I am feeling very clay-like, earthen, limited these days, after a long period of intense focus and action on my own behalf and those of others. It is not that I can’t stop physical doing; it is more that I can’t stop “eating the bread of anxious toil,” as the Psalmist puts it. Anticipatory anxiety, worrying and carrying loads of fretting that don’t belong to me are much harder to lay down that just sitting down to rest. I am very aware of things that limit me.
My body limits me. I suppose it always has, but the older I get, the more doctor appointments I accrue, the more investment I am required to make in order to accomplish my quotidian tasks each day, the more that I am aware of those limits. I can’t reach what I used to reach, no matter how many stretching exercises I do. I can’t stay up as many hours as I used to, even if I take a nap. And I find that my glasses are critical to my ability to see and appreciate the world!
Also, my place in the classification of demographic seem to have disappeared–not a millennial, not even a Boomer, I seem to have fallen off the charts. Practically speaking, this means that the training I had, professionally and personally, often does not apply. I raised my children with one understanding of how to feed, dress and keep my children safe; those rules have all changed. I was formed as a pastor to serve in particular ways in a parish in a world that is now undergoing massive sea changes, and may be for the foreseeable future. Forms and patterns that I practiced are now seen as “old school,” read useless. I came late to technology, and presently limp along with the wise help of my technological keepers, but several times a month find myself buffaloed by terminology and functions that feel beyond my understanding. Limited indeed!
And my current exposure to the variety and complexity of the world lets me know that my story is of necessity a limited one–small when put up against the huge events and trends of history, colorless when put up next to those who have struggled against great odds and come through on the other side.
So I come back to the insight of the writer Paul, who in 2 Corinthians, as he struggles with his