I’ve got another story for you. I believe this one originated in India, although some versions are based in China. It’s the story of the cracked pot.
A lady has to travel to a river everyday to get water. She has two pots that she carries on a pole across her shoulders. One of the pots is perfect and gleaming, the other has a crack in it that drips water. The pot with the crack could only manage to bring half the amount of water back to the lady’s house compared to the ‘perfect’ pot.
The pot without a crack was proud of what it could do and how much water it could hold, but the cracked pot was ashamed of it’s crack. One day the cracked pot said to the woman “I am so sorry. Because of my crack you have to do more work to get the water you need. I let water leak all the way to your house. Maybe you should use another pot, one that won’t leak like I do.”
But the lady said to the pot, “Tomorrow, on the way back, look out for the flowers.”
And so, on the way back to the house, the cracked pot looked and saw beautiful flowers along the side of the road. But when they got to the house, the pot still only had half of it’s load. So it apologised again for it’s failure.
The lady smiled at the pot and said gently, “You are the reason there are flowers on the side of the road. I have always known about your crack so I planted seeds and as you have leaked water, you have watered the flowers and let them grow. There are no flowers on the other side of the road. The flowers bring a smile to my face, and I can pick them and give them to my friends or use them brighten the house.”
I wonder how many of us have ever felt like the cracked pot. How many of us have compared ourselves to others and found we don’t measure up? Or how many of us carry shame because of flaws or imperfections that maybe we think count us out?
Maybe that’s because we don’t properly look at what we contribute to the world around us. It is my experience that cracks are used by God. If you look throughout the bible, the people chosen by God all have ‘cracks’. If you look at the people around you in church, they will all have ‘cracks’ of some kind.
Now, call me Captain Obvious, but we’re not actually pots, cracked or otherwise. We are a lot more complex than pots (even talking pots…) We can grow, our cracks are not permanent. But while we are growing and our cracks are mending, while we are still dripping water, we are still of use to God. God will still plant seeds down our path for us to water. How amazing is that? When we are cracked and wounded, God doesn’t bench us or lock us up in a hospital! He walks alongside us helping us to water the seeds while at the same time mending the cracks. He is both gardener and potter. (Ok, maybe pushing the pot analogy a bit far now. I’ll stop…)
I’d recommend reading the story of Gideon (Judges 6-8), especially the beginning. God chooses the youngest son of a member of the lowest tribe, and has him become the human hero of the day. But Gideon’s fear is a part of the story. And God accepts that and uses him anyway. Look at how Gideon destroys the altar under the cover of darkness, or how God leads Gideon to overhear the Midianites talking. God doesn’t count Gideon out because he lacks courage, instead God helps him to grow past his fear. Never count yourself out, because God certainly won’t.
Let’s see if we can dig a little deeper. Are there areas you are comparing yourself to another and finding yourself not measuring up? Are there things about you that you are ashamed of and feel count you out from being part of God’s family? I know I have felt both of those things. I know how they can weigh a person down or keep them caged. But I also know the freedom of God’s grace.
Let me share something about shame. It keeps you lonely. It can make you defensive, lashing out at others or yourself. Shame makes us want to hide because we think there is something wrong with us, it can cause us to keep people at arms-length in case they find out who we really are. It can keep us isolated from the people around us, and also isolated from God.
Shame is also a lie. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8: 38-39 says as much. Do you think God ever stopped loving Adam and Eve? Let’s visit Genesis quickly. God walks with Adam and Eve in the garden. They eat from the tree and hide from God. They must face the consequences of their actions. But in Genesis 3, verse 21 God provides them with garments. God doesn’t abandon them or stop caring for them. Do you truly think there is anything you could do that would make God stop loving you? I feel like I could write a whole book on this (maybe one day I will – watch this space!) but I’ll pick just one more verse from the bible, the one that I think says it clearest:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3: 1)
If you recognise the shackles of shame, I’d recommend finding a trusted friend, sharing and praying. I’d also recommend 2 TED talks by Brene Brown (‘The Power of Vulnerability’ and ‘Listening to Shame’) And in all seriousness I’d recommend DNA. Yes, there are other discipleship programmes out there which I haven’t experienced, but I can vouch for DNA’s heart for helping you to grow. (No, they are not paying me to promote them!)
One last word of encouragement: seeds take time to grow. Whatever rough patch you are walking though right now, God is walking right next you, maybe even carrying you. And one day you will be able to look back and see the flowers you have helped to water. Please, keep going. Nothing is wasted on the journey you are walking with God.
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