As I listened to a conversation spoken too loudly in a coffee shop, I felt pangs of sadness at what I heard. The women speaking could not seem to find one shred of good in their lives, one area to buoy hope, or one possibility to stir them to take a risk or action to move them forward. Whatever had happened in each of their lives to this point resulted in a sense of resignation that anything could positively change or be different for them.
For these two, the hurts and disappointments of their lives, the daily headlines, their economic status, and a much longer list of experiences had so impacted them that the shape of their thoughts, feelings, and very character was altered.
I understand the temptation. I get the realities we face and the hardships we can be called to endure. The results of broken hearts and disheartened spirits appear everywhere. The consequences of choices made by us or for us chase us through the night when we should be sleeping. Faith gets tested at every turn and it is far easier than we admit to be like the children of Israel who gave up on Moses when his time on the mountain seemed to take too long.
Do we give up, give in, or stand in the middle of all that swirls around us?
It is not such an easy choice many times. On a Sunday morning in worship with a hearty “amen” to the message, our confidence grows; but too often it fades in the challenges of any given week. Perhaps we forget because we come into the service empty or half-full and leave filled up again only to get empty again as life keeps happening around us and swirling within us.
I don’t need to feel shame that the challenges of life weigh me down. Our original design to live in Eden didn’t work out as planned. We have been trying to overcome the challenges of the fall ever since then with a need for a heavy reliance on mercy and grace.
After all, clay pots can be easily cracked or broken. Life is hard and messy. Clay pots can be fragile. We see that in the lives of our modern heroes and we see it in the pages of the Lord’s story from Genesis to Revelation. We also see that often the Lord chooses some of the least likely clay pots for His purposes.
Once more it is an issue of our character that determines what we will do when life is messy and broken. The problem we forget is that our character is forged in the midst of the challenges, the failures, the choices (ours and those of others), the stumbles, and weaknesses.
If our character is good, it is not in spite of these things that have occurred but because of them. Clay pots go into the heat of the kiln where a metamorphosis takes place.
It’s there in the heat that clay pots go from being a soft, totally fragile substance to one that is hardened, impervious to water, wind, and time in order to be useful, to endure, and to accomplish their purposes. The clay pots look and feel dry when they are placed in the kiln, but there is still water trapped within the spaces of the clay particles that make up the pot.
Check back on Wednesday to read about Part 2 of Clay Pots.