HIGH IN THE mountains of Guatemala, a young boy named Juan made a trip twice a day down a steep path to haul water from a stream.
His father made a number of clay water jugs on his potter’s wheel many years ago and they were neatly set in a row outside their hut.
Juan fastened those jars by rope to a long pole that he carried across his shoulders. Then he would walk down the dirt path to the river where he would fill them up and climb back up the steep incline to empty them into large containers.
One of those clay jars had a hairline crack in it so that, by the time he got back to the hut, the jar was half empty. Even though there were several perfectly good clay jars to choose from, Juan stuck with his two favourites. And so he made that trip down to the river twice a day … through winter, spring and into summer.
One day, as he was bending down by the river to fill those jars, the cracked jar spoke. It asked, “Why do you continue to use me, knowing full well that I will be half empty by the time you get up the hill? Why not simply throw me onto that stone path, crush me to pieces, and use one of those perfectly good jars that your father made?”
Juan asked the cracked jar to notice the path as he walked back up the hill. “Look at your side of the path”, he said.
“Last winter I spread some soil and planted some wild flower seeds. You have been sprinkling them with water twice a day, enough to keep the ground moist and enough to allow the seeds to sprout. They are in full bloom now. Your side of the path is like a quilt of color. The other side of the path consists of dirt and rock.”
I am not sure what the clay jar’s reaction was but it may have held its head a bit higher and squirted an extra amount of water through its cracks – if jars can do that.
I feel like that cracked jar now and then. There are a lot of cracks – the result of sin. I spend a lot of time thinking about those cracks … in my character, my daily life, my relationships with others.
And every day God fills me to the brim with amazing grace. But I rarely think about the “stuff” that seeps out along the way, impacting others, maybe even nurturing others.
How about you?
Keith Knight is interim editor of the Anglican Journal.