Monthly Archives: October 2009

Accepting life as a cracked pot

Standard

cracked_pot

The Tale of the Water Bearer and the Cracked Pot

In India, there was once a water bearer.  Every day he would walk down to the river with a pole across his shoulders, carrying a water pot on either end.  One pot was seamlessly round and proudly carried its load all the way back to the village.  The other had a crack and water dripped from it so that by the time the water bearer reached the village the pot was only half full.  This pot became increasingly upset as it watched the precious water leak away each day.  One day, the distraught pot could bear it no longer and spoke to the water carrier.

 “Oh master, I am so sorry that I am not able to carry all my water back for you.  Every day I waste so much.  The other pot does a so much better job than me.  I am so sorry.”

At these words the water bearer gently replied, “as we walk along each day have you seen the flowers that grow by the side of the path?”

“Why of course,” exclaimed the pot, “how could you fail to notice them?  They are beautiful.”

“Quite so,” continued the water bearer, “but have you observed that they only grow on your side of the path?”

“No,” said the pot, “I had never considered that.  But now that you mention it, that is so.  How very strange.”

“It is not strange at all,” responded the water bearer.  “I knew all along about the crack in your pot and so sowed seeds along that side of the path.  As you have dripped water each day you have watered those seeds and enabled them to grow in healthy, beautiful flowers that everyone admires.  Without your leak there would have been no flowers.”

 ~*~

 I have spent most of my life looking at other apparently ‘perfect’ pots, comparing my cracks and chips with their supposed flawlessness.  Many of those that I know seem so ‘together’, striding through life, able to weather life’s storms, whereas I am easily knocked off balance.  I do not have their capacity to ‘just get on with it’.  Often I feel like the cracked pot, not only letting others down but God as well.

 Yet time and again God is so incredibly gracious, gently reminding me that God looks at us with different eyes: 

 The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7b (New Living Translation)

 I struggle with fatigue, and easily become emotional and overwhelmed by circumstances.   After years of trying to fit in with what I thought I should be – tough, buoyant and resilient – it seems that my role is not to be dynamic but instead to reach out to others who struggle.  My own limitations allow me to empathise with them in a way that would not be possible if I was ‘strong’.

 God’s criteria for valuing our worth has nothing to do with how we look, by what we earn or even how much stamina we have.  He has a totally different perspective:

 But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame.What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (Contemporary English Version)

 I am slowly realising that just because I cannot work full time and do some high powered job or ministry does not make me less of a person in God’s eyes.  I have been created for a different purpose altogether.  Much of what I do as a mother, home maker, work colleague and volunteer is on the sidelines unseen and unpaid and therefore seen as less significant.  But my role is often to look out for and listen to others, especially those who have cracks and flaws too, and support them in their journey to become into whatever God had created them to be. 

 God created diversity and we are all made to be different.  He creates different pots for different purposes.  

 I need to remember: I am not less because of what I do.  I am just different.

 

It’s not about doing great things, but about doing small things with great love.

~Mother Teresa~

 

 

All my life I have been throwing small pebbles into a large pond and

I’ve no idea whether I made even the slightest ripple. 

I don’t need to worry about that.  My responsibility was the effort.

~Martha Gellhorn~

 

If you too are a cracked pot, let me know how you deal with it.  It would be good to know that I am not alone in this.

Jo

The elephantness of God

Standard

elephant and blind menThere is a tale from India about six blind men who wish to discover what an elephant is. Since none of then could see the animal, each one was given a different part to touch. The first man holds onto a leg and says an elephant is like a tree trunk. The second touches its tail and thinks an elephant is like a rope. The third holds its trunk and so says a snake; the fourth says a fan because he is touching an ear, the fifth feels the animal’s side and says a wall and the sixth likens the elephant’s tusk to a spear.

The moral of the story is clear: each one of the men only hold a small part of the truth about an elephant and therefore in order to get a larger and more accurate perspective they needed to share that knowledge and listen to one another.

From a Christian point of view it is easy to translate that into our perspective on God and life. God is SO big and awesome and beyond us that we hold onto to the little bit about God that we know and are sometimes scared to take on someone else’s experience and perspective because it challenges our own. For example, I am very happy with the gentle merciful side of Jesus which:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Yet I am extremely uncomfortable with subjects like judgement and hell. I know they are there in the Bible and have to be addressed, so I listen to them, trying to take them on board but they don’t sit nicely with the gentle Jesus I am more at ease with. This is why we need the body of Christ. We all have our own take on God and life. None of us has it pinned down so together we have a much richer and more accurate reflection of God’s nature.

HOWEVER the main point of this post is not about that. My real point is that some of us need to hold onto those parts of God that we KNOW are true in the face of opposing viewpoints. And sometimes the heaviest opposition we face is in church itself. When week in week out I am presented with sermons about how you need to be doing more to becoming transformed like Christ or doing more to serve him it is easy to lose touch with God’s key messages to me this year:

§ Stop striving, instead relax and receive

§ Sit at my feet and listen to me, like Mary of Bethany

§ Learn to live by the unforced rhythms of grace

These are not messages of doing but of being. I ‘do’ best when I focus on ‘being’ with God and ‘being’ myself with him, often gut wrenchingly so. So many times I have come home torn between between what I have personally think I know of God and what I have been told from the front. I end up confused and generally convinced that I must be wrong somewhere, that my experience is false in some way.

Yet there is a positive side to all this: it forces me to go further into God searching for answers. Asking for truth about the matter – his truth not mine or someone else’s. Sometimes it comes quickly such as a verse which leaping out of the page. At others there is no reply and I learn to live with the ambiguity of life but safe in the knowledge that I sought to find answers which in itself gives me an element of peace about it all.

Through it all I am learning to trust the part of God that I know to be true. It is hard and there is much refining to be done and many more parts to discover – however we need to start somewhere with God, whichever part that may be for each of us.

And in the end I just come down to trusting that the God’s elephantness and grace is big enough to make amends when I am blind and deaf to truth.

So which parts of God are you hanging onto or just beginning to explore?  Which ones are you desperately trying to avoid?  Let me know

Jo x