A Broken Vessel
by Cristina McEwen
I’m a feeler: a die-hard, passionate, go-with-my-gut, somewhat impulsive, feeler. As a wife and mother of three, I’m the person who writes up a to-do list but chucks it because it’s sunny out and “gosh the park sounds fun today.” And “oh, the zoo would be nice … and I need to stop at the grocery store on my way home.” Before I know it, dinner has come and gone, and my agenda has been put off until tomorrow.
The problem lies in the fact that my husband also is a somewhat impulsive, extremely passionate, borderline feeler. So when we said “I do” one drizzly and cold New Year’s Eve at the courthouse, on a whim of sorts, I should have known what we were in for.
Because we’re both impulsive, often we end up needing to forgive each other for words or actions. Until I said “I do,” learning to forgive as Jesus forgave me sounded rather simple. I can honestly say that there’s no other relationship on earth that God has used in the way he has used marriage to shape me into a more humble, more authentic and more forgiving person. We’ve had fights that would earn us a combined Oscar for acting (if only we were acting). And with three ardent children added into the equation within the first five years of marriage (one a product of the honeymoon), vying for first place in our lives 24 hours a day – communicating with each other is rarely uncomplicated.
Receiving forgiveness was a spiritually abstract concept until I was left with no other option. But, it’s freeing. And I’m learning that this art of giving and receiving forgiveness, no matter how much it pangs me, when it is spilled into every other meaningful relationship in my life, draws me closer to others and therefore closer to God.
There’s something to be said about working through something really difficult with someone whose companionship you value. I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to run away from confrontation, but a voice inside me whispers, “Stay. Stay.” And in staying and humbly receiving or confronting (whatever end I’m on at the time), more often than not results in true healing. It’s a sort of freedom that beckons my soul to come forth and expose its beautiful self to the world of hurting people who have hidden because of fear of rejection, indignation or perhaps very valid fears of having received responses that were ungodly in the past.
Jesus has this way of taking our lives – these big messy slabs of clay – and gently shaping them into vessels worthy of his kingdom. He takes the clump of my life – my brokenness, my “good deeds,” my sin – and puts it between his hands, sorting out all the lumps, softening it just so. He puts it on the wheel and very slowly, very gently, begins to spin it, holding the clump in a way that looks as if it would just slip out of his damp hands and onto the floor, adding to the mess it is already.
His hands are cupped around the clay now, as it cautiously makes its way into what simply resembles an OK-looking bowl.
He holds the bowl, like he’s holding a baby, and he lifts its sides, moving so slowly that I don’t even realize he’s doing anything at all.
The wheel continues to spin. The bowl is getting taller. And much more delicate. A few times I think that it will surely fall to the ground. But it continues to grow. Upward. Outward. With a rim that looks as if it’s reaching to the heavens. Every piece of what is now a rounded vase is perfect. Every ounce of every lump has been smoothed into this piece of art that now has the capability of holding its own. Holding something else even.
And perhaps in that redemption of all things broken is the capability of holding those who are broken. Holding people who are withering. Dying. Those who are hopeless. Ashamed. Abandoned. In need of light.
Perhaps in the liberation of being a broken vessel, at the disposal of the Potter, Jesus, we can find healing in the relationships around us and the power to let them mold us and shape us into people who embody and emanate the fruit of the Spirit in every aspect of our lives.
Cristina McEwen lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Thomas, and their three children, Elias (6), Keziah (4) and Ezra (2). Find out more about Cristina at www.whensoulscollide.com.