The Broken Pot

(A parable of unknown origin, retold by Susan Wardell)

Once there was a woman who lived in a very hot, dry, place. Every day she had to walk a long distance from her house to the nearest well, to bring water back for her family. To do this, she used a large clay pot.

The pot had done this and other tasks for many years, but it was not a perfect vessel. In fact, it was quite broken, with cracks so large that as the woman was walking, the water would consistently leak out onto the dry ground. This happened to the extent that by the time she reached her home, she had only half the water left that she had travelled so far to get.

The pot was well aware of it’s brokenness, and it was deeply ashamed. One day it asked the woman miserably: “Why are you still trying to use me? I am broken!” When the woman said nothing, it persisted: “Can’t you see how my insufficiencies cost your family? I am not fit for the task that you have chosen me for.” And when her silence continued: “Why don’t you select a better pot; something more sturdy and more beautiful, that is not been damaged like I am? Something that will save you time and effort, that will do the job better than a broken vessel like me.”

The woman paused, and picked up the pot to carry it outside. The pot feared that now the time had come where the truth of it’s burdensomeness would finally be acknowledged. But now the woman replied:

“I see your brokenness, and I know well that my precious water leaks out onto the ground as we walk together. But look…” and she pointed back in the direction of the well. Now, at last, the pot saw that all along the sides of the dusty track a lovely garden was growing: full of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

“These have been a blessing to my family every day” the woman told the pot. “Choosing you is no accident. It is because of your brokenness, not despite of it, that our journey has been made into something even more beautiful.”

Then they walked together again, as the pot let water fall like tears of joy… and all around them, life bloomed.

  • SUSAN WARDELL is a Social Anthropologist, Mother, Jesus-follower, Tree-hugger, Muffin Afficionado, and Writer. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

What pain can tell us

For many of us, the normal reaction to emotional pain is to supress, smile, get on with life like the good Christian girls or boys we are supposed to be. Sometimes we can be so scared of our more troubling emotions — jealousy, desire, envy, rage, anxiety, even sadness — that we try to push them away and deny them their place in our spiritual walk. But often these troublesome emotions are a form of call on our lives, calling us into deeper knowledge of ourselves and deeper acknolwedgement of our need for the Divine in our everyday lives.
Thomas Moore says of jealousy and envy:

“Ultimately, these troublesome emotions offer a path to a life experienced with greater depth, maturity, and flexibility.”

In his book Care of the Soul he asks us to accept these emotions as part of human experience, as emotions that also connect with very real parts of ourselves. I agree with him. For example, melancholy and sadness are often appropriate responses to what is going on in the world, and there is nothing Christian about pretending to be happy when you are not. There is, after all, loads of lamentations in the bible, from God and other people.

But what about those stronger feelings, that might be scary to acknowledge, that might make us believe we are somehow a bad person? I like the following passage, also from Moore:

Our task is to care for the soul, but it is also true that the soul cares for us. So the phrase “care of the soul” can be heard in two ways. In one sense, we do our best to honor whatever the soul presents to us; in the other, the soul is the subject who does the caring. Even in its pathology, and maybe especially then, the soul cares for us by offering a way out of a narrow secularity… Therefore, its suffering initiates a move toward increased spirituality. Ironically, pathology can be a route to soulful religion.”

What I understand this passage to suggest is this: especially in our difficult emotions, we might see the call of the Spirit to something deeper. If we were just mildly contented and happy all the time, would we seek out the spiritual in the same way? It’s like a vacuum that needs to be filled: when we pay attention to the reality of that empty space and longing for fullness, we can be more intentional about what rushes in there to fill it. When we deny the vacuum and negative space, we may not even be aware when the space comes to be filled with all the wrong things.

I’m not saying that our suffering is deliberately caused by God to call us, or denying the injustice that is very present in this world, injustice that we need to act upon. I’m talking more about getting in touch with what we are feeling as we feel it, and not denying ourselves our emotions, even if they are ones that cause us pain and suffering. Because, dear reader, it might just mean we find a new level of connection with the One who calls us with deep compassion, from deep unto deep.

Kelly Dombroski blogs at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com