“Interesting – that sounds just like someone we met at one of the craft shows.” My sister-in-law Linda continued, “She was selling vases that she had decorated, and as we talked with her we learned that she had experienced a traumatic brain injury as a child.”
My husband, John, couldn’t believe it. “Do you think it could be the same person?”
We were sitting at my parents’ home with mom, dad, my brother, and his wife. John had been describing his experience as a host at Joy Prom the previous evening (more about Joy Prom – http://dimlyburning.com/2013/04/26/anticipating-joy/). He shared how much he enjoyed the prom with his guest, a young woman who, as a 9 year old child, had suffered a brain injury in an automobile accident. She spent 9 months in a coma with many uncertainities about her recovery. Years later, Susan changed her middle name to “Grace” in tribute to God’s gracious, healing work in her life. Although she is affected daily by her brain injury, Susan says that the joy of the Lord is her strength. This was Susan’s first experience at Joy Prom, and John escorted her through a special evening created in honor of adults with special needs.
As the guests arrive to Joy Prom, they are introduced to a wildly cheering crowd. Female guests are paired with male hosts and vice versa. 400 guests are matched with 400 hosts in a seemingly random way, but my husband is convinced that the evening with his guest was divinely appointed. As John and Susan got to know each other, John learned that Susan had a gift for decorating glass vases with decoupage. With her special talent, Susan participates in craft shows and shares how God has done beautiful things in her life. Her mission is to be a vessel of God’s grace, to show how God has filled her with His love and how He purposes to use her gifts and even her disability to honor Him.
Instead of being bitter about becoming disabled, Susan chose to focus on the ways that she is especially abled by God to serve Him.
“We bought one of her vases for you,” Linda said to my parents. “I think it’s in your kitchen.”
I remembered the vase sitting on the window sill, and as I picked it up, I noticed that tucked inside the beautiful vase was the same business card that Susan had given to John the night before.
“You’re right! This is one of Susan’s vases!”
Susan, through her artwork, demonstrates what happens when a person gives his or her life as an offering, weaknesses and all. It is the weaknesses, in fact, that bring out the beauty of God’s grace.
In the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4: 6 – 7:
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers…. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots (earthen vessels) of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.
The treasure in the earthen vessel, according to Paul, is the precious Message of the Gospel – the personal understanding of God through Jesus Christ. No matter how able-bodied we may be, we are completely insufficient to accomplish in our own strength what is accomplished by the Gospel.
It is a priceless gift. Grace is not a product of our eloquence, abilities, intelligence, winsome personality, or right choices. A vessel is a receiver – a holder of that which is poured into it. Such are the redeemed of God.
Our natural tendency is to be full of ourselves – our accomplishments, our good works, or our talents, but the truth is there is nothing about us that could commend us to God. We have all fallen short. Sin is the ultimate disability.
When we awaken to the Truth that our goodness is about as worthy as a dirty rag (Isaiah 64:6), we finally recognize that we are needful, empty, hungry and thirsty. And then as empty vessels, God fills us with His mercy. When we pour out ourselves and lift the cup up to Him, it overflows.
A life like Susan’s is the picture of the overflow. Her cup may be fragile, her vessel may be cracked – the same is true of all of us in more or less obvious ways. But Susan offers her weaknesses to become portals to God’s strength. John’s divine appointment with Susan has inspired us to do the same.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He appointed for us long ago.
2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 10 (words of Paul): But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.