“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” -1 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV
We are vessels and we’ve been fashioned by hands that know for what we will be used. We have our own ideas, but it’s those ideas that are destroyed when we lose our grip on what we thought was our purpose. God has a plan that began before we found Him. All of our guesses and our attempts our just us flailing, and we know it when we start sinking. Nothing that can destroy us has been fashioned because God is the one who created the destroyer.
I once read that your ability to love is only equal to your ability to suffer. It’s the weak’s response to suffer to the point of forging steel from flesh. Only the courageous can suffer to the breaking and come back with the fury of a matador’s bull. The hits from life teach the survivor how to fight, not how to die. Life dresses like a circus clown, waving his blood red flag like you’re his toy. He acts as though you have no horns with which to gouge and no hooves with which to trample.
“Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right?” -Romans 4:20-23 MSG
I used to beg God to start me over. My prayers were as though He did something wrong the first time. My fears were that I was irretrievable “just as I am”. I have learned that God makes us the way we’re supposed to be. Our flaws are not design mistakes. We’re perfectly engineered to withstand the life we’re in. Our “just as I am” is exactly what He wants. As soon as we can accept our weakness, we find His strength. We learn that we are not the treasure, so we do not have to be perfect. He in us is the treasure, and He in us makes us perfect. The vase does not make the flowers more beautiful. Like a hobo’s bag full of diamonds, the man does not add value to his Savior. There is no value in the separation, only an empty vessel.
A few years ago I wrote a poem about the struggle of being imperfect and trying to be happy within the imperfection. Life hits hard for some, at least it has for me, and I always wondered if I was a mistake. This poem illustrates the view from a ball of clay that wanted to be something special, but that version of “special” was so shortsighted that it caused an unbelievable amount of pain, until I started to see His light shine through my “cracks”.
Cupped me in His hands, a small ball of clay.
He was Creator and this was my day.
Rolling and stretching ‘tween finger and thumb
I couldn’t wait to see what I’d become.
He worked with delight, hands moving in pace.
If I had to guess, I think I’m a vase.
When He was all done I thought I’d be sick.
What dainty flower wants a vase so thick?
I started my life and got knocked around.
He made me so strong, but i felt let down.
Life was a battle for this little vase.
I searched high and low to find my right place.
Cried to the Potter, ‘Why make me like this?
No paint for my skin. No flower to kiss.’
Life carried on and I started to chip.
My shell had grown weak. Hope started to slip.
Still, i was a vase. He made me this way
Love for the Potter made all this okay.
Finally found a way to fit in the crowd.
I may be damaged but still, I was proud.
Flowers would find me and I’d give them stay.
I was content ’till that one fateful day.
I got so careless with my noble place.
I thought I was strong so I didn’t brace.
I toppled over and spilled my whole store.
Flew off the table and crashed on the floor.
Splintered pottery is what I’d become.
Scared of the Potter whose work I’d undone.
He came, picked me up and studied my face.
“I’m sorry,” I cried. “I’ve ruined your vase.”
He smiled at me, “How can you be sure?”
He said, “this day’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
I was so fragile and I had grown faint.
He carried me to the place where He paints
I finally woke up to glimpse at myself.
No longer a vase to sit on His shelf.
I was now painted but still full of cracks.
I can’t hold water. Life’s vicious attack.
I was so afraid He’d throw me away.
I sat there and cried ’till I heard Him say,
“I made you tough, cuz life would make you fight.
Not made for my vase, you’re made for My Light.”
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. -Psalm 139:14 NIV