A water-bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The perfect pot always delivered a full portion of water at the end of a long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said. “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”
The story of the cracked pot is one of my favorites. One which deeply resonates. The truth beneath this story is full of wisdom, redemption, humility and beauty...from literal brokenness. It's about finding strength in our weakness, living in the midst of our brokenness, rising above the thorn in our side, embracing our unique story and belief that our imperfections are contributing to something greater.
It seems as though so many of my dear friends are experiencing a season of shattering. They have been faced with the unexpected, they have lost something or someone they love a whole lot. Plans have taken an extreme turn in a direction that ultimately is not for the worst, but sure seems like it right now. Those things, which were seemingly certain, have now been thrust completely out of their hands leaving them feeling completely paralyzed. They have fallen to their knees, been cracked open, left feeling exposed and brought to a place of deep pain, brokenness and wonder.
You see, when we hit the bottom, when we are broken, cracked, discouraged and just trying our best to experience joy through the trials of this life, there is hope. We must see past the now, which appears to be the end and recognize that it is only the beginning. I assure you, there is beauty waiting to be revealed on the other side of this brokenness, both for you and for others.
I say this out of a place of belief; yet this still tastes bitter coming out because as much as I believe this truth, I know it doesn’t take the pain away, it doesn't make the struggle any less tangible. Pain is intense, necessary, real and must be felt. It is one of the few guarantees we will experience as living, breathing humans on this earth. Like laughter and happiness, pain is universal. No matter what language we speak or what nationality we are, pain, once felt in its truest sense, transcends to the core of who we are and gives us the ability to truly understand and empathize with others.
As we navigate life through these seasons of pain, let us trust. Maybe it's not a current season, but you still carry the weight of your past, these cracks have left you feeling 'less than' enough. Rest assured that your past has molded who you have become today. Trust that ultimately the cracks in our lives are shaping who we were meant to become all along. We can never become fully whole until we have been broken.
Our pain gives a greater luster to our lives because light shines brightest through the cracks. May we not be ashamed of these cracks and allow ourselves to continually let vulnerability ‘leak’ the truth of our hearts on to others. Allow others to benefit from the pruning of your heart.
Don’t miss it. There is purpose in your pain, in your loss, in your disappointment, in your feeling of hopelessness. Allow hope to carry you through to the other side, and believe that through this there will be good. All things are working together for your good, but our view of good isn’t always the full picture. Sometimes the best comes from our plans simply falling through.
When you have hit the bottom and feel like these broken, shattered pieces can never be put back together, the creator of the universe sees you. He not only sees your pain but He is with you and for you...until the end. Though you may never be 100% put back together the way you were before, that’s ok, the old is gone and you are now more radiant than you ever could have imagined.
For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”
To embrace the here, the now, the highs, the lows, the pain, the struggle and to believe that we may not know or be able to see the good today, but we can be sure of its presence. Years may pass, and you may be convinced that there is nothing good coming from your circumstance, but hold on, trust the process. Embrace the cracks, hold on to Jesus and have faith to believe that the creator of all things has destined your unique journey to be a part of His ultimate good. May we let go of trying to live in perfection, embrace the cracks and believe that our little lives are contributing to something greater. You'll see the garden, just wait.
“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”
- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey