All You Have to Be, Is Desperate

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Michele Morin -ContainerofHumility3

By midwinter, the empty canning jars on my basement shelves begin to overtake the number of full jars. Clear glass glints beside the jewel-toned beets, briny pickles and thick spaghetti sauce. By practicing the dying art of canning, I pay attention to these containers. I know that a family of six can put away as many as sixty quarts of green beans in the space of those seasons between gardens.  Truly, the container is secondary to the contents.  

A recent back injury is making me conscious these days of another container. Paul the Apostle would have called it a clay pot.

That image suits me well.

Serviceable. Functional. Sturdy. At least, I’ve always thought so.  

But feeling the brittleness of my mortal clay, it’s clear to me that I’m prone to breaking, and the sharp edges leave me bent and moving about with caution.  

On one level or another, everyone fights the battle of fragility at some point in life.  

So lest I fall into the mistaken notion that the New Testament saints were bullet proof, I return to the words of Paul who strains his apostolic thesaurus to come up with metaphors adequate to the description of his own deep need:

 “We are hard pressed.”

Really? Did his time move relentlessly forward as the work piled higher? Did mounting expenses dwarf his income and suck the air out of his dreams?

“We are perplexed.”

Endless word of widespread persecution and death may have mirrored our present-day newsfeed, blaring a stream of events so unbelievable that emotions struggle to keep pace. How does one meet all the needs, answer all the objections, filter all the choices?

The perplexity and the pressure are overwhelming to me, but Paul seemed to be strengthened by it:

“We are not crushed.”

Across the centuries, I strain my ears for the Uncrushable Wisdom, listening for a raspy voice, ruined from the blatant misuse of vocal cords in outdoor speaking engagements and thick with gravel from having traveled around in a tired body. In exchange for Paul’s emptiness, God offered treasure: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” (2 Cor. 4:6, ESV) Paul became so full that the sheer force of Jesus’ life offset the pressure and permeated all the empty spaces. I’d love to make that man a sandwich and sit down with him for just a few minutes—or even to stand at the kitchen counter. I want to ask him how it all worked for him.

Here’s what I think Paul would say:

“All you have to be, is desperate.”

***

I called the State Prison yesterday. It’s located in my little town but I’ve never set foot on its grounds. There are people living there who need everything that I take for granted.

The polite and expectant voice that answered the phone did not suspect that I’m sort of “That church lady,” and that I have absolutely nothing to offer to people who live behind bars. She might have suspected (from my halting presentation) that I had not prepared a speech to explain why I was calling her, but the words “literacy volunteer” came to my mind and my mouth at the same time. Reading, writing, resume preparation—I could do this. I could use words to build a bridge to people who frighten me with their crushing problems.

Who do I even think I am?

Yeah, I’m desperate.

***

Paul clutched his own empty canning jar with both hands and lifted it up to the One who fills.

The container is secondary to the contents. “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” was the only thing that could have accounted for Paul’s strength and resiliency—not his brittle clay, but his glorious contents as a Christ-bearer, without which he might have actually collapsed into his own hollow vacuum.

There’s a kind of humility inherent in being just a container. If I should ever be allowed to walk through the door of the State Prison and to help someone hone reading and writing skills; if I should gain their trust sufficiently to share eternal Truth with them, it will not be my prerogative to make the message all about me. In fact, the more “me” there is in the message, the less the message will be about Jesus. Who wants to eat ice cream that has begun to taste like the carton?

As Mary became a chalice into which the life of God was poured, my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017. By filling and indwelling believers, Jesus makes sure that the world will continue to see God in the flesh. As God’s expression of what He is like, we become broken bread and poured out wine.  

There is no greater fullness.

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Michele Morin
I am wife to a patient husband, Mum to four young men and a daughter-in-love, and, now, Gram to one adorable grandboy. My days are spent homeschooling, reading piles of books, and, in the summer, tending our beautiful (but messy) garden and canning the vegetables. I love to teach the Bible, and am privileged to gather weekly around a table with the women of my church and to blog at Living Our Days about the grace I am receiving and the lessons from God’s Word that I am trusting.
Michele Morin

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  • Bev Murrill

    Oh gosh.. ice cream that tastes like the carton… how horrible.

    I’m so sorry to know that your back has begun to complain, Michele, but I can totally identify with you and with Paul… this amazing, spectacular, breathtaking treasure is encased in these poor clay vessels … and still people see the excellence of the awesome power of God.

