We walked into a gift shop in the Avenue of the Giants along the northern California beach. My friend wanted to buy a redwood bowl for her mother. Then I saw it. It was a burled wood made from the roots of a tree that grows in the area. It was flawed, though. Along one side were holes. It wouldn’t be able to hold much and still, I was drawn to it.
The white-haired lady working in the store was straightening merchandise on the other side of the table. I carefully lifted the wooden bowl and said, “This is a holy bowl.”
With a puzzled look, she said, “What?” I turned it so she could see the holes. She explained it was just the way the knot holes in the wood had appeared and telling me I could use it to display decorative fruit or flowers.
“No, you don’t understand. It’s a holy bowl.” I emphasized the word holy.
She nodded absentmindedly and went back to straightening. I put the bowl down.
It was much too expensive to purchase, but much too valuable to leave.
We are like the bowl. We are flawed. We have big, gaping areas that make it difficult to be effective. We have a disease, a birth defect or a major health issue. We have wounds from our childhood. Some we don’t even remember, but we know they are there none-the-less. We did nothing to make any of this happen, but happen it did.
We may feel we are too tall, too short, too fat, too thin. Our teeth aren’t straight enough. Our nose is too long. Our ears are too big. Our neck is too short. We are not smart or we are so intelligent no one can relate to us. We are always angry or we are too complacent. We have no money or everyone only wants us for our money. It doesn’t matter. We have holes, big holes, undeniable, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face holes.
We hate our holes. We want them fixed, covered up, removed. We want a do-over on our life. We want something, anything to change.
We pray for the problems to be gone and, yet, they are still there, still wreaking havoc in our lives. We are still very imperfect and how can someone so imperfect ever contain anything meaningful or significant?
Yet, God sees us with all our flaws, all our expensive, exciting and extraordinary holes, and embraces them with everything He is.
Expensive. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us and our very expensive flaws. He must have realized how valuable they were when He gave His life for the things we would give anything to get rid of.
Exciting. God knows all about each of us and is excited to see what we do with what we have. He waits expectantly to see how we use the things we consider weaknesses in our life. It’s actually one of his favorite pastimes.
Extraordinary. We are each unique. There are more than seven billion people in the world today and no two are alike. We are each different. Even identical twins are different in some way. They have different experiences, different thoughts, different scars, different cognitive levels. We and all our special difficulties are extraordinary.
I have many flaws, but one is a huge, crater-size hole I wish I could fix. It has to do with my metabolic makeup that causes me to be an all-out sugar addict. I don’t like it. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. I am aware of it every day.
For years I ignored this monstrous issue and it got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until one day it threatened to engulf me. It nearly did.
Eventually, God showed me the only thing I can do with my flaw is to embrace it, own it and figure out how to work with it.
Paul also had a hole in his life. He called it a thorn in the flesh, a weakness. He said he asked God three times to take it away and each time God told him, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”1
After that he said he began to take pleasure in his weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles he suffered for Christ. He added, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”2
The only way for me lose the gargantuous amount of weight I had gained by being a sugar addict was to stop eating sugar. The only way to do that, given the thorn in my flesh, was by the power of Christ, one choice at a time. For the rest of my life, I will need to say, “No thank you,” when something with sugar is available. And each time I do, I will be reminded of my forever dependence on the power of Christ.
It is a hole He has seen fit to heal by drawing me closer to Him.
The holy bowl I found is not of much practical value. I don’t want to fill it with plastic fruit. What good is that? It’s too, well, plastic. I could put something like marbles in the bowl, but even they would escape out the holes located near the base.
The bowl, however, is beautiful for the very reason it isn’t useful. It reminds me of my life. Just because I’m not perfect doesn’t mean I don’t have a purpose.
God made my life useful with all my faults and failures. He didn’t cover them or try to hide them, He let them shine. He said, “Lean on me and I will make something beautiful out of you so you will be a holy bowl ready to pour My life on a flawed and wounded generation.” One way for me to do this is to share my journey through sugar addiction and my 250-pound weight loss, which happened only by God’s grace. That book will come out in a few weeks.
The priceless, flawed bowl sits on my dining room table holding a candle that through the jagged holes cast a unique brightness. No other source shines quite like this one.
God turned a flawed wooden bowl into a luminous holy bowl. It now has purpose. It holds light. God can turn you, a flawed, very ordinary man or woman, into a luminous holy man or woman. You will have purpose. You will give away the light of Jesus to a dark and lonely world.
Your brilliance will shine through the jagged holes so others will know there is no way on earth you could become the person you are save by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are holy.
It’s your turn now. Go ahead. Let your light shine. I double-dog dare you.
12 Corinthians 12:9
22 Corinthians 12:11