For my 40th birthday my family gave me a guitar. Not just any guitar but a Gibson J-200.  A guitar played by artists such as Emmylou Harris. A guitar with a big sound and a big price tag. I loved that guitar and hung it up on a wall in my office at home with a special rubber hook so it was always accessible. So I could pull it down off the wall when inspiration struck to write a song or just to practice.

Which is what I did one afternoon this past spring. I pulled it off the wall, played it for 10-15 minutes, and then lifted it up to hang it back on the wall. But as I turned away from the guitar, as I’d done a thousand times, and took three steps towards the door, I heard a sound. An awful sound. A wood hitting the floor sound.

What do we do when events change our lives? When despite our best efforts things don’t turn out the way we planned. When the phone call, the x-ray, the email, brings bad news. And something in our life breaks. Our heart. Our dreams or hopes. Something physically or emotionally. Because, whether we like it or not, we live in a broken world, do we not?

We live in a world where the guitar falls from the hook on the wall and shatters. A world that at times can break us. Change arrives at our doorstep, whether we want it or not. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught his disciples that brokenness can actually open a spiritual door, lead you closer to God, prompt change, growth. As Jesus put it, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Again and again Jesus teaches how good can arise out of life’s unexpected and unwelcome changes. You know, after my guitar fell off the wall last spring I decided it to take it to a master craftsmen in Lansing. It took him almost three months but he patched and he glued, he bent and he stained, and what emerged was a guitar that was repaired, as good as new, and remarkably, it even sounds better, richer.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.”

I recently ran my fifth marathon in the stunning city of Quebec. Every experience offers us wisdom to glean. This particular journey offered two new observations:

1) We were driving down I 96 in Michigan and hit a wall of cars. A parking lot. In front of us was a small left turn where police would typically hide and cars were taking the risk to avoid the traffic jam and timing their entry into the oncoming passing lane. We had seconds to make a similar choice, make the illegal left, turn around, or wait. We made the turn, soon found a two lane parallel road and found ourselves driving past the 15 mile back up saving at least 3hrs. Sometimes, we were reminded, you do have to risk turning around to find a new way forward.

2) While running past quaint Quebec homes with old ladies on front porches clapping and shouting “Bon marathon!” this thought came to me – life is not a race it’s a marathon. Many of my friends approach a marathon seeking to achieve a certain time. As slow as I am, my goal is simply to keep my feet moving and enjoy the experience. I wonder, could life be like that? The point isn’t to be first, fast, or faster, but to notice the old ladies, to smile often, and say “merci” along the marathon of life.