I love the biblical analogy of being clay, of being sculpted and moulded by God into a beautiful creation. I think of myself usually in terms of being “shaped” and created daily. But I started thinking about how a fully beautiful clay vessel has only one function. It holds something in. All that it receives, it holds.
You cannot shine a light from inside a clay pot. The only way that you can see the light within is if the creation has been broken, or shattered.
Shattering is never an easy process for a beautiful piece of pottery. It takes a ton of work to create the intricate details on the painted facade of a clay pot. Hours are spent perfecting that image, building it up into just the right shape, creating it to be perceived in just the right way every time. But if you have created a beautiful lidded vessel, perfect in every way, closed and sealed tightly, but the original intent of the creation was to make something that functions as a lantern, then the creation, however beautiful and intricate… is a failure.
Placing a lit candle in a painted vase does no good to anyone. There is no way for the light to be seen. There is no way for oxygen to reach the flame, so eventually, the flame dies. There is In order for that sealed vase to be used for its intended purpose of a lantern, something has to be broken. A crack must be made in the side, holes must be carved into its interior. Only then can the light shine through. It seems a shame, to break through the perfectly painted exterior, but the truth is that the exterior means nothing. Beautiful or not, that vase is unable to function as a lantern.
The shattering process can be painful. Years have been spent lacquering this vase, glossing up the sides, creating a perfect looking hardened exterior. These built up walls and layers can be hard to chisel through. They were created to withstand. It takes something hard, and probing to break through that exterior. Something that hits hard, and hurts this vessel. Sometimes it takes takes years of sanding down, tiny hurts rubbed and filled with grit until they relent. The these processes can seem painful and unnecessary. They hurt, they tear up the beautiful exterior. But the purpose is never to break the vessel down, it’s always meant to bring the vessel into the promise of what it was created to be.
We were never created to have a beautiful exterior, glossy and hardened. Our image, however painted and portrayed, is not our intended purpose in the world. Oftentimes, that beautifully crafted and curated outward image that we project out to those around us, ends up being the very thing that stops us from functioning in what God has for us. We are not intended to be beautiful vases, we are intended to be broken pottery, shattered by the world, with cracks, and imperfections that allow us to be used as a lantern, a vessel for the light of God.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8 ESV
“Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans”
Romans 9:20-33 MSG