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.
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.
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.