Robert was a Vietnam vet who had been in and out of jail. Now in his 45th year of age he was turning over a new leaf.
He had heard of this unique employer who actually desired people with a volatile history like his. The CEO, Henry Price said it made for much better stories.
After all, stories was his business. Henry Price had begun a newspaper (which was now a veritable online news source) in which they covered the news but in a new way. It was called "Whole History Daily." It was true reporting, but it followed up and featured the redeeming outcomes of current event stories.
"Whole History Daily" had grown steadily into a country-wide contender. People liked it because not only did they get to read the news, but they got to see their broken world as part of a redeemable story. It was an uplifting alternative to the depressing current events that were normally reported on.
Henry Price brought Robert on and mentored him as a rookie writer, starting with small stories, until 6 years later Robert had gained the necessary writing skills as well as the growth in seeing the redemption in stories like Henry Price did. And now Robert was a top editor with full access to publish to the paper's whole audience at any moment if he ever wanted to, or if he lacked the restraint.
Robert brought with him some, well, some problems. Of course, being among the soldiers who had seen the carnage of agent orange, close combat and gore, and seen his comrades succumb to depression and addiction during and after the war, he carried some triggers. But add upon that a couple years being homeless, a manic depressive father, a mother who had a propensity for infidelity, and a sister who had committed suicide while he was in jail, Robert could barely make it through a day without losing his cool at least once.
But for some reason this didn’t seem to faze his boss, Henry Price. After the big episodes in which Robert shouted at the office or started some email storm by speaking a little too much of his mind uninhibited, Henry Price always invited him to dinner. There he had Robert tell him the whole story. He listened intently, asking lots of questions, putting together the redemption narrative he was so much better at seeing, than anyone else. At least once throughout the dinner Henry Price would smile at Robert and say, “Your story is so exciting. I can’t wait to see how this one ends.”
And this type of response was partly why Henry Price was known, inside and outside of the company. For, you may remember I said that these are the type of people he liked to hire. And although his news was encouraging, much of the reason Henry Price had such a following was because people were enamored with Henry Price. They heard how time and time again, not only did he find beauty in the hardest of current events, he took the misfits of misfits and found redemption and beauty in their stories. It gave hope to all of his readers that this was the type of story that each of them had within them. They wanted to follow a man who saw the world like this, and could convince them to see themselves and the world this way.
So when Robert published, in a fit of unfiltered rage, a scathing article criticizing one of the companies that he didn't realize was a major financial supporter of the paper, news of this spread fast. The big company, TelTech had denied a series of veterans employment because of their mental health risks, and Robert had published the article before any other pair of eyes could see it. The whole trustworthiness of the paper could be called into question and the paper's financial situation hung in the balance.
The political and financial fallout of this article carried much consequence, but what was of more interest in the quiet places of the readers was how Henry Price was going to respond to a blunder of this weight by one of his most well-known editors.
It was a storm at the office all the next day, but the one who seemed most at peace in the storm was Henry Price. He patiently listened with a hidden smile to all of the frantic reporters who came to him responding to the storm of emails and the calls from the frustrated PR reps of the criticized company. It didn't even seem that urgent to him to un-publish the article right away.
The only moment that day the entire office went silent was the moment that Henry Price stepped up to Robert’s cubicle and asked, “Do you have a sec to talk, Robert?”
Robert’s heart was a frenetic gorilla in its cage. He was too nervous to even apologize. He nodded sheepishly.
“Are you free tonight? I’d love to get dinner, just the two of us, and hear what happened with all of this. Nothing bad.” He smiled. “This is going to make a really good story, I think.” Before he left Robert's desk, Henry Price put his hand on Robert's shoulder as he said, "I think everything will turn out to be okay. I'll drop by your desk at five and we can walk to dinner."
The bustle around them resumed.
Later that week, Robert released a humbled, masterpiece of an article which held the attention of the world rapt. The article was even reported on by other news channels.
Robert started the article by describing something he had discovered in Vietnam. It was a Japanese method of repairing pottery called Kintsugi. It used a mixture of gold or silver to repair cracks in broken vessels. The worst of breaks could result in the most beautiful of vases because the seams of gold and silver would most richly thread like river deltas through the repaired pieces. They would always stand out most brilliantly to Robert when he saw them in the markets next to any other pottery.
And then Robert, very humbly, described to the world his own cracks. About Vietnam and his family history, and his reasons for being in jail. And then he mentioned some of the cracks he had seen in the company he had criticized, but pointed out that as soon as TellTech was made aware of the problems by reading his article they sought to make not only repairs but reparations. But then he told about the cracks in even the most put-together people he had met, reminding all of us that we had cracks.
Not only did he praise TellTech for their desire to fix their oversight, but he reported on some of the other responses his article had flushed out. A lot of people’s true character had come out when their livelihood had been threatened. And to that he cited something Henry Price had told him at their dinner meeting.
Henry Price had told him, “Only when we see our flaws can we fix them. So now I think TellTech and you, and I know what ways we can be made more whole and beautiful.”
And this only whetted the reader's appetite because then Robert ended with more of what the readers wanted to hear most. He told them what Henry had said to him at their dinner. Robert's last paragraphs read,
“Henry wouldn't want me to publish this part, and has not seen it, but this is my editorial, and this is my honest opinion of him. I have learned a lot about this world by the tragedies I’ve seen in it. And I’ve seen more than most of you. And tragedies this consequential are enough to break most people. And because of them I was a homeless criminal for a very long time. I would have almost assuredly fallen and been broken to pieces again without one very important event. One very important meeting. Rarely does one event have the power to rewrite an entire lifetime of other events. But the meeting of Henry Price was that event for me. Last night he proved to me once again, that many tragedies are an opportunity for a greater beauty to be seen. And I write you today about a greater beauty present in this world.
This story is not about my failures, of which I have many. It is not about the failures of TelTech, which are not unlike the shortcoming of other companies. This story is about the beauty one man brings to this world and his faith that all things can be redeemed. My shameful blunder and all the editorial storm that ensued gives me a platform to show the greatness of Henry Price. As you consider the ways that you have failed this week, or this month, or the biggest blunders of your lifetime, remember that there is one who sees potential for redemption in even your story. I show you my cracks in order to magnify the greatness of the man who has given my life back a dozen times over and more. Henry Price, may my weakness show how great a man you are. I am ever grateful for you."
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul says he has some cracks. We don't know what exactly they are, but he said when he pleaded with God to take them away God replied, my grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.
And I think this is the type of power all the rest of us want to see, that He can save even us in our weakness. That He loves even us enough to do so. That He wants to use us in our flaws, maybe even because of our flaws, for his kingdom. Maybe it is partly because he knows it makes for a better story.
Where are you broken? And How can you surrender it to him, and lean into trust, so that he may use it to show his greatness to the rest of us?