"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
Jars of clay are easily cracked. This is a fragile world, and we are fragile creatures – a fact we often deny but cannot ultimately avoid.
I remember a time not long after Reese was born. I was amazed, deeply thankful, and physically relieved when I saw she could support and move her head competently. It made her seem a little less fragile. For my part, I felt a less able to break her accidentally. Both a newborn’s body and a first time father’s psyche are clay jars.
Years have passed since then. And, although Reese is still only a little over three and half feet tall (four feet with hair) and a feather’s weight under forty-five pounds, I now don’t see her as especially fragile, at least physically.
What strikes me as especially fragile are her moods. Reese can go from complimenting my shoes to spitting in my face in less than ten seconds. Or so it seems.
Or this: lately Reese has become very interested in the cartoon My Little Pony. Most of the characters are candy-colored horses of various sorts. Each pony bears on the side of his or her rear-end something called a “cutie mark.” The cutie mark is a symbol that represents that pony’s main characteristic, skill or gift.
One moment Reese can be so confident and almost joyful as she marvels at all the things that could become her cutie mark. The future seems so open and full of possibility.
But flip the switch, and in a moment Reese can become deeply worried because she doesn’t yet know what her cutie mark is. She fears she has no great skill to hold up to the world as valuable, no gift of heart or mind to cling to with pride.
(Sadly, in both cases she assumes she needs one. We’re working on that. We’re also trying to encourage her to give herself a break. She isn’t seven yet, after all.)
But the point is that her confidence and sense of self is a clay jar, easily fractured. To be honest, most adults I know (myself included) often seem that way as well, even when we try to hide it. We are clay jars.
A few years back I read a wonderful little book called A Quiet World: Living with Hearing Loss by David G. Myers. Myers is a successful professor of psychology who chronicled his experience of becoming hard of hearing.
He describes the fragile process of hearing which depends on minute hair cells in the ear’s cochlea that wave like wheat under the power of sound waves. Damage these fragile cells and we lose our glorious hearing. We are clay jars.
Myers tells of a woman, a Christian, who got progressively more and more enraged because her preacher repeatedly asked the congregation during worship, “How many of you have sex?”Eventually her husband told the woman the pastor’s question has been, “How many of you write checks?” We are clay jars.
We are not made of steel, and we waste too much energy trying to convince the world otherwise. Jesus got tired and hungry. He felt alone and even sensed the icy void of death.
But we are even more deeply made of God’s grace. It was this grace that fed the hungry multitudes from Christ’s hands. It was this grace that raised Jesus bodily from the tomb. As Jesus’ people may we show this new-creation-making grace not only through our supposed strength, but also through the vulnerability of the fragile clay we share with the one we call Savior and Lord.
In all ways, strong and weak alike, may the good, life-restoring news of Jesus spread through us.