I sighed as the storm clouds gathered. Huge, roiling swells of violet clouds scudded across the sky as lightning gashed the horizon. Bleeding raindrops like a severed artery, the firmament erupted into a full-fledged tempest as thunder ricocheted off the Olympic foothills. The storm outside was nothing compared to my raging inner squall. My personal typhoon.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected. I knew there’d be storm clouds when my husband and I moved our family to the Evergreen State from California in search of affordable housing and a more family-friendly country life. Neither materialized. For a solar-powered Melancholy who’s climbing the walls after three consecutive days of overcast, the omnipresent drip of western Washington’s weather poses unique challenges. To put it mildly.
“We can get close to 100 inches of rain a year” neighbors warned. Nobody mentioned Noah. I should’ve scouted gopherwood when terms like “sun breaks”--Washingtonian for 10 minutes of sun between “cats and dogs” rain--peppered the local lexicon.
Later, five straight weeks of daily deluges had left me feeling waterlogged and weary. Dark, leaden skies tugged at my heart like a soggy anchor. “If I hear one more forecast for rain, I’m launching into orbit!” I muttered, teeth gritted. Worse than adjusting to the weather was the suffocating loneliness that settled over me like a down quilt in New Guinea.
“Lord,” I prayed one wet, blustery morning in January, “What are You doing? Why am I here? Is there any point to this?”
I often battle despond, the bane of many creative temperaments. When depression creeps around my corner, as it inevitably does, I’ve learned to throttle it without too much trouble. But this time the combined effects of a recent bereavement, curmudgeonly relatives, major misunderstandings, sleep deprivation and too much month at the end of the money (again) left me unable to declaw the creature’s lethal talons. I couldn’t push aside the seemingly irretrievable loss of family and close friends, nor temper the white-hot ache for my home state of over 40 years. Washington’s dark skies and drooping trees only accentuated my gloom as I pined for familiar sights, places, and faces.
Welling up from the basement of my soul, the twin typhoons of loss and loneliness crashed over me like Hurricane Andrew slamming into Dade County.
“Lord,”I blubbered, “are You there? Do You care?”
I don’t know what I expected Him to do. A heavenly bell choir chiming the Hallelujah Chorus would’ve been nice. Dispatch an angelic with an infinite armload of fat-free Hershey’s bars. Instead, I peered out my water-beaded window at a dreary backyard that was as dank and dark as my soggy soul. And expected an instant answer.
We’re a”hurry up society,” aren’t we? We demand instant coffee, immediate election returns and oil changes in “10 minutes or less.” We want it right the first time. For instance, when’s the last time your TV remote crashed? Ours gave up the ghost recently. It took four days to get a new one, during which time I was a prime candidate for a padded room. Leaving my chair and manually changing channels was like going back to the Stone Age. Manually changing channels just wasn’t FAST enough. You wouldn’t believe how insanely irritating the loss of that one little convenience became. Or maybe you would.
From TV dinners to Amazon.com orders to drive-through windows (they don’t call it “slow” food, do they?), no one wants to wait. Especially when it comes to Answers, Unresolved Issues or Unclear Purposes. We want microwaved solutions. Just open a box, add water, stir, and voila! Immediate answers. Instant maturity. Personal holiness delivered at warp speed, preferable in a recyclable container with a free plastic toy.
What’s the result of our “fast food society”? Have you noticed how nothing seems beyond our disposable mentality? We toss potato peels and newborn babies alike into garbage dumpsters. And while we wouldn’t think of junking a car because of a flat tire, we cut people out of our lives left and right the moment they trespass our patience or impinge upon our calendar. What’s the usual reaction when someone commits the “unpardonable sin” of being inconvenient, of requiring a little more care, time and attention than is comfortable?
The neighbors with the loud music. The co-worker who rubs you the wrong way. The in-laws who drive you nuts. The church that’s “full of hypocrites.” The spouse who’s put on a few pounds, gained some gray hair, and snores.
