This post is a special one by XXXChurch and 40 Days blogger, Nicole Wick.
We all have a story. I do, you do, my weird neighbor who shovels the snow off of his lawn does – we all have a story. I’m a storyteller and a story lover. I didn’t used to be. I thought that my story was dark and ugly. It scared me and made me think of cold nights and loneliness. I never believed that it was a story worth sharing. Who would want to hear it? Not only did it scare me, but I was sure it would scare others, too. Rather than share my real story, my authentic story, I recreated one that I thought people would like better. One that would make people like me better. I became a living, breathing, in the flesh Pick-A-Path book.
Do you remember those? Each story had multiple endings, and the outcome of the story depended on the decisions that you chose for the main character at different points in the book. I loved them. As I moved through my young adult life I would pause at all of my critical decision points trying to decide which path to take. Should I be true to myself and the life, family, and circumstances that God had given me? Or should I pick a different path – an alternate ending? The choice was usually quite simple: I wanted a different story. Frankly, I wanted someone else’s story, and at each of those decision points I would hold my breath, turn the page and step away from my adventure and into my fantasy. In the fantasy, I would be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, and the perfect woman in the perfect church. I picked the path that would allow me to hide orphanhood, abandonment, addiction, abuse and all of the other parts of my story that I believed were ugly and unflattering. I picked all of the outward adornments that I thought would make my story look beautiful – braided hair, gold jewelry, and fine clothes were my path (1 Peter 3:4).
Somewhere along the way, my perception of my story changed. It wasn’t the result of an altar call or flashing lights or tragedy. I think it was just the stuff of life — the process, if you will. Other authentic people started sharing their lives with me, and the paths they picked — paths full of hurt, misery, restoration, and rejoicing — weren’t ugly or scary. They were vibrant and beautiful narratives that made my fake, paper doll life look flat and boring. Then my story started to change and become re-formed. I started to see what the Spirt could do in authentic community. It changes lives and gives voice to our stories.
1 Corinthians 4:7 is such a well-known verse. In the NIV it says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power comes from God and not from us.” In the Message it says, “If you look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.”
There is no power in my gaudy, self-adorned, made up story. But my unadorned clay pot tells the story of an ordinary life that has experienced tragedy and pain and has received forgiveness and hope from an incomparable, all surpassing, powerful God. I’ve come to understand that the dusty, dirty, broken clay jar path is much more beautiful than any other path I could have ever taken. I’m so grateful to be on this journey, this authentic adventure, in this old, broken down vessel. And I pray that you will see the beauty in your clay pot story too.