“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” II Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)
Recently, I had the chance to hear from a missionary couple. As they shared about their truly beautiful work in a foreign land, instead of rejoicing, I felt things I didn’t want to feel about my own journey and about my own worth as a missionary. Failure. Inadequacy. Shame. Although the thoughts were not of God and His Holy Spirit, they came marching into my heart and mind. This experience gave me much to think about as I continue to heal and make sense of my overseas journey.
Although it’s been more than seven years since we had to leave our home in Budapest, Hungary, I still feel the sting of crushed dreams and the wounding of how I was viewed by others as we left. And I wonder if you, friend, have felt this in your journey overseas, whether current or past.
I love how II Corinthians 4 frames the entire journey of our calling to live this life with a treasure, the light of the risen Christ shining in our hearts. And we have this beautiful reality of Christ in us as clay vessels, which means that the light is in our very selves.
In the truth of our shared humanity, I believe on some level, no matter how ‘successful’ any of us may appear to others as a missionary, we can still feel the same things as we look truth in the face and know we are clay, know we can be broken. Therefore, I know so many of us need the words of healing and promise over our lives which God offers through His Word to us, the ones made of clay.
So, looking at this image of clay vessels, what kinds of things can we see about ourselves?
- Simplicity: Jars of clay are used to hold valuable things but are made simply and of the earth. In the beauty of their simple creation, they can do great things, as can we through the hands of the Great Potter.
- Fragility: Jars of clay are susceptible to breaking easily. It is part of the nature of their material. There is a specific correlation between this and our own hearts and minds, which break all too easily.
- Ability to be put back together: While they are fragile, earthen vessels of clay can be re-bonded, although their appearance is forever changed. Our Great Potter is also the Great Mender of broken things. He especially delights in mending us, His children.
- Cracks mean a continual pouring out: The process of putting the pieces back together creates a vessel which will be continuously poured out. Even if it’s from a leak, what is released through us into our environment reveals our vulnerability and is a type of pouring out of the truth of our brokenness. The undeniable nature of how we are redeemed to bear our unique, broken, and mended selves, is both a natural pouring out and an encouragement to all the broken ones.
- A never-ending supply for our vessels: Because we are made by the Infinite One, even though there are cracks and leaks in our brokenness, God promises continually to fill us with all we need to be useful in His service.
- Light comes through our brokenness: Not only do broken vessels pour out through the cracks, but that’s also where the light breaks through. As we put ourselves before that Light which shines in and overcomes the darkness, the light refracts and streams through in a beautiful design unique to our brokenness.
II Corinthians 4 goes on to say that beyond our brokenness, there is the reality of living in a fallen world and following Jesus amidst it. Though we are pressed, we are not crushed. We possess a resilience in our earthen vessels which cannot be destroyed. Even if the mending of the cracks happens a million times, it will only provide more opportunities to be vessels of pouring out, of light streaming through.
Friend, I pray this truth finds you today in the brokenness of this journey of entering other cultures and knowing great trials, of being pressed in mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take heart, our God is the mender and no matter how your journey or my journey has looked, He is putting us back together, healing our brokenness in beautiful ways that only make Him more beautiful in us.