Chaplain’s Corner: CLXXV

“Cracked Pots”

In the ancient world the most durable containers were carved out of stone. That’s where royalty would safeguard their treasures. A rich family might keep an especially prized possession in an alabaster box. Ordinary families, however, had to resort to clay jars. And clay jars were a dime a dozen.

In a Jewish home, if a ceremonially unclean animal such as a lizard scrambled across one of your clay pots, you knew what you had to do. That vessel was now ceremonially unclean. Anyone who touched it would become unclean. Therefore it had to be broken-never to be used again. It was unthinkable that a clay jar should ever become the container of anything worth keeping. That’s the background of one of the Apostle Paul’s most startling statements.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) What’s the treasure? Paul is describing the Holy Spirit-God’s indwelling power to transform human lives. And who or what are the jars of clay? In other words that would be us.

God has put His most important Message, His must-not-fail Ministry and His world changing Mission-God’s greatest treasures, in other words-into the most fragile of containers.

That fact ought to amaze us every time we look in the mirror. It’s not that we are staring at a perfect person. All of God’s servants-from the most eloquent high church official, to the grandmother who loves all the children in the neighborhood as if they were her children, to the teenager who wonders if she can make it through another day-are breakable.

We should never be surprised when those who try to love and serve the Lord suddenly spring leaks. And become discouraged. And let down their guard. And sometimes come to the end of the day feeling as if they have been run over by a truck.

Why would God risk putting his best stuff into such unreliable containers? Paul puts it out there: “God deposits his treasure into fragile vessels of our hearts and minds so we’ll never be tempted to believe that this is all about us. That we ourselves are somehow amazing.”

God is amazing. And every day, if you’re one of God’s adopted children you have some choices to make. Am I going on my own strength or in the strength that God provides? Am I going to worry for today or am I going to pray? Are my attempts to love and serve others all about my power or about the power that God uniquely provides?

Scripture goes out of its way to remind us that we’re all, in the end, cracked pots. But take heart. The cracks, after all, are what allows the Light to shine through.

And you just happen to be one of God’s cracked pots.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain