Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a devotional for my church's Ladies' Tea. As often happens when I receive an "assignment" such as this one, I experience a challenge of my own that relates directly to what God is leading me to share about Him. Because this devotional was presented verbally and because of the time constraints, this account is not verbatim and some details are expounded upon to provide additional details and clarity as needed. May God continue to be glorified through this teaching He provided for me when I needed it to share with others and to learn more about Him personally.
One day while cleaning, I bumped the shelf where several of my teacups were displayed. All of them fell on the floor. Some were still intact, but most of the cups and saucers were chipped or broken. I spent many hours and lots of glue reassembling and salvaging what I could of my collection. In the end, only one cup could not be repaired. Although the rest of the broken teacups could be admired from afar, they could never be used for a party again. So why would I keep these teacups if they could not fulfill their intended purpose? Because these broken vessels have intrinsic value.
These broken vessels are a representation of love. Several years ago, my father-in-law began giving me teacups he picked up at antique shops. He is a man of few words, so I interpreted these delicate cups as a non-verbal expression of his affection for me and his appreciation for my role as his son's wife. These cups that crashed to the floor are a reminder that living for Christ goes beyond living up to human traditions and conditions. Many years after my husband and I married and during a difficult time in our extended family, my father-in-law said to my husband, "You know that Baptist-Catholic thing? That means nothing after all this." Although it saddened me that such devastating circumstances brought him to that realization, I understood how God uses the worst to bring out His best. Psalm 31 (especially verse 12) expresses how David felt when he was pursued by those who did anything but love him. Yet, God showed David, who characterized himself as a broken vessel, that he was still loved and valued in spite of his circumstances.
These broken vessels are a reminder of God’s re-purposing. Both of my grandmothers were tea drinkers. Although I never experienced having a tea party with my paternal grandmother, I am told she said the best tea is made from fresh not reboiled water. How important to remember that we need to refresh ourselves and not remain steeped in our former experiences! I did spend many teatimes with my maternal grandmother. During my college, early-married, and young-mother years, I could be assured of Grandma's 2:00 teatime for much-needed refreshment. Both of my grandmothers also had memory issues brought on by another health issue or genetics. My paternal grandmother suffered a stroke when she was seventy-five (I was thirteen) and remained confined to a wheelchair until she entered heaven at the age of eighty-eight. My maternal grandmother had a form of Alzheimer's we know to be at least three generations deep among the women in her family. Yet, both of my grandmothers were able to minister to the women in their nursing homes. My paternal grandmother roomed with a much younger resident from a foreign country. I have no doubt that Jesus was the topic of many conversations. A family requested that their mother be placed across the hall from my maternal grandmother after both of them were moved from the memory care floor to the palliative-care wing because of the calming effect my grandmother had on this woman. Because I was there to witness many of my grandmother's interactions and heard testimony from those who cared for her, I am convinced that the more her memory left her, the more the Holy Spirit lived out through her. Our society tends to discount the influence of the aging and ailing in our communities. Yet, Psalm 103 (especially verses 1-5) remind us of God's re-purposing.
These broken vessels are a reflection of God’s renewal. I have high hopes for my sons. Most mothers do. I have invested years of my life in doing more than meeting their basic needs. I have been more than their teacher of right and wrong. I have been their teacher. As a home educator, I expected to be completing my years of service in this area this year. My youngest is in his senior year and is taking college-level classes full time. My role has changed to administrator, counselor, and cheerleader. My middle son entered his third year of a public-district transition program the day after Labor Day. I will treasure that one day I had the house all to myself. By the following Thursday, my husband and I had sent an email announcing that our son would be exiting the program. I still have high hopes for my son with special needs. But, once again, I learned not to hope too highly in people or programs who at any time can carelessly bump us from our place on the shelf and send us hurtling to their ground-level expectations. Yet, once again, I am blessed by this young man that some might view as a broken vessel. He is a representation of God's love for me, my family, and all who appreciate him for who God created him to be. I am reminded how God has re-purposed my life to be not only his mom, but his forever parent. I have to admit though that it hurt to be knocked off my shelf of personal freedom. I had my own pit-tea-party (all puns intended). I returned home from an unscheduled, unfulfilling meeting, flopped in my chair, flipped open my devotional, and flung my Bible onto the right half of the book. I read about Paul's greatest concern while confined to prison and chained to the praetorian guard. (Now there's a job no one wanted ever!) Whether he was executed or released, he desired for God to be glorified. That's about the moment I moved my Bible and saw these words from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I encountered that passage several years ago not long before we began our home education journey. Since then, I have considered 2 Corinthians 4:6-9, 15-18 to be my middle son's life verses. Only God could time this reflection of renewal when I needed to see it. I learned in a refreshing, comforting way that my son, my family, and I might be slightly chipped and cracked from this recent set-back. But, we earthly vessels are treasured by our Creator for His intended purpose.
These broken vessels in this room (and reading this post) are a representation of God’s love, a reminder of His re-purposing, and a reflection of His renewal. We are not crushed, despairing, forsaken or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:6-9). All we experience is for our benefit for His glory (2 Corinthians 4:15). We must not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16). These are momentary troubles in light of eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17). Let's focus on the eternal unseen rather than what is temporarily seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.