An Imperfect Pot.

Earlier in this semester, I had the opportunity to make a pot in the Evangel Art Department. One of my friends on my floor was taking a pottery class, and she helped me to make the pot out of wet, gooey clay. It was a lot of fun to sit at the potter’s wheel and try to form something out of the gray lump, although I was quite clumsy at it. My friend instructed me to put a lot of pressure on the clay as the wheel spun round-and-round. By putting pressure onto the clay, I ensured that the clay remained in the center of the wheel and within my control.

My friend continually poured water over the clay, and by doing so, she made sure it remained moist in my hands. When the clay started to get dry, it scraped my hands. Thus, by her pouring water frequently onto the clay, she not only ensured that the clay remained shape-able, but also that my hands wouldn’t get seriously scraped. As I attempted to shape the pot, I had difficulty. After a few minutes, I decided that I was satisfied with the way my pot had turned out. However, it wasn’t until I took it off the wheel that I realized how lop-sided and silly-looking it was. Still, I was satisfied with my pot. In its own unique way, it is lovely.

In making this pot, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between us and God.   

“…O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” ~Isaiah 64:8

We are each imperfect pots. We frequently can fight God’s hands as we’re on the wheel. God forms us, but oftentimes we try to move from His hands and drift off the center. We grow so dry on our own, and if we don’t rely on God to fill us up, we can become very un-moldable. We are lopsided and sometimes even have trouble standing without a stable Hand holding us up.

Now that my pot is completed, I look at it from time to time as it sits on my desk. Honestly, I sometimes marvel at its imperfection. Then I think about my own imperfections and the ways I am so very weak. I think about how much God delights in every detail of my life; He isn’t ashamed of my weaknesses. In fact, He asks me to rely on Him when I am so very weak (which is all the time). As I rely on Him in my weaknesses, He receives all the glory. I want to be a vessel displaying His glory–with eyes not on me, but rather on the Creator who uses my cracks and bumps and lopsidedness to display His glory.

God With Us.

This Christmas season, the words “God with us,” have been continually circulating in my mind and heart. Although I’ve been familiar with the name Immanuel meaning “God with us,” I’ve never dwelt on that particular meaning. It’s funny that I haven’t really thought about this concept, especially because it is central to the meaning of Christmas. Through my New Testament Literature class this semester and a series of messages shared by Pastor Jeff Peterson at Central Assembly, I feel like I have gained so much understanding and “Aha!” moments about God’s nearness to us through Christ. Truly, thinking about this concept has made me rest in complete awe of God’s presence and of His choice to be with us.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” ~Matthew 1:23

My mind journeys back to learning about Moses and the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. God’s presence was with them at every moment, and He expressed His presence to them through the pillar of cloud and the fire that led them day-by-day. God’s presence was expressed through an outward sign. The Israelites knew that this outward sign meant God’s provision for them by His being with them at each moment. Though they consistently wandered from His presence, still He chose to be near to them so that they would not walk blindly.

Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.” ~Exodus 40:36-38

My mind also ponders the book of Revelation and the future when God will forever provide unbroken presence to us. Never will we need to fear wandering, distractions, or the strategies of the enemy. For, we will forever be in God’s consistent, accessible, and constant presence. His nearness will be fully expressed to us. He will forever be with us.

The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” ~Revelation 11:15b

What’s so powerful about these two instances is that Christ’s coming to earth as an infant is an extension of God’s presence and His wanting to be nearer to us. I think it’s so awesome to consider that throughout all of history, and into the infinite future, God willingly and lovingly pursues humankind. I think that to the Israelites, He showed His transcendence and “bigness” by His sending outward expressions of His presence. The Israelites could see that God’s presence was with them to lead and guide them. When I ponder our future in Heaven, I picture God’s presence not only so big, but also very near. I picture His presence in us, around us, with us, through us, and pouring in and out of us in a constant cycle. I think this intimate presence will be so familiar to our hearts because God sent His Son to be with us as an expression of His nearness.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~Hebrews 4:14-16

God sent His Son to be near us. Jesus understands our weaknesses and our temptations because He became human and actually lived among us. When Christ came to earth, God’s presence not only was transcendent, but it became imminent. Jesus was not only a reflection of God’s presence, but He actually embodied God’s presence with us on earth. After Christ died, rose again, and ascended, He paved the way for the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives to dwell in us and lead us each day. Christ is the expression of God’s nearness to us, and the Holy Spirit is a daily reminder of God’s promise to us that He has Heaven in store for us–when God’s presence will be nearer than ever. 

God has always been near to us, but throughout history, He has used many means to demonstrate that nearness to us. He longs to be closer to our hearts, and by sending Christ to be “God with us,” He has done just this. This is a closeness we can live with everyday, and it is a closeness we can look forward to forever and ever. This is the meaning of Christmas that has resonated so strongly with me this season, and it has rocked my world completely.

I pray, friend, that during this Christmas season, you will experience the closeness and nearness of God’s presence in your life. Know that God is pursuing your heart with His perfect love. His love has been expressed for you in so many ways–from His sending His Son to earth to dwell among you, to His allowing His Son to die for your sins, to His inviting you to live in freedom through His resurrection, to His promising that if you accept Him as Lord of your life, you will live forever in His unbroken, beautiful, incomparable presence. 

God with us. What a gift.

Compassion.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen