There is a Place for Women in Pieces
God chooses to use women like you and me, who are imperfect broken vessels - cracked pots. This is not His default position when the 'right', more faultless person for the job just isn't available - it's His recruitment method of choice. He seeks out the broken, the least likely, the imperfect, and says:
"Yes, you are perfect for what I have in mind".
The Cracked Pot#
There is an often-told anecdote of a poor farmer in a small village who each day would carry pots of water to his field to water it. One of the pots had a crack in it, so that when the farmer arrived at his field, the cracked pot would have lost all of its water.
A well-meaning neighbour observed with sad concern at this daily ritual, and commented on the futility of the farmer's efforts to get water to his crops.
The farmer replied that the cracked pot was just perfect, for he had planted corn beside the path on which he walked, and as he walked each day the cracked pot would deliver just the right amount of water to the corn, and he would soon have corn growing beside the path.
Our brokenness may be seen or unseen. It may be physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual. It may be in relationships, or in a past of regrets or sadness or abuse. But God says to us:
"Yes, you are just perfect for what I have in mind".
(#This anecdote is also reproduced in The Pot that Wept.)
4 'Pot' snapshots
We're going to consider a brief snapshot of four women in the Scriptures who were broken pieces and imperfect pots.
But firstly, so as not to be gender-exclusive, we can't ignore some men of the Scriptures whom God chose to use mightily in all their brokenness as well:
- Moses was a murderer
- Jacob plotted with his mother and wrongly deceived an inheritance out of his dying father
- Peter made a very public denial of Jesus at a most crucial time
- Samson experienced recurring lust
- David was an adulterer and a murderer
- Paul attempted genocide of the early church
- Matthew was a fraudulent tax collector
1) Sarah's story is found in Genesis 15-23. She was the wife of Abraham, the patriarch of Israel. Her brokenness lay in her oft-times faithlessness - she lacked trust in God, filtered through an equal lack grace, kindness and godliness. She also bore the pain of childlessness.
God had made a covenant with Abraham, promising that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. However his wife, Sarah, was unable to have children. So - in not truly believing that God was a God of miracles, Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant. In this way, in this human way, Abraham could have descendants. However when her maidservant, Hagar, fell pregnant she began treating Sarah with disrespect. Sarah's response was to treat Hagar so badly that Hagar fled into the desert to die, while all the time telling her husband that it was his fault this situation had arisen!
At a later time, angels came to their tent to give the good news that within a year Sarah would bear a child. Inside the tent Sarah laughed to herself. When confronted by the angels, who enquired why she had laughed (and disbelieved the God of miracles) Sarah denied laughing. So Sarah disbelieved God, and also lied to protect herself.
After their miracle child (Isaac) was born, Sarah again forced Abraham against his will to send Hagar and her son out into the desert to die, because she was concerned that Hagar's son was treating Isaac with scorn.
Can we see any elements of Sarah in ourselves? The jealousy; the doubting of a good and powerful God of miracles; the desperation; feeling threatened? Yet God chose Sarah to be the mother of Abraham's children, the mother of the nation of Israel. He blessed her with a miracle child, countless descendants and a special place in His salvation history.
2) Abigail's story can be found in 1 Samuel 25. Her brokenness was a marriage of hardship. This account is a great study in dealing with difficult people. Her husband - Nabal, is described in the Scriptures as surly and mean in his dealings; he hurls insults; no one can talk to him because he is such a wicked man; he pays back evil for good; he is a fool and folly rides his back.
Abigail was a woman of godliness and faith, who treated Nabal with respect, courage, wisdom and integrity. She found herself in a situation where she had to take courageous and dangerous action. She recognised the limitations of her husband, she discerned his character, and put her life on the line to save him. She maintained her integrity and righteousness in a difficult relationship ... and the ending is a true fairy tale, Abigail became the next queen - ENJOY the Biblical account.
3) Hannah and her story can be found in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah's broken pieces and despair are also centered around her inability to have children, and the merciless way her husband's other wife deals with her. Hannah eventually became the mother of Samuel, the prophet who was the overseer of the transition from judges to kings in Israel's history. Through her experience of intense despair and cruelty she learned to hold on to God even when His blessings were not evident.
Hannah learned to worship the Lord in the dark valleys as well as on the bright mountain tops.
She poured out her passion, her grief, her anguish to her God who hears and answers prayer. He met her there, and she is changed. She was blessed with a child, and she returned this blessing back to God.
4) The woman of Samaria (John 4) met Jesus at a Samaritan well. After a brief discussion Jesus disclosed to her that he was familiar with all her life story - five husbands already, and the current partner is not actually her husband. Her sin and sadness was Jesus invitation to enter her life, not reject her. There is a story of great sadness and brokenness there, and Jesus was attuned to it. But her life profoundly changed at this point of encounter with Jesus, for she returned to her village and told everyone about this man at the well. She was the reason why many people of her village had their lives turned around - they too encountered Jesus as she had.
Why does God choose to use cracked pots, people more in pieces than complete?
When we recognise our brokenness, then we approach God empty. We know our own competence, skills, experience, and knowledge are totally inadequate, and so we throw ourselves on the adequacy of God. We fall flat before the Mercy Seat. When we know our brokenness, our 'crackedness', and see our 'pieces' we arrive hollow and humble before the Throne of Abundant Grace.
God treasures a broken and contrite heart, one in pieces He will re-assemble perfectly in love. It is this cracked pot He will use and mould for His glory. It no longer fights for its own glory.
God wants us to come to Him as a child, in total dependence and thankfulness.
Our trap is to rely on our own wisdom, competence and skills. The problem is that we then do not rely on God. Pride and self-sufficiency are road-blocks to an intimate relationship with Him, they hinder Him using us mightily.
God accepts us as we are - cracked pots, broken and in pieces; we need to too. We are unconditionally loved and accepted as we are.
God uses the brokenness of our lives to touch others, for out of our greatest pain and brokenness will come our greatest service.
So let's not allow our brokenness to prevent us from coming to God, but let it drive us into the arms of our Father who loves us in all our frailities and seeks to use that brokenness to honor Him, to bless us, and to bless others.
Remember, the cracked pot serves a mighty purpose if it allows the Master to carry it on its path.