The Fragile Clay Jar

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As a piece of pottery, I’m certainly no beauty. All that remains is my thick spout attached to a broken handle and a jagged shard of terra cotta. But despite my rather sad appearance, my master prizes me as a symbol of hope, a reminder to believe in the impossible.

I began as most earthenware does, at the hand of a potter. The artisan who crafted me wasn’t particularly skilled, just a simple man crafting vessels for household use. He created me with storage in mind, but even from the kiln, I recognized my flaws.

The woman bought me to store grain for her flatbread, but when her boy grew up, he packed me with his supper. Every evening we ventured into the night and kept a moonlit watch together over the ewes and lambs. It was in the pasture I first discovered how easily prone to chip I was.

My quiet time in solitude with the boy ended abruptly when a messenger came through Manasseh. The country needed militiamen, and my young shepherd answered the call. While his family discussed the future, an old, iron vessel predicted my own. “You’ll be cast aside on a field of blood once you’re empty.” I cracked a little under the weight of those predictions of my demise.

The next morning when the woman packed me, she added slices of cured mutton to the usual barley loaves. My shepherd-turned-soldier grabbed me in one hand and a curved ram’s horn in the other. This old shofar often sounded in religious ceremonies. I trembled, knowing this time his would be the cry of war.

Even though only a chipped container, I recognized the oddity of my master’s military training. Rather than building an army, our leader seemed more intent upon dissuading volunteers than keeping them. Fortunately, my young man passed each strange testing; first, the one on bravery and then, the one on keenness of soul. 

Over the next few days, the mutton disappeared, and my insufficiency haunted me. The enemy beyond swarmed as numerous as the dark thoughts within me. Talk among accumulated pottery reported we were far outnumbered. As I watched the fitful sleep of my brave, young man, I flaked a little for fear of his fracture. Odds seemed against us

Suddenly, a compelling whisper electrified the starlit night. “Get up!” our leader urged quietly. “We are defeating the enemy tonight.” My young man jumped to his feet, toppling me onto my side. As I caught balance with my handle, I watched him soberly, realizing this might be my last glance at his strong, slender form. 

Surprisingly, after a few instructions from the commander, my master returned with a burning torch in one hand and the old shofar in the other. Lifting me up, he emptied me of the remaining crumbs of barley loaf and kissed my belly gently. Following directives, he slid the flaming firebrand into my mouth and wedged it into my open throat.

Instantly, I glowed with a burst of passion and zeal never before experienced. Even in the kiln, light had not pierced my slender depths like this. The fire’s brilliance revealed my every fracture, yet the glory of this inner blaze ignited me with energy and purpose. Like a new vessel, my old use disappeared when the fire came.

Despite my brilliant inner glow, the only light I provided my young man was through chips and cracks. Together, we stealthily picked our way up the northern side of the hill, pausing at the commander’s upraised hand. Listening intently, we heard the enemy watchmen sound their calls: “First watch. All’s well.”

As the rival guards shuffled to change assignments, we shifted closer. Sparks from the flame within me drifted into the night air like flashes of a firefly. I saw the old ram’s horn smile knowingly as the master raised both he and I to await the signal. 

When the commander’s shofar sounded, my master blew his horn and dashed me against the vessel next to me. With pride, I shattered willingly, allowing the fire within me to blaze brightly. The groggy enemy awoke to a flash of lightning, crash of pottery, and deafening blast of the horn. “A sword for the Lord and Gideon,” we all sang in victorious concert. 

While we stood our ground, my rim and fragment surveyed the confusion of the enemy turning upon itself. From within my shattered body, I exalted that my creation included so many weaknesses. The thinnest areas in my clay proved the very places where the fire blazed brightest.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT)

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Story based on Judges 7:9-22.