse and teaches poetry workshops. She is passionate about a good cup of coffee, bumming on the beach, and finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. You can find her at www.libbykurz.com.
Leonard Cohen wrote in Anthem. “There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in.” Perspective is everything.
Yes, perspective is everything, Madeline! Those lyrics were in my head as I wrote this post 🙂
“He saw the cracks inside of people—the beauty and brokenness of their anatomy—and called them to a life of radical love” This sentence hit me with divine power… it is what we all long for… to be seen, known, and loved so far beyond what we ever imagined. Thank you for the beauty of your words today. Christine
Thank you, Christine!
“…we connect with others through our vulnerabilities, not our strengths.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I always feel more comfortable around people who have quirks, flaws, “stuff” in their lives – rather than those who seem to have their entire act together. Libby, your writing is so thought. provoking. I “see” as I read. Thank you for sharing. Now I want to go look up your favorite poet and read some of her poems. Ordinary sometimes holds extraordinary!
Yes, I love when I get to see people’s quirks and flaws. Makes me feel more at ease. I recently saw a meme that said, “YOU’RE WEIRD. I LIKE YOU.” It made me laugh because it’s true. Yes, check out Linda Pastan. She’s amazing. She can deliver the truth in so few lines. Thanks for your kind comment.
I love Charles Bukowski, but I hadn’t heard this quote before! “I do not have time for things that have no soul.” Oh wow. Such goodness in the reminder that our cracks are the places of connection.
Libby, this piece is exceptionally written–the stunning integration of art, poetry, story, and Scripture. What a pleasure to read! Also, you’ve offered such a bounty to ponder (To name a couple….”[Jesus] had no time for things that lacked soul.” And “The cracks in our lives and in our hearts become the territory where the supernatural can break into the physical world. Find the cracks and you find the life.” Wow.) and a beautiful invitation to do so. Thank you.