March 20, 2013

A Broken Vessel

He was a precious, perfectly formed baby, entering the world with a full head of dark hair and deep brown eyes that seemed to display a sort of maturity and wisdom.  His sweet innocence didn’t remain long, however.  As he observed and listened and experienced what was happening around him, he soon understood that the world in which he lived was a dangerous, unreliable place.

Because his home was chaotic, and he never knew for sure what would happen next, he learned that life is unpredictable, and he shouldn’t get his hopes up.  It’s best to never, ever have any expectations. 

When he was sad or hurt, it wasn’t sympathy or comfort he received; the adults in his life became impatient and angry with his display of tears.  He learned to never, ever cry. 

At nighttime, he knew that his father did terrifying, unmentionable things to his sister in the room next door.  His mother did nothing to stop it from happening; she was unable or unwilling to protect her daughter.  The boy learned to never, ever trust adults.  Somehow, even in his young mind, he realized that it was up to him to be strong and in control if he hoped to survive.

As a young child, he was rescued from those painful circumstances, and was adopted into a wonderful family, cared for by parents who showered him with love, guidance, and encouragement.  A mother and father who offered him every possible opportunity to grow and thrive and reach his potential.  The years were filled, not only with the necessities like excellent schools, skilled counselors, hired tutors, dreaded braces, and daily chores; but also with wonderful memories of family movie nights, fun vacations, boating on the lake, hunting with Dad, hiking with Mom.

The sobering truth is that our childhood experiences, both positive and negative, significant and seemingly inconsequential, bear a powerful influence on the adults who we eventually become.  Overcoming family history, the struggles that are inherited from broken, imperfect parents, may be a lifelong battle.  Despite years and years of devoted love and tender nurture, the pain of the past may not be easily healed. 

For this boy, who has now grown into a strapping, handsome young man, the memories of the specific events themselves may be long forgotten, but the lessons remain.  

Never have expectations:  It’s better not to try anything new or have any specific goals, because then there will be no disappointments if he doesn’t succeed.  Perhaps this explains his succession of minimum wage jobs that never seem to last too long.

Never cry:  Whether he is hurt in a relationship, frustrated at his parents’ rules, discouraged by his failing grades, or afraid of an unknown future . . . crying isn’t an option, so the varying emotions he feels always display themselves the only way he knows: rage.  He lashes out violently when things don’t go his way, screaming threats, cursing, punching holes in the walls.

Never trust:  It is too frightening to listen to advice or receive correction or to ever depend on anyone else . . . that would mean giving up that control that he has fought so hard to maintain.  It is up to him to make his own decisions.  He is determined to lie and deceive, scheme and manipulate.  Anything to make sure that no one will ever have the power to injure him.

He is like a beautifully designed vessel that has been cracked and broken, shattered into so many pieces that it seems impossible to mend.  The fragmented, jagged pieces are sharp and dangerous, causing pain to himself and others, destroying every relationship in his path.

How heart-breaking it is for the parents who love him, who have spent years trying to undo the early damage, to heal the ugly wounds, to watch him on this self-destructive path and to be on the receiving end of his aggression.  Were they wrong to adopt him?  Should they have listened to the voices of their extended family members and friends, people who warned them all those years ago that they would someday get hurt?

How can it be wrong to love a child?  To show compassion to one who needs a loving, stable, safe home?  To invite “the least of these” into one’s heart, life, and family?   That would be like saying we should only read a book if we can be assured of a happy ending.  Like tossing the book aside half-way through the story, just when the main character is in the thick of peril and facing seemingly impossible odds, and saying, “That’s it!  I knew I shouldn’t have started this book!”

His parents may have been unable to fix the cracks and repair the damage that had occurred, but the good news is, the story is not over yet.  God’s work in this young man’s life is not yet finished.  God’s Word promises that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”  The fact that this child survived his tumultuous early years is evidence that God was right there with him, beginning that good work in his life.  As a small child when he was adopted by loving, caring, godly parents, it was further proof that God was still there, working, shaping, repairing.

The unwavering truth is that God’s grace and love are able to heal and restore even the most shattered life.  He is able to bond the broken pieces back together more securely than the most powerful adhesive. 

Will the pain ever be completely forgotten?  Can the damaged pieces every be fully mended?  Probably not.  However, cracks are not necessarily as detrimental as they seem to be at first glance.  Upon closer examination, they bear evidence of God’s power to heal wounds, to restore meaning and value and beauty.  They prove that He is still at work, even through the painful circumstances, during times of crushing adversity.  And in an amazing, incomprehensible way, God can actually use cracks to display His wondrous glory.  How?  By, shining the light of His love and grace through the broken places. 

At just the right time, there will come a day when this young man will surrender himself to the Potter’s hand, and will allow himself to be molded and shaped into the beautiful vessel he was created to be.  And once he allows the love of God to fill his life, he will shine brightly, in ways he never could have imagined!  And everyone who sees him will be able to understand this amazing truth:  that God is able to heal, use, and even be glorified in the life of a broken vessel.

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