By Missey Butler
- Have you ever heard the phrase, "I'm only human?" Or, "I'm not perfect, just forgiven?" Whenever you hear these types of statements, do you sometimes get the impression that someone might just be a little defensive?
I know I've been guilty. We all, at one time or another, have stood on our soapbox and proceeded to state our case about why we are the way we are. We feel like we are caught up in the endless cycle of the "I can't help it's" -- that is, until the Holy Spirit gently reminds us that we are (after all) a work in progress. Much like the highway flagman who alerts us to the "SLOW DOWN - PROCEED WITH CAUTION," our Helper will lead us to the exact scriptures that aid us in this changing process.
Recently during my quiet time, I was curiously struck by a two-word phrase that ordinarily I would have passed over in my hurried pace. But, I decided to heed the advice of my "heavenly flagman" and reduce my speed, so that I could gain a better understanding of God's message to me.
II Corinthians 4:7 says:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
I became inquisitive about the words "earthen vessels." I thought I had a good idea of its meaning but decided to do a word study with my favorite Greek scholar, Spiros Zodhiates. He is a wonderful instructor that knows how to search out root-word origins.
Through my study, I discovered the word vessel (skeuos) to be defined as a holder, jar, or something that contains. The word earthen (ostrakinos) is a substance made of clay, brittle, and easily broken.
I began to realize that I am nothing more than a lump of clay.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand. (Isaiah 64:8
I want to share with you a beautiful illustration that I heard years ago that still speaks to my heart whenever I have one of those, "I can't do anything right" days. It is the lesson of "The Cracked Pot."
Many years ago, in a very poor Middle East village, stood an ancient stone well. Along side of that well sat two large watering pots. One of them was like new, beautifully formed, even had graceful etchings along its curved handle.
The other, not as new yet still useful, had become cracked over the years. Time after time, the pot was passed over by the people with the exception of a little village girl. She had grown fond of the neglected pitcher. Every day she would chose it instead of the beautiful pot.
One morning, the old pot asked the little girl, "Why do you continue to use me, when you know I am flawed and cannot hold the water you and your family so desperately need?" The little girl spoke not a word, but carried the broken pot to a familiar pathway that she traveled daily.
With her tiny voice she said, "This is why I pick you." There before the pot was a row of delicate wild flowers that had bloomed along the trail because of the water that had trickled and leaked from the pot. The buried seeds of the flowers had been watered as she made her way home each day. The cracked pot for the first time had seen its worth through the eyes of a grateful little girl.
Just like the not so perfect piece of pottery, the Potter uses us as God's creations despite our imperfections. Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to be placed back on the potter's wheel to be remolded. This is not always a fun process but it is necessary in order to smooth out some of the flaws that God says must go! In even more serious times, God will actually break us and begin the process all over again. All because He's after something within us that will ultimately produce a vessel of honor for His glory.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to Him. (Jeremiah 18: 4)
Just so you know you are in good company, here are some of the more famous "cracked pots" found in the Bible:
Noah was a Drunk
Elijah was Suicidal
Peter was a Coward
Jacob was a Deceiver
Rahab was a Prostitute
Samson was a Womanizer
Moses had a Self-esteem problem
David was an Adulterer/Murderer
The Samaritan Woman was Divorced (a lot
We may find ourselves falling on our faces. But just like these heroes and heroines of the faith, God has promised to be our treasure while in these earthen vessels. Hallelujah! We have immutable Deity dwelling in a breakable container. The "Complete One" abiding in the "Incomplete ones." What a divine paradox!
I find myself today still one of His works in progress. It would not surprise me if one day I discovered, engraved deeply upon this "earthen vessel," the signature of my loving Maker. Along with it would be the following words:
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (II Tim 2:2
Then I will truly be a finished masterpiece, ready to bring honor and glory to the Potter's Hands.
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