Last week I wrote an article about shame. While there are several types of shame in our lives, I focused primarily on the shame we feel because of who we are. Several years ago, I picked up a book called, Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. One of the chapters focused on a story called "The Cracked Pot" that's had a major impact on my life. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that it has the same affect...
The Cracked Pot
A water-bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of it imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you," the pot said. Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said. The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, "as we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun's glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaded out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for it failure. The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot's side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted seeds on you side of the path, and every day, as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house."
Embracing Our Flaws This story wrecked me the first time I read it and I find myself revisiting it when I feel down or discouraged. I'll get stuck in this "I don't measure up" mode where I allow feelings of inadequacy to flood my mind.
It is so easy to focus on our flaws. There are things that we don't like about ourselves, and they cause us shame. We feel vulnerable and exposed to the pain of rejection and failure.
"What if they find out what I'm REALLY like? They'll never like me."
"Why should I even try that? I know I'll fail. I fail at everything."
"I'm broken, I'll never amount to anything."
This is total B.S. (Bologna Sandwiches. What...did you think I'd swear?)
When we get stuck in this mindset, we miss out on the ways that our vulnerabilities can be used for a greater purpose. The pot thought it's purpose was to deliver a full water load. Yet because of his shame, he was unable to see that his real purpose was to help create something beautiful for his master.
I can safely say the times of greatest impact in my life have been through talking about ways I've failed, struggled, doubted, or felt ashamed of who I am. And here's the reason: It's not about me and I can't take credit for it. Through my cracks, God does His greatest work. My weakness shows off his grace, power, and creativity.
You know when I've been least effective? When I get full of myself.
"Alright God, I'm pretty awesome. I think I've got it from here. Thanks for the ride thus far. Here's $10 bucks, go grab yourself a sandwich and help the next person."
What could happen if we took the same level of effort we use to hide our flaws or project a polished image and invested it into learning how to trust God and lead from a position of vulnerability? What if we handed Him the things that cause us the most shame or heart ache and allowed Him to make something beautiful out of it? It could be something big, like a community organization or ministry formed out of a painful life experience. Or it might be as simple as a heartfelt response to a tough situation someone is going through.
I realize that not everyone reading this shares these same beliefs. Whether you are struggling with issues of faith, feel indifferent, or have a definitive opposing belief, the idea of devotion to a cause greater than ourselves and the benefit of others can free us from the need to hide our flaws.
I am exploring this in my own life right now with the ADHD journey. Initially, I felt very broken and could only see what felt like a thousand ways that I was inferior to those around me. But I really believe that God is using this to reveal things about my self-worth that I was unaware of, and wants to use this journey to help others see their value and begin to heal.
Our cracks can have value if we allow God to use them for the benefit of others instead of trying to hid them or pretend they don't exist. This way, He gets the glory from it, not us.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. - 2 Corinthians 4:7
Join The Conversation
Can you identify with the cracked pot? Have you felt broken and devalued? Do you think it's possible that your cracks have been watering flowers that you've never been aware of? Is there an area of weakness that you've used to bring hope and healing to someone else? Share your thoughts below, or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.
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