    If ever there was someone who can bring hope to people stuck away and with little hope, it is you. I know that God is with you in this, and there’ll come a day when you are as comfortable with sitting with your captive friends, as you are with canning for winter… and God will be with you. Emmanuel, my friend.

    • My back is doing much better these days, and I’m working at staying strong.

      So glad to be reminded that God is with me in this process — and I always appreciate the words of hope that you share with me. In these days of “in-beween” it’s tempting to run ahead of God — or to interpret every delay as a closed door. The truth and reality of Emmanuel in our every day does make all the difference. Praying for you on this Tuesday morning.

  • Love this! Of course, you already know how much I love that you’re trying to do prison ministry! God is definitely in those dark places! Good luck!!!!!

    • I know that this path is already “a known way” to you, Joanna, but as a newby, I had NO IDEA how long the process would be. I’m measuring progress in millimeters, but also know that God is in the timing of all this, and He’s well aware that my plate is full right now, so I’m trying to be patient (that word we love!) with “the process.”

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your encouragement!

  • Michele, such a beautiful and challenging post. I cannot imagine anyone who will be better received than you. You will be such a blessing! Sorry your back is bothering & pray that God bring healing. Thank you for the reminder to continually let God fill us and then pour us out like broken bread and wine. Blessings!

    • I know that this process of filling and pouring out is your experience as well, Joanne, and I am always blessed when I read words of yours that update me on just how this is all working itself out in your own “clay pot.”

  • Profound. We come thirsty, we come broken.

    I see the canning jars lined up, I see you fighting pain, I see you offering something very much needed at the prison.

    Please keep us posted, ok, Michele?

    • I love your insights, Linda, and am so glad that you can picture my lovely canning jars in your mind. Funny how something so practical can also be cherished as beautiful!

  • Wow – I love this so much Michele. “Who wants to eat ice cream that has begun to taste like the carton?” – this is just such a perfect description of what you are saying. I love how you have woven together all of the different images in this piece so beautifully, and am so hopeful and sure of the profound impact you will have on those you meet in prison – and of the amazing impact on you too. I am praying for your back pain and am so sorry to hear about that. Blessings to you!

    • Thankful to report that the back pain is much better — This piece was written in early December, and I’m moving much more freely now. Thank you so much for your kind words here and for joining the discussion today!

  • The image of those canning jars … I love this, Michele. I love your heart.

    “As Mary became a chalice into which the life of God was poured, my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017.” O, this is so beautiful.

    Standing right here with you.

    • So good to have your fellowship-of-standing.

      And know that I’m praying for you to have a calm heart and a clear vision for your next BIG assignment of leading the charge for Rise UP, Sister February 23-26!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Michele,
    I loved this as well! Knowing that feeling of God calling you someplace where you feel totally out of place and inadequate, gives me glimpses of Moses and many of the great Biblical leaders – empty containers that, frankly, weren’t worth much until the light of Jesus filled them. Like it says in the vine and the branches analogy – apart from Christ I can do nothing. Being able to do nothing is humbling. I think, however, that’s exactly where we need to be in order to be useful containers to God. I applaud you for stepping forward in your fragile clay vessel state and being willing to let God fill you and use you. I have a notion He has great things you can’t even fathom in store. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • What a gift to be reminded of these biblical images that speak of humble dependency alongside undaunted empowerment. You, too, Bev, are walking this day by day staying-close-to-the-vine, and it’s miraculous what God does with His fragile servants who make themselves available.

  • Jerri Miller

    The verse about having treasure in clay pots has always stuck out to me. So often when we look at the clay pot it is hard to imagine any treasure in there.

    Love your analogy – the ice cream tasting like the carton! It’s not about me, it’s all about Him. I just get to help present Him. I do a terrible job sometimes …

    I bet you will be a real blessing should you be allowed to walk through those State Prison doors. Their clay pots may not be what they seem, either. ~ Jerralea

    • Jerralea, I’ve been fooled a good many times by focusing on containers — and missing the treasure.

      You’re pretty hard on yourself — I’ve certainly heard words about Jesus at your place that have put my eyes on Him and His fullness.

      Thanks for being present here and taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Michele,
    I love your willing spirit and courage to make the call to offer your services to those who might need them — bravo! 🙂

    • Oh, thank you, Valerie. My heart was pounding as I made that call, and now . . . I wait. If I had realized how many hoops needed jumping in this process, maybe I would have been more philosophical about it. But knowing me? Probably not . . .

  • Helene Burns

    Oh Michele… your words have filled my heart this morning. The picture of your canning jars is absolutely wondrous to me as it reminds me of my childhood and the cellar my mom filled with the bounty of summer. I can so relate to the battle of fragility right now and know that as I offer what I have right now, God will continue to use and fill me to invest into others through His kindness and grace. You are a beautiful treasure and a such a stunning gift to all of the SheLoves community. I am so thankful for you. xoxo

    • Filled to overflowing by the kindness of your words.
      And may God continue to use the whole package (faith and fragility; strengths and struggles) of Helene to bless many, many more.

  • Powerful, Michele! Simply powerful in every sense of the word. I’ll be sharing, my friend!

    • So glad to meet with you here, Beth. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • Jamie

    Such beauty, Michele! Thank you for this. I love reading your words!

    • It’s such a gift to be part of this caring community. I appreciate your taking the time to visit and to participate.

  • Hey Michele, I love the eagerness I feel every time I read your words. It is exciting to watch you pull your sleeves up and spin out such beauty. And I ask myself what would Michele say today.
    Once again I am blessed reading how greatly filled we are in His presence. It took a lot of courage ringing the Prison office. Praying that the Lord use you as a vessel fit in His hands. Words I am tucking away
    “We have to be hungry enough for it.
    You just have to desperate!”
    Period.
    Hugs and Blessings to you

    • Ifeoma, thank you for your heart.
      And blessings to you as you seek Him. We all come to Him desperate — whether we realize it or not.

  • Yes, Lord — empty of me and filled with Him. That’s my desire as well, Michele. — And, what a lovely service — literacy volunteer. 🙂 Good words today, Michele, thank you for sharing with #ChasingCommunity. ((xoxo))

    • What a wonderful reminder to lean into His empowerment. I do appreciate your insights, Brenda.

  • Michele I have a post lined up all about this- eerily similar, actually. Thank you for your eloquent presentation and for confirming something the Lord’s been teaching me too. My word is this convicting!! I will be praying for you and the potential of prison ministry. Hope your back is better, too! Some of those reminders of fragility we’d like to have go away when the message is made loud and clear, haha!

    • I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts. It’s no surprise that we’re coming down on a similar topic, with both of us teetering in transition at very different points in life. It’s a mercy to know that we’re gaining skill in one rotation that will help us when the same lesson comes around again later and in a different context.

      • : ) True, Michele! Such a mercy and so humbling! Mine won’t be live for a few months- but I think that’s part of the rotation process. One of the most precious aspects to me of God’s truth is its relevance through different contexts and times. The unchanging God speaks to unchanging truths in an ever-changing world. Such peace in that.

  • Wonderful, and I’ll be praying for you as a vessel that the glory of God can flow out of into those in the prison. xo

    • Thank you, Kelly. We’re both on a journey, both in the business of making sure the world sees God in the flesh no matter where we are. Thanks for all you do!

  • The gifts there are in being desperate. Thank so much for sharing!

    • Yes, it does end up being a gift in the long view — our neediness is a powerful invitation to God’s sufficiency.
      Thanks, Beth, for reading and for taking time to let me know that you were here!

  • Liz

    Just WOW! Honestly, beautiful and substance-filled words. I pray God fills you to overflowing with His grace and love and mercy where ever you find yourself serving His people! Blessings!

    • I’m “wow-ing” right back at you, because these are such powerful words of blessing. Thank you, Liz. Thank you so much.

  • LD

    Wow! I pray that God will use you in a mighty way.

    • Thank you, Laura! I learned yesterday that this delay in communication is pretty normal, so I’m encouraged to persevere — and to wait patiently for the wheels to turn.

  • Sarah Geringer

    “As Mary became a chalice into which the life of God was poured, my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017.” LOVE this, Michele!

  • pastordt

    Absolutely beautiful, Michele. I am behind in my reading – as you can clearly see!! — but this is glorious stuff. Thank you so much.

    • So good to hear from you, Diana — and you have some background to this essay that makes you a particularly knowledgeable reader, so I do appreciate your eyes on it, and your input today!

  • LOVE the line about eating ice cream that tastes like the carton!

    • It’s the only thing I could think of that comes close to the audacious nastiness of tainting Truth with our own false gospel. Thanks, Anita, for meeting me here!

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