Tumbling in the Sand
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7
There are days I should tattoo this on some part of my body.
It is so easy to get caught up in the “I have to get this right.” “I have to do this well.” “I have to do this perfectly.” And, of course, I don’t. I probably seriously mess up this whole pastor thing and really this whole living thing at least daily. If you haven’t been disappointed by me yet, don’t worry, you will. It’s really not that I try to disappoint (actually, I really try hard not to), it’s just I’m human and despite my best attempts, I just don’t get it right. I don’t know, maybe you can relate? Do you have trouble getting it right all the time?
I have to say that it always hurts when I disappoint, because I deeply disappoint myself, too. I really want to get it right. And I wonder when I get it wrong if it hurts not only the person I’ve disappointed and myself but even what God is doing in the world.
I say this not because I think I’m all that special — not at all! It just seems like there are so many stories I’ve heard where a pastor or a church member has said something or done something and the person who was hurt/disappointed/offended has never gone back to church and never will. I’m even related to a few of these people. It makes me wonder how God’s community and God’s gospel is marred by these kinds of stories and experiences and how many of these stories I end up creating, too. There is this song “What if I Stumble” from DC Talk, a Christian music band. It starts with some really hard words to reflect on:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Then the refrain and second verse goes like this:
What if I stumble, what if I fall?
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble, and what if I fall?
Father please forgive me for I can not compose
The fear that lives within me
Or the rate at which it grows
If struggle has a purpose
On the narrow road you’ve carved
Why do I dread my trespasses will leave a deadly scar
Do they see the fear in my eyes?
Are they so revealing?
This time I cannot disguise
All the doubt I’m feeling …
You can listen to the whole thing here: What If I Stumble – DC Talk
Fortunately, the song ends with a message of grace: that everyone has to crawl, that God loves us no matter what happens (in other words, the love continues), and that God never turns away no matter how bad things might get.
This passage from Paul is also a message of grace when I get into the kind of perfectionistic thinking that I’m so prone to. We’re all just clay jars — cracked pots even — and the goodness of God does not come from what we do or not do, instead, God’s glory pours out through our cracks and brokenness and finds ways beyond our limits to show grace upon grace. It’s a lot more like Leonard Cohen’s song, “Anthem“:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Finally, it’s not up to us. We are free to rest in God’s grace, to admit our brokenness, and to trust in a God whose power and love far surpasses our own. As Julian of Norwich once said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”