Posted on April 4, 2013
There is an Eastern Indian folk-tale about a water bearer who had two water pots. Each pot hung on the end of a long pole which the water bearer carried across his neck and shoulders. One of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full pot of water at the end of the long walk from the river to home.
The other pot, however, had a crack in it. It leaked terribly and only arrived at home with half its load. For years the water bearer followed the same routine: He went to the river with the pots, filled them both, but returned home with only a pot and half of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of his accomplishments. He was fulfilling perfectly his purpose and design. And the cracked pot was constantly ashamed of himself, depressed that he could not do what he was made to do.
So finally, unable to endure his disgrace any longer, the cracked pot spoke to his owner one morning at the river: “I am ashamed of myself,” he said, “and I want to apologize to you.” The water bearer (who seemed unsurprised that a jar would speak to him) asked in reply, “Why?”
The cracked pot said, “I have been able, for all these years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. You have to do all of this work, and you can’t get full value from your efforts.”
The water bearer could only smile in return. “As we return home today,” he said, “I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” And sure enough, as they traveled away from the river, the old cracked pot noticed the colorful flowers on his side of the path.
At the end of the trail the water bearer asked the pot, “Did you notice that the flowers were only on your side of your path, but not on the other side? That is because I have always known about your imperfections, and I took advantage of it.
“I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the riverside, you have watered them. For years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my table. Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace my house.”
We are all, in our own way, cracked pots. But if we will be good stewards of our troubles, our limitations, and our imperfections, God will use these to change us and to grace his world. No, not everyone accepts his or her troubles and “cracks” as the means to something great.
We can look at what life has dealt us and be angry, bitter, mad-at-the-world, frustrated with ourselves, and bearing a grudge against everyone from God to the mailman. Or we can languish about in shame, victimized by our manufactured feelings of uselessness.
But if we do this, we waste our troubles rather than learn, grow, and develop into a more Jesus-like person. We miss out on simply doing what we can do, even if that means only watering a few flowers along the way.
I don’t think God looks outs out of heaven seeking to intentionally hurt people, no matter what some meat-headed Nimrod of a televangelist might say. He doesn’t harm us. He doesn’t cause evil. But he sure can use what has harmed us, and what is intended for evil against us, what cracks, dents, and breaks us – to transform us and change the world.
No, God isn’t after people, but God is after something in people: His infinite glory to be revealed in we, who are jars of clay. He is going to show that glory to the world, through us, the only instruments he has. And in our brokenness, our suffering, and through our cracks of weakness, the grace and glory of God will leak out over the entire world.
Posted on March 31, 2013
I have bad news. Researchers have confirmed that planet Earth is headed toward an apocalypse. Yes, I know that the Mayan calendar is in our rearview mirrors, and we have all returned to paying our credit card bills, mortgages, and car payments once again. But we have not escaped celestial disaster.
Scientists say that our sun, the star that anchors our little spot in the Milky Way, is moving in its natural life cycle toward becoming a Red Giant. The core of the star will intensify and expand on a gargantuan scale. The sun will become so large that it will suck our planet in and everything will be vaporized into oblivion.
Our only hope is to colonize other planets, or maybe to send a group of hardy human pioneers to jump on a stray asteroid as it swings by terra firma (that is of course if one of those asteroids does not cause our extinction first).
Not so fast, however! This catastrophe isn’t going to happen for another seven million years. Our sun is still young, and as long as it is young, life on this planet can go on without the fear of being swallowed up in a solar doomsday. So, we should all keep paying our credit card bills, car payments, and saving for college and retirement.
But alas, maybe not, for I have bad news still. Life on this planet will likely end long before our sun reaches critical mass. Outside of the prospects that an asteroid will obliterate us, there is much more to fear. There is a chance that a super volcanic eruption could so alter our atmosphere that we will all go extinct. There is always the prospect of pandemic, massive food shortages, and the exhaustion of the earth’s fresh water supply. And then there is the biggest danger for future humanity: Future humanity.
Forget about all the outside possibilities for our demise. The biggest risks are the ones we pose to ourselves. We could easily destroy one another with our own nuclear machinery. Our technology we now so love, could run amok. Some unforeseen disaster involving genetic mutation or yet to be invented scientific advancement could be our undoing.
Ray Kurzweil, of futuristic and Google fame, believes that humanity has “about even chances of making it through the next century.” But then he adds the cunning caveat that he has “always been accused of being optimistic.” So maybe we should quit paying our bills after all.
But there remains some good news – the best news of all. While the survival of life on Earth appears grim from a scientific perspective (and definitely from some religious perspectives), it doesn’t appear to be so from God’s perspective. The resurrection of Jesus – that Christians celebrate this Easter weekend – says, if it says anything at all, that God believes in life. Easter signals to the universe that humanity has a still unfolding destiny, not a predetermined dead end.
Easter is the great news that God is not planning a cosmic funeral. Easter shows that God’s strategy is “for good and not for disaster, to give us a future and hope.” Easter is a sign and symbol that human life will end neither with a bang nor a whimper. Easter tells us that life will go on, even when everything else seems to indicate otherwise. Easter proves that God (along with Kurzweil) is an optimist.
Admittedly, the bad news of this world is stifling. With so much violence, fear, evil, and uncertainly, one is tempted to admit that the dooms-dayers and pessimists are right. Why not don the morning garments and gloomily bid adieu to the life that was?
Yet, that was the same temptation that faced the followers of Jesus when the sun rose on that first Resurrection Sunday. Little did they know that life had not ended; not even close. Life was just getting started. No, I don’t believe that God is finished with this world yet – not by a long shot. We have a future, a bright future indeed.