Clay vessels in ‘We Will Rock You’ world

A haughty and ambitious young man named Saul was on his way to Damascus. Once there, he planned to eliminate those people who followed this Jesus. There was a flash of light, a loud voice, and Saul was thrown from his horse. Embarrassed, Saul tried to stand, but realized he had lost his vision! The once independent and strong Saul allowed his friends to lead him into the city.

Life is like that for each of us. We are hit with the proverbial two-by-four or have the rug pulled out from underneath us. We, like Saul, wonder “Why me?” In our pain and grief, we hear the words of that song, “We Will Rock You,” and feel the world is out to pulverize us. 

Knowing God lies within us, we seek reassurance from Scripture. We find the verse, “We are only earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us” (2 Cor 3:7). Clay pots? Lord, do you know what rocks do to clay pots? How about waterproofed Kevlar pots? Then, we can always hold the treasures You give us.

Ah, but a vessel holding the treasures is only half the picture, is it not? Have you ever read the poem “The Cracked Water Pot”? In this tale, the water bearer has two pots upon his shoulders. One pot aptly holds all the water while the other is quite leaky. All this cracked pot can do is compare itself unfavorably to the other pot. The cracked pot finally finds the courage to speak with the one that fills the pots. It is surprised by the answer to examine the ground. All around are flowers watered each day by the droplets that it sheds. The pot’s vision is myopic. The master’s foresight includes the proper tool of imperfection for his world vision. 

God’s blessings and gifts to us really are talents and expertise we are to share with others. Some days we will freely pour them out. More importantly though, are all our little imperfections that allow us to share in small, but necessary ways for others. As in the tale above, we may glimpse the big picture only if we have the courage to ask God to show it to us. 

Understanding God’s view can start with looking at things just a bit deeper. Mary McDonald in her book “A History With God” provides a real-life tale where, as a child, instead of bringing the birthday cake to the pastor, she accidently dumped it into his lap! He reassured the frightened child. Mary says, “Being perfect does not feel as good as being loved. I learned that perfection is not the goal — love is.” So true, is it not? I have been blessed with success at many levels in my life. All of that pales in comparison to knowing that I am loved for who I am. 

Rocks can produce more damage than a small crack. One example of such a vessel was the writer Henri Nouwen. In the preface to Nouwen’s book “Turn My Mourning Into Dancing,” Timothy Jones describes Nouwen as “A heart broken before God and opened for his fellow friends and readers.” In striking contrast to the world view, God values and chooses to use the imperfect vessel. Why?

Brene Brown in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” calls connection, compassion and courage the gifts of imperfection. She defines connection as, “The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” This connection comes only with sharing. It requires the choice to suffer with another (compassion) and the strength to speak one’s heart (courage). 

Pema Chodron further clarifies this with her words, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Compassion becomes real only when we recognize our shared humanity.” This allows us to understand the duality of compassion. In the process of opening our hearts to share our traumatic experiences and subsequent wisdom, we are also healed. God’s world vision requires us to recognize that we are all imperfect vessels loved “as is” for who we are and called to a ministry of encouragement for each other. 

Where is it that Saul and we are to begin? Anna Quindlen provides an answer in her words, “The thing that is really hard and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Historically, that arrogant Saul, with God’s grace and much work, became St. Paul whose words even today seek to bring all of us together before God. 

Even the music of Queen is a hint of God’s call. After all, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” were released together as one single. In this imperfect world, we will hurt others and they will hurt us. When we strive for peace and healing, we should always remember the joy of unconditional love. Each morning God fills our vessel. Even with our imperfections, just as we are today, we are called to be champions for God by faithfully serving one another by sharing that love as done to Christ Himself. 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer born and raised in Fall River. She is a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish and received her Ph.D. in neurochemistry from Boston College and teaches in the Chemistry Department at Rhode Island College. She can be reached at biochemwz@hotmail.com.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts