I was pulling my coffee out of the microwave the other day (hello motherhood), when I lost my grip on the mug and it went tumbling onto the kitchen floor. Miraculously, it bounced without breaking and I was able to pick it up unscathed. Or so I thought it.
The mug had belonged to my grandparents. It lived at the lake cabin they shared with all of us when I was growing up and I snagged it, with my aunt’s blessing and permission, after my grandmother’s funeral this summer. I examined it after the potentially fatal fall and carefully put it in the sink, grateful it had survived. Then I it ran through the dishwasher with the next load. When I went to unload it, I noticed it had a small chip in the bottom. I hadn’t noticed the chip before, but when I saw it upside down it was clearly visible.
My perspective changed and because of that the missing piece became obvious. I tested the mug’s balance by setting it down on the counter and amazingly, it didn’t even wobble. Thankful to pull it away from yet another close call, I hung it on the hook in the cabinet and went on with my chores.
Happy that all was well with my heirloom mug, I pulled it out of the cabinet a few days later and poured some fresh French pressed coffee inside. Lo and behold I heard a creaking sound coinciding with a visible crack moving down the side of my mug. What in the world? Oh no! The fall. Apparently it had sustained an injury I couldn’t see, and didn’t even realize was there until I tried to use it.
Isn’t it that way with us sometimes? We’re moving along when all of a sudden we slip and fall. It could be emotional, spiritual, or even physical. We get up and dust ourselves off. We take a look around to see who else noticed. Then we examine ourselves for injury. Everything feels fine. We look okay. So we pick ourselves up as if nothing happened. Maybe we’re a little sore, but we figure the pain is normal and we move on without a thought toward actual healing.
The next thing we know though, part of our world gets turned upside down just like my mug in the dishwasher. We see ourselves from a different perspective. We notice a piece is missing. Maybe we even test life out to make sure we can still stand. When we manage to balance in spite of what’s gone wrong, maybe in spite of what’s missing, we re-center ourselves and try to serve another day without focusing too much on the injury.
Then the opposite happens. Instead of our world getting turned upside down, we experience something great. Something so incredible we just know it is going to fill us up and then we hear the re-surfacing of the fracture and experience the pain all over again. An opportunity for something awesome comes at work, or a new relationship just feels right; we sense God pouring in, but it’s hard to hold what He has for us because our fractured, broken self never healed from the last fall. Or the last twenty falls. So we do our best to maintain an appearance as if nothing is wrong, simultaneously leaving a puddle all around us.
But God pouring His goodness into broken vessels is part of His plan for healing. His plan is not that we should stay broken, but that His power and grace would show through our wounds to express to us and to a broken world that there is hope in Him. Paul puts it this way,
“We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary power will be seen as God’s, not ours. Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out,” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 TPT)
God wants to fill our cups to overflowing while mending the cracks in our lives. When His glorious treasure comes into our common jars, something remarkable happens. The substance is actually sustaining the mug now, not the other way around. In the natural when something breaks, it can no longer be used for the purpose for which it was intended. A broken mug is useless. But in the spiritual, the opposite is actually true. When we’re broken, what’s being poured inside keeps us from being defeated, if we allow it. God’s grace, power, and purposes flow into us (like that fresh French pressed coffee) and while a little escapes, it does so with intent to show the outside world a glimpse of what is being poured in.
But this process isn’t passive. We have a part to play. We have a choice. We can either ignore the breaks in our lives and pretend like nothing is wrong, or we can acknowledge the breaks and allow God’s power to work in us. When we ignore the breaks, we place ourselves in the same position as the world around us. By ignoring the stress and the cracks, we are bypassing the work of the salve. God’s power is the salve and by bypassing it, we live just like every other broken vessel around us: empty and unaware of the leaks contributing to our emptiness.
On the other hand, when we acknowledge the breaks and God’s power in us, we put ourselves in a position to show off God’s grace to the world as seen through our cracks. We still have to be filled up regularly, like every other broken vessel on the planet, but we understand our Source and can keep a watch on our leaky places so they are treated with care as to not grow larger and inflict even more pain on us and the people around us.
So, a little post script on my mug. It seems like a bit of a miracle, but my husband brought me coffee in bed the other morning, not knowing the mug hadn’t been properly glued, and it held all the hot goodness inside. I could see evidence of the crack on the side since it had turned coffee-colored, but it remained intact. If it was leaking at all, it was definitely slow, not detrimental to my morning coffee time. But because of the fall, and the preciousness of the mug itself, I’ll treat it with a special amount of care from now on. I’ll inspect it and be especially ginger when I handle it.
And this is how it should be when we look at ourselves and the broken vessels around us. We may not see the exact places where each other are cracked, but knowing the breaks are there and that we’re fragile beings, we treat ourselves and each other with special care. In that, we seek to emphasize the work of the salve, not the weakness of the break.