Do you worry that rather than being a jeweled golden chalice of God’s grace and love, you are instead a plain, wooden, cracked cup? God cherishes and chooses the plain, cracked cup over dazzling chalice. Why? Two reasons. Man can either choose to be a chalice or a cracked cup.
The man who is a chalice exalts in his material worth. He take excessive pride in himself, as though fashioned of beaten, burnished and polished gold. He adorns himself in ‘jewels’ – the things of the temporal world. Wealth. Success. Influence. Power. Authority. Things that augment his standing amongst men. Things that promote his eminence. The chalice is envied and coveted, for it embodies and advertises the hallmarks of prosperity and achievement in the world of man. The chalice is filled to the brim with aspirations of the material world – accumulated possessions, hedonism, permissiveness, intemperance, self-rule, self-interest – there is no room for anything holy, for humility, for investment in a relationship with a God who promises eternal life, the repletion of all wanting and sorrow, and reconciliation with our Father in Heaven if we but believe in the resurrection of His only begotten Son.
The Cracked Cup.
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18: 9-14)
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18).
We are that sinner – too ashamed even to present our face to the vault of heaven, lowly and humble before a righteous and perfect God, begging for mercy, dismayed by our separation from our Creator.
Why are we justified before God? How is it we are fit to stand before Him, worthy and laudable in His gaze?
Because in spite of our fallen, imperfect, rebellious, self-centered state of being and proclivity for seeking gain and glory in this temporal existence – we show up. Every week we stand in the house of God, in the midst of our sin, in the depths of our iniquity, fully cognizant of our transgressions and vice, and our very presence cries out “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” We come before Him acknowledging our reliance on Him, our powerlessness to do or be anything without Him, in the echo of the sins we have committed, in the shadow of more we are yet to commit, in the nakedness of our disgrace – and though broken hearted and crushed in spirit – we go home justified.
Why? Because the God of all Creation exalts in cracked cups and rejects outright bejeweled chalices. Chalices filled with the jewels of the world – material gain, self interest, instant and empty gratification, opportunism and exploitation disguised as entrepreneurial providence, arrogance disguised as intellectual enlightenment – leave no room for the living waters of the Word or the One who wrote them. But cracked cups are beloved by God. A plain cup draws no attention to itself as a thing of beauty, nor does it desire to. Without embellishment, only what is inside it is of any consequence. Better yet, it is cracked and so the water within pours forth from the fissure.
Why is it important to be cracked in and of ourselves, to be plain and unadorned by the standards of the world? Because the instruments of God need neither beauty nor splendor by the world’s prevailing orthodox to be powerful and effective agents of the Word - both majesty and glory belong to Him who sends us forth and the less ‘self’ in us there is (ie, the less anchored we are to values that embrace and elevate external beauty, success, status and influence) the more Christ radiates forth through us. The greater the crack in us, the greater the opportunity for Christ’s glory to be made known through us as it pours forth from that crack. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9). In fact the benchmarks of worldly importance and ‘arrival’ in society both distract and detract from the One who grants the provision of both – all too often those who ‘have’ merely want more and fail to lift up and provide for their brothers and sisters who ‘have not’, right at a point where they have the resources, influence and wherewithal to spread the Word and alleviate the two primary evils of the world that Jesus came to address – poverty and abuse.
There is a great misconception both within and on the fringe of Christianity that one must be pious and perfect to not only be acceptable to God but to be fit for His use. Nothing could be more wrong. Our flaws, faults and failings humanize us, facilitating our capacity to strike up rapport with those similarly ‘damaged’ and in need of healing around us, making us accessible to those seeking – the lost, the confused, the depleted, the despairing, the hopeless. Nothing could be more intimidating for one tremulously seeking some deeper meaning and purpose to life, seeking comfort and solace in times of distress, seeking respite and refuge from an unforgiving and abrasive world, than a pious, pedestalled, seemingly perfect Christian unharmed by life’s trials, unaffected by the world’s cruelties, unfamiliar with spiritual struggle. How could they possibly relate? Accompanying this would be anxieties of feeling judged, feeling inadequate, and feeling unworthy or unable to reach such lofty, ostensibly unattainable heights.
The most extraordinary vessel of Jesus’ love and message is the ordinary person – the level playing field that is our humanity (ie, our imperfections, our lapses, our mistakes) is far less daunting than our aspirations to or achievement of spiritual perfection many Christians feel they should have achieved (or at least be well on the way towards arriving at).
We are damaged.
And we are loved by Jesus whose holy hands fashioned and shaped each and every one of us – He loves us in our damaged state, with all that pits and pocks us by our sin. And when He holds the cracked cup of our lives, He rejoices in the fissure that allows His love to pour forth into the world. In our shortcomings, deficiencies and defects, we glorify Him. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Embracing His love of our limitations and blemished souls does not mean willfully indulging in the very sins that weaken us – we must strive to overcome sin every day – but we are called to love Him fully in return and in the safety, surety and solidity of that love, love one another as He has loved us.
Go forth and be who you are in the world. Your commitment to striving to become all our Lord intended you to be and His glorification through your weakness will become a shining light of holiness in a dark world.
His blessings will pour forth upon you with the same abundance that His love pours through you into the world via the fissure in His most beloved cracked cup………..you.
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