A very small chip – a stark white bald spot - stared at me from the edge of a ceramic soap dish. The bright green dish, shaped like a lily pad with a miniature frog sitting on one end, appeared to be permanently marred by this concave speck of unglazed white.
When I bought it, the dish had spoken to my heart somehow. It had reflected something about my wanting to bring the vastness of our lake into the interior of the house, and specifically into the confines of our tiny bathroom. It said something about preserving the quality of life out there in the midst of real lily pads and their round white and yellow blossoms, in the midst of frogs and bugs and turtles and sunlight sparkling on the water like thousands of random, glittering flames sprinkled everywhere…and transporting it inside.
But I knew I was in trouble.
Such a trivial thing. It shouldn’t matter, really. But it did. With a dot of super glue and about two minutes of my time the chip was only barely distinguishable. So the impact wasn’t about damage, or repair, or difficulty, or time. It certainly did not involve the monetary value of the item, which cost under ten dollars when new.
No, it was something about identity. Oddly, that was it! I held my breath as the reality sank in: it was about being fragile enough to be chipped in the first place.
A plain old plastic soap dish would have survived any trauma that came along. Something purely functional would have made more sense, anyway. But is that how life is defined? By preferring what is predictable, plain, boring – sensible and functional? I say it is better to take a chance, to enjoy unique craftsmanship and artistry, to risk breakage – than to settle for dull mediocrity.
For several years now I have been dealing with the issue of personal “loss” – learning the need to let go of desires, expectations, dreams, relationships…even earned financial rewards. To release my control. To set my life free from my own rules. Because it seems that every time there’s a bump in the road, every time things don’t work out as I plan, a little piece of me gets chipped off. I want too much. I care too much. And so I end up hurting too much. In time, I have become more than a little ragged around the edges. And I’ve actually lost some of myself - to that demanding and overly emotional thief named “disappointment”.
That’s why the chip on the ceramic lily pad got to me. I so often feel fragile and vulnerable, just like that dish. Patched to cover injuries, but still not whole. What I really wanted to do was to reshape the dish, to force it back under the pressure of the potter’s hand, to paint and glaze it all over again. To not only correct the flaw, but to make the dish over and somehow strengthen it so that it would be more resistant next time.
I realized simultaneously that I wanted nothing less than the same for myself.
The good news is that if I’m honest, God IS working in me in this way if only I release my grip and give him permission. The Master Potter is not just patching my hurts and losses, but is constantly re-shaping me into a more beautiful and more useful vessel as I learn to give my “chips”, my flaws, my sins, my hurts to him. Too often I have hung onto the little broken pieces, trying to figure out how they fit, how to deal with splinters that are too small to even handle, let alone glue back into place. Or I have patched the big broken chunks with the wrong kind of glue – leaving weakened seams that reopen all too easily.
The lily pad soap dish has been a wake up call. It requires that I see myself more clearly. It is about recognizing brokenness, gathering up the loss, and then submitting all the pieces to God. That’s what it means to continually be made into a “new creature in Christ”, not just a patched up has-been.
It means that as I give myself to Him, I am constantly new! Old things are passed away. They don’t define me. I am new news! Hot off the press. The latest model.
The dish has been put aside for a while, out of harm’s way. I think I will keep it tucked away as a memento to remind me that healing from an earthly, worldly perspective is more or less a band-aid affair…but that healing from God is revolutionary. God doesn’t just repair something that seems old, beat up, or broken, but rather builds something magnificent where there was only emptiness before.
copyright 2005 Beth Muehlhausen
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