In our “hurry up” society, perseverance seems a vanishing character quality. So we move. Change jobs. Ignore those pesky in-laws. Switch fellowships. Trade in our “older model” for a sweet young thing. After all, we deserve to happiness and quick, right?
And that friend who disappoints, doesn’t measure up, evidences chips, cracks, dents or dings? We shrug our sanctimonious shoulders, shake our self-righteous heads and toss them out at the curb with the rest of the trash.
Back at my wet window, I crumpled more Kleenex and peered outside. Then I saw it. Directly above a stand of fluttering spruce trees, a tiny gap appeared in the thick, wooly rain clouds. It widened. A patch of blue appeared in the stormy sky, like a peel plucked from an orange.
A gentle wind then tugged at the thunder head’s’s sleeve, not enough to chase it from the sky completely, but enough to swirl it’s collar and crown into what looked like a frying pan. Or was it a sauce pan? A tureen? Naw. It was a pot. Scuffed, cracked and scarred, the shaggy cloud creation looked like it had been through the war. And then some. But the pot got me thinking. About pristine-perfect Waterford crystal and plain, chipped Correlleware. About dinner service, plans and purposes that may not make sense instantly. About menus that may require a little more than “Add water and stir.”
Do you choose your fragile, exquisite porcelain for every day use? Or the plain, ordinary stuff? Some people are like Waterford crystal. Beautiful, but easily broken. They recoil from dirt and prefer the ivory tower isolation of their comfortable sideboards. They’re unchipped and unbroken. And unused. But to accomplish His eternal purposes of comfort, hope and help? I think God chooses the everyday stuff:
The church lady who wrapped her arms around me and let me sob a Lake Michigan-sized puddle onto her shoulder. The grandmotherly Sunday school teacher who sent birthday cards to each of my sons. The $20 an anonymous saint tucked inside my Bible one Sunday morning--less than an hour after I prayed for gas money. The prayer partner who faithfully remembers my requests to the Father beyond the two minutes after I share them.
Even Eve, our yellow Labrador retriever, must be some kind of heavenly Noritake. I swear that Dog has mood radar. She sees me coming and lights up like a Christmas tree, tail wagging in outrageous delight. Eve can make me feel like her entire life revolves around my grand entrance. It’s a pleasant delusion. More real is my husband, Chris, who does yeomen’s work in the Care and Comfort Department. I’m thinking of recommending him for a Purple Heart. As soon as I find one that’ll stick to pottery.
Which reminds me that sometimes we battered, banged-up pots best recognize the nicks and notches of others: Impatience. Selfishness. Pride. Or my most obvious dent: opening mouth before engaging brain. Perhaps when I see my own pot’s flaws more clearly, I’m less likely to camp on the cracks and dents in others.
Yes, denting hurts. Storm survival takes time. But in the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” — II Corinthians 1:2-4, NASB. (Emphasis added.)
Because He’s used others to buoy me up in my storms, maybe He wants me to buckle others into the same life jacket. Maybe the purpose in this cracked pot’s storms are sent to scrape away the self-centered debris so I can better mirror the Maker.
Which makes me wonder. Why are we so quick to throw out a cracked pot? Why do we rush the chipped and dented dishes to the dumpster? Maybe God’s finest, choicest pottery is the everyday stuff. The cracked pots. The stuff that’s malleable, yes, breakable, in the Potter’s hand. Recast upon the Master’s wheel, maybe scarred and battered dishes serve Him so well because they better reflect His scarred and battered Son.
And when we slow down long enough to see purpose and pottery from God’s viewpoint, then maybe, just maybe, “Broken” becomes another word for “Beautiful.”
Poignient and also humorous. It's funny, I was just thinking this morning that I needed to keep a couple of broken collectables I own and let my mom glue them together. I have this tendancy to reject things that are broken and keeping them will remind me how God takes what is broken and fixes it rather than disgarding and working to replace it. Then I ran across this story, wow! Thanks a lot for writing it.