But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. 1 Corinthians 15:10a
Recently, I listened to an interesting lecture on the nature of art and creativity. Toward the end of the presentation, the speaker showed a hundred-year-old, charcoal gray-glazed Japanese tea bowl that had been broken and repaired. Instead of trying to hide the cracks, however, the individual repairing it had emphasized them by highlighting them with gold lacquer.
The effect was striking. The gold-embellished crack stood out in stark contrast to the dark gray piece of pottery. The lecturer said:
“This bowl is more beautiful now, having been broken, than it was when it was first made.”
I was struck by how that illustration applied so perfectly to my own salvation and my experience since. When He made me a new creation, God didn’t try to hide the cracks of my previous life:
- Cracks that represented empty experiences gained due to my persistence in living a rebellious and sinful life.
- Cracks that were the result of desperately searching for significance and meaning through insignificant and meaningless pursuits.
- Cracks that were the result of being just as broken as that Japanese tea bowl.
He could have absolutely repaired those cracks so that there was no evidence of their ever being there. Instead:
- He used the experiences they represented to give me a voice that, hopefully, speaks to the possibilities available to others who may be mired in the same sort of rebellious and sinful life I was.
- He used them as an exercise in contrasts: insignificance and meaninglessness without Jesus vs. a purpose-filled life due to the victory that is mine through life in Jesus.
- He used them to bring honor and glory to Himself by demonstrating His amazing power to utterly and totally transform a broken life.
The apostle Paul had a few cracks of his own. In the same chapter from where the verse at the top comes, Paul told the Corinthians that he didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle, since he had been a ring leader in rounding up Christians and tossing them into prison. But God had other plans for Paul, plans made possible by a gift of unfathomable value: His gift of grace.
“Grace” was one of those oft-used Christian words I struggled to fully understand prior to my salvation. Grace is typically defined as God giving us forgiveness that we don’t deserve. Anyone would agree that Paul didn’t deserve to be forgiven for the pain and suffering he inflicted on the first Christians. Still, Jesus personally appeared to him one day and set him to work spreading His Gospel, cracks and all. A transformation of that magnitude could only be accomplished through God’s intervention and through His grace that Paul constantly wrote about.
But what about me? I definitely wasn’t perfect in my pre-salvation days—far from it—but I’ve never been involved in dragging Christians off to jail or any other crimes of that magnitude, either.
Nevertheless, I am no more deserving of God’s freely-offered pardon through the sacrifice of Jesus than Paul was. However, thanks to the nature of God and His grace, I am no less deserving, either. That gift is offered freely to all. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (10:13) he says that:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Everyone means everyone: Paul, me, you, the worst terrorist—everyone. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or haven’t done, how good or not so good we think we are, or what caused the cracks in our lives. We’re all born with a sin nature that dooms us from the outset. But for the grace of God covering the price of that nature with the perfect, pure, and precious blood of Jesus, we would be separated from God for all eternity, starting the minute we come into this world.
“Yikes!” and “Whew!” both at the same time…
I am what I am
Without that gift of grace, I would still be spending my time and resources on purely selfish and self-serving pursuits and pleasures. But because of the grace of God, today I am:
- A follower of Jesus.
- An adopted son of the Creator of the universe.
- A student of the Bible.
- One who prays without ceasing.
- A member of a local church who gives his time and money as God directs.
- A writer of a blog who shares his experience as a follower of Jesus.
- Someone who, more than anything, wants a deeper, more intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father; someone who wants to serve Him without hesitation and love Him with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Whether in spite of the cracks or because of the cracks or both, God was able to do way more than I could have ever dreamed (to paraphrase Ephesians 3:20).
But the best part? Although He’s not finished yet, He will be one day…
…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
On that day when I move from this life to the next, the cracks will be gone…
And his grace to me was not without effect. I Corinthians 10:15
…and, if I interpret God’s word correctly, they’ll also be forgotten…
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