Monday, November 18, 2013

Cracked Pots Theology

Maybe it's the cold medication, maybe I'm on a roll, maybe it's the wonderful feedback I've been getting, maybe it's just three days off in a row with nothing to do but sleep and think... (Well, I could always unpack from the move, because my dining room and garage and sewing room are all still DEEP with boxes, but I'm SICK, so my JOB is to flop on the sofa and REST, right?!) but I'm finding that the more I write, and read, and wait and watch and listen, the more there is to share with you, and that's EXCITING TO ME.

One of the prevalent responses I've gotten to some of the content of my life that I've shared so far has been both "Wow!" and "Why?" at the same time.  There's a fair bit of "Me too!" going on offline, at least to some of the questions I've raised or emotions I've shared, and that is what this whole thing is about... I would love to hear that resounding "ME TOO!" reverberate around the internet when it comes to sharing pain and our response to it and God's response to it... and if I need to be one of the standard bearers to get the ball rolling, then so be it, because so many of us sit in the dark and think we're alone with our pain, our experiences, and so we're quiet about it, because life is messy enough and tough enough to handle when we THINK we're alone in our mess, but what if EVERYONE KNEW who we REALLY ARE and we REALLY BECOME ALONE?!  WHAT IF BECOMING KNOWN RESULTS IN ABANDONMENT?!

This has not been my experience, though I'm not going to lie and say that EVERYONE eats authenticity and transparency up with a spoon and asks for more.  Some people just blink at me like big owls and you can tell that they're trying to process something that SOUNDS like English, but the bouncing ball is just not doing it for them...  Some people ask for more and never share themselves, and I'm okay with that for awhile, but there's a difference between learning if I'm safe and consistent and predictable by living life alongside me until you're ready to share yourself, and just picking away at my soft dark underbelly for more gory details.  I'm sure there will be some of that along the way, there already is, but I hope that the cries of "ME TOO!" drown it out.

So, in the Bible, we are referred to as "clay pots" and God as the "Potter".  And I've had this imagery explained to me in a very beautiful way by Pastors Micheal Ward and Wayne Lewry of Central United Church in Calgary, Alberta, where we were married and attended for several years before moving to Seattle.  If you're ever in town on a Sunday, go check them out, they're right downtown and the lineup for hugs on the way out is worth the wait.

Here's some cool things about clay pots:

They're made with a purpose.  Nobody in Biblical times made clay pots just for looking at.  Everything had a purpose.

The purpose of the pot determined it's shape.  Sometimes it was tall and slender with a handle and a spout for carrying and serving water.  Clay keeps water cooler than room temperature, which, in Israel, was a big deal before refrigeration.  Spouts are shaped differently for oil and water because they have different surface tensions and density.  Each detail served a purpose.

They take on the properties of what they're filled with.  Before glazing became all the rage, if you had a pot for vinegar, you would never want to put milk in it unless you wanted sour milk.  Because clay pots are porous and the contents seep into the clay over time.  Osmosis works.

They're crafted carefully.  Clay pots need to have handles that comfortably fit the hand, lids that keep bugs and dirt out of the contents, walls of even thickness so they cook food evenly, spouts that pour water properly or oil without dribbling.

They're decorated deliberately to distinguish them from one another.  Who wants to pick up a jug for a nice cool drink and pour themselves a big cup of vinegar?!  You've got to be able to tell them apart when dinner's burning and you're looking for the yogurt...

They're fragile.  They break.  They crack, and they're not meant to last forever.

And here's where God steps in and shows off... Even though we are fragile, we're not disposable.  And clay pots, once broken, can often be re-purposed for something else, like the way we use broken pot shards inside planters to keep all the soil from running out when we water the plant.  In God's economy, NOTHING is ever wasted.  So if we, as clay pots, get banged up in our day to day use, and develop a crack here and a chip there, and in some cases get busted wide open and pieces fall out, He's capable of piecing us back together ever so carefully, but in His wisdom, He leaves some cracks just ever so slightly out of whack, or He's been waiting for you to experience something that changes how you're shaped so that your TRUE purpose is revealed, and most often, I've found, He turns us into lanterns for His light.  Lanterns that keep all the light contained don't shed much for others to see.  They're hard to follow in the darkness.  And it is in our cracked and broken places that become filled with His light that we truly begin to shine.

I bear some really significant battle scars.  Some of them are even self-inflicted.  I'm sure you'll get to hear about those too.  Brokenness is a state I have spent some real quality time in.  There's a purpose for that too.  It's said in the Talmud, that when we are made in the secret place, God writes His name on our hearts of clay.  But He provides for brokenness because it is ONLY when our hearts are broken that His name can penetrate and reside WITHIN our hearts.

So I am choosing to be a lantern.  I could just choose to sit here and be a crappy container that water leaks out of all the time, but I'd rather see His work through my broken places light the way for someone else to find their way out of the darkness.  At least then the pain has purpose.  Today that's good enough.  Sometimes it's not, there have been days where He and I have had some shouting matches about it not feeling good enough, but today, it'll do.

And WHAT IF... WHAT IF BECOMING FULLY KNOWN RESULTS IN LOVE ANYWAY?!  Wow.  I love the security of knowing I am loved, warts and all. That's love.  That's connection.  That's DIVINE.

1 comment:

  1. The fact you're quoting Talmud just make my heart dance, number one. Number TWO, I love the clay pot analogy and it's pretty hard to come up with something I haven't heard before when I've studied theology (particularly the Old Testament - that's what good Jews do..wink wink) for over twenty years. Lastly, I'd rather be a lantern too. Excellent post. ~Maya