Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His" and "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. --1 Timothy 2:19-21
Come with me on a tour of the King's storehouse to see the vessels of honor, prepared for use at His mighty banquets. There was a time when I thought that everything at the King's table would be gold and silver. Those are there, indeed. But look, there is fine porcelain, and glittering glass, and even highly polished wood. The thing that makes them different from the plates and bowls that sit on my table is not the starting materials. Sand and clay and lumps of wood--common and unlovely in themselves. And even the silver began as an ore that was mostly lead, and the golden flecks could scarcely be seen in the high grade ore that made the prosepctor's heart leap for joy.
All of these vessels of honor glitter and shine and reflect the glory of the King whom they serve and the Maker who saw their worth when they were no better than dirt, and who used time and skill and heat and hammer and blade to call them into being. Some saw the fire again and again and again. Some knew the fire only after gentle strokes of the Master's hands. Some were made strong by the fire, and others seemed to melt away. With each one, the Maker knew just what to do. If they could talk, what would they have said? Not only, "I'll never live through this," but "Why does He deal differently with that one?" He strokes the clay, and breaks the gold and silver ore with his hammer. Sand is thrown instantly into the fire, and then is shaped not by banging, but by the breath of God. And wood knows only gentle, gentle heat--followed by the knife, and long, long seasons of being rubbed with grit.
And we, the vessels who are people, do seem to have some choice in the matter. Will we allow the shaping? We barely understand what stuff it is that the Lord has put into our hearts. Is our life gold ore, or glass sand, or porcelain clay? Silver ore is shiny, but most of it is thrown away before the silver shines pure and clean upon the table. Will we let God do all that He longs to do in our lives? Not fighting the fire, whether it stiffens us or melts us down--enduring the gentle rubbing and the hardest blows--not worrying whether we are called to be a salt dish or a fruit bowl or a water pitcher? They do not look the same, they are not shaped by the same methods--yet all are vessels of honor, and all are needed to serve the King's great banquet.
And in this mighty storehouse, I am drawn to look closer at a burlwood bowl. Though it does not have the gleam of gold or silver, it is a thing of beauty. the wood of its sides swirls in magnificent patterns of light and dark, patterns beautiful and unpredictable. If it could talk, what story would it tell? It started as a diseased lump on the side of a tree, unable to produce more than a few pathetic leaves, a crooked mess. And yet, the heart of the Craftsman rejoiced to see it. He had many uses for straight wood--but from this crooked lump he could make a bowl of awesome beauty for the King's high table. The very crookedness that made the burl a shameful lump on the tree, when transformed by the Craftsman's love and skill is a song of glory to the Creator.
Lord, I ask for grace to trust You in all Your dealings with me. Take whatever it is that You have placed within my life, and shape me as You will. I ask too, Lord, for eyes of faith to see in the raw material of others the glory You long to bring forth. And I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
(c) 2005 Rebecca Howell
Pictures, used with permission and deep gratitude:
Pink Seeded Goblet by Rhonda Kap. On display at www.rhondakap.com.
Burlwood Hollow Form with Paua Shell Inlay by Al Janonis. On display at www.whitestonefurs.com.