I don’t know if it’s the season: perhaps it’s what happens after months of grey lowering skies. But so many of us are struggling right now: struggling with marriage, struggling with depression, struggling with our children, struggling at work. The temptation is to gloss over all these struggles and pretend things are okay; or to back away from church and each other and hide our mess. But the struggle continues: only now we’re struggling alone.
Of course, healing is possible: and so we seek it in various ways: through prayer, and counselling, and medication, and endurance; through acknowledging impossible situations and making difficult choices. Even so, healing is not always forthcoming. You might remember that the Apostle Paul struggled. He described his struggle as a thorn in his side: and three times he prayed for it to be removed: but it was not. Instead, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
There is an ancient wisdom tale which goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a water-bearer. Every day, he walked down to the river bearing two large pots on a yoke across his shoulders. He filled them at the river, then walked along the path to deliver them to the house. One pot was perfect, and delivered every drop. The other had a crack and, by the time they got the house, half the water had leaked out along the path.
The cracked pot was aware of its flaw, and felt terribly ashamed. After many years, it finally spoke to the water-bearer. “I’m so sorry,” it said, “I’ve never been a perfect pot. There is a crack in my side. Because of this, I can never deliver a full load of water to the house.”
The water-bearer smiled gently at the pot and said: “I know. But look around you! Do you see all the flowers growing on one side of the path? I sprinkle seeds everywhere: but only on your side do they flourish and grow. They need the water which drips out through your flaw.”
Each week, we gather around Jesus Christ, the wellspring of life; we come to be replenished by living water. We drink, even as we know that we are broken; we drink, aware that what we receive will slowly leak away again. Yet everywhere we go, the extravagantly generous Sower has sprinkled seeds: on the fertile ground and on the stony soil; among the weeds and on the dry path. And perhaps through our flaws some will be watered; some will flourish and grow.
So don’t deny your struggles; don’t be ashamed of your brokenness; and don’t hide away. Instead come, drink deep, and look around: for all of us are struggling. And as you look around, wonder: How can we minister to each other, not out of our strengths, but out of our struggles? How can our weaknesses and our brokenness be a gift to one another, and to those outside the church? And how has God already used your wounds and your brokenness to bring about life, growth and joy in this world?
This post draws on an idea and story from Peter Scazzero’s book, The Emotionally Healthy Church. Revised and updated edition. (Zondervan: 2003, 2010). Emailed to Sanctuary 7 August 2019 © Sanctuary, 2019.
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