by Bob Allen
We are cracked vessels; cracked by relationships, cracked by abuse, cracked by careless words, cracked by stress, cracked by unmet expectations, cracked by personal shortcomings, cracked by sins of commission and omission, cracked by inadequacy. A steady drip seeps through the hairline fractures in our souls leaves us empty over time and as the situation becomes more pressurized, the drip builds into a flow which eventually becomes a substantial breach, a broken levee. This trickle, so innocent and innocuous is yet insidious, revealing an uncomfortable truth: loss is inevitable.
The inescapable reality of the slipping away moment drains the joy out of all of us. How could it not? The best cup of coffee, the sweetest serving of apple crumble, the delicious odor of apple blossoms, the brilliant gold of a sunset in autumn, every twinkling that flits away from our senses tugs at our conscious. We want these magical seconds to endure. And they do. In our memories, we compare the next instance with the last one. “The leaves are pretty this year, but not like…what was it now? Four years ago?”
Therein the sieve of our mind reveals the crisis of existence. Was the foliage really more beautiful or were we just living in a simpler, happier time and so we remember that one particular October day with greater fondness? Our recollections are leaky and unreliable vessels. When existence is steady and peaceful, it is much easier to glimpse and appreciate beauty. When life bears down and presses us under its burdens, the suggestiveness of tranquility in the near or distant past pushes through the cracks in our heart like a smoke test. The leaks are clear because plumes of cheer float in our conscious, revealing to us the wispy vapor of emotion, vibrant one second and dissipated the next.
When the “preacher” of Ecclesiastes, presumed to be Solomon, suggests that all is “Vanity of vanities!”, (Ecc. 1:2) it is not a trivial thing. He continues:
All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, not is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; and also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still. (Ecc. 1:8-11)
Our existence is marked by transience. We drift from highs to lows. We languish in the nadir while pining for the apexes. When we linger in the middle, we pause and reflect on past glories or heartaches, thankful for them either because they happened or they ceased. Contained throughout is a savor of truth.
The heights and the exuberance are never high enough, never enduring beyond the fleeting juncture. The depths and the devastation do not utterly destroy, enough to hurt but rarely to kill, they too lessen and evaporate in time. There is always a sense of a greater summit, a longing for a surpassing fulfillment, a yearning for a permanent state of rescue and rest and joy.
Here lies the mystery and the glory because the cracked china of our lives, so delicate and beautiful, holds the promise for a future spent with God. The things to which we cling, our families, our friends, our memories, our treasures, will all pass away eventually. The enjoyment we find in them gives us a foretaste of the glory yet to be revealed. Our eager hearts desire an unending satisfaction, one piqued by our experiences through life. What then do we do? How then do we respond to our insatiable souls?
Enjoy what you have. Take pleasure in the vistas from the mountain tops. The joys of this world, however temporal, are still that – joys! God intended them to be so. He takes pleasure in them and so should we. Is it wrong to ache for more? Only if you seek to soothe it by chasing worldly things. Pursue God and his goodness. Trust in his provision.
When you are in the throes of hardship, remember that it is a temporary plight. Even in death, God promises blessing, “_ ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’_” (Rev. 14:13) He has prepared a Sabbath rest for his people who remain faithful in the midst of this life. Trust in his provision for you, have confidence in the future he secured for you through Christ’s work at the cross.
We are broken vessels.
But one day, we will be made whole.