Cracked Jars

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”           

 Psalm 84:6-7 NIV

With a quick click of the power button my laptop switched off and the smiling faces blinked away to a black screen. Emotions, insecurities and anxiety blazed hot in my heart and mind.

A saying bandied about in the Christian world is that believers are like cracked jars of clay. It originates in 2 Corinthians 4:7 where the apostle Paul likens believers to “jars of clay”. The cracked part comes from the fact that none of us are perfect.

In my mind’s eye, and all the illustrations I have seen depicting these jars of clay, they are tidy little jars with a few simple well-defined cracks in them, large though some may appear. I have always liked that picture, agreeing that I am indeed a cracked jar but that God can still use it.

The reality is I am more than a jar with two or three neat little cracks, I am a jar of clay with a multitude of hairline fractures that covers my entire surface. One sudden shake or knock is capable of making it shatter into a thousand pieces. This jar of mine is riddled with sins, anxieties, insecurities and fears. The roaring lion, Satan, circles around it until the right moment and then roars, causing an ensuing clatter like hard clay on a tile floor. 

“Girl, you are so out of your league!” came the snarling, mocking words. “Who are you kidding? You are nothing compared to all of them!”.

The fragments of my jar lay defeated, hopelessly broken, believing they were useless and its base exposed.

Examining that base, something embedded there glittered, yellow and hard. It was a nugget of gold that could not be budged, a source of life-giving, restorative breath that brought solid, unwavering peace.

It spoke words of truth and promises, “I will never leave you. I’ve got you. You are mine and I am yours.”

Laying there in the dirt and dust the pieces began to listen to the soft and gentle whisper, that slowly and lovingly danced and weaved around those broken pieces speaking life, hope and truth into each fragment. The breath of the whispered words gently lifted the broken fragments back together, filling each crack with those promises.

The fine lines of stress fractures are still there, but the nugget seems to shine brighter and stronger. Gratitude and joy fill my soul and I am strengthened by it because I realize it is my core, my identity, and nothing can remove it.

Like my friend Susan said, it is through these mended, glazed-over cracks that the glorious light of the Holy Spirit within us can shine through so others can be drawn to that light and see Him.

I love how Allen Arnold in his book, The Story of With, compares it to the ancient Japanese art called kintsugi, where they repair shattered pieces by infusing golden lacquer between them.

“Rather than hide the imperfections, they highlight them by filling the cracks with liquid gold. They view the repaired item as even more valuable because it is now unique from all other vessels.”

In Psalm 84 verse 6, the Psalmist talks about the Valley of Baca. The name is often translated as ‘a valley of weeping’. The picture is that on our pilgrimage, our journey back to our eternal home with God, we will travel through some deep, dark valleys and hard, dry, desert places. When our strength is in God, however, we can turn those difficult places into springs that bring refreshment and encouragement to others with us on the journey or those who are coming behind.

It is not a one-and-done, though. We have to continually turn to the Lord for strength each step of the way, every day, all day. Psalm 84:7 says those who bring refreshment to the journey go from strength to strength in God.

So, what does that look like in our everyday life? I believe it changes from day to day and person to person.

The main thing is to be plugged into God’s Word and be drawing close to Him every day, all throughout our day. There are a host of ways of doing it:

  • Reading your Bible every day
  • Memorizing verses to remind yourself of God’s promises
  • Listening to worship music or just some God honouring tunes
  • Listening to podcasts while you exercise or go about your chores
  • Reading devotionals
  • Reading Christian books by ‘some old dead guys’, as our friend Neil likes to say, on theology or sermons
  • Doing a Bible study, alone or preferably with fellow believers
  • Praying in the morning, praying in the evening, praying at suppertime. This is just talking to your Daddy about EVERTHING.

What works for you? What brings you joy, inspires you, encourages you? What draws you deeper into the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Do that, dwell on that, practice that.

Most of all, remember WHO YOU ARE!

Have you accepted that you are a sinner, repented of those sins and invited Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Saviour, believing He is the resurrected Son of God? Then YOU ARE HIS! End of story. That nugget of truth is now embedded in your core. Hold fast to it with every ounce of your strength. Remind yourself of it when your jar falls to pieces and know that He is holding on to you with His mighty, loving, right hand and He will never let go!

Oh, girl, you are unique and SO loved!

Be well!

Patricia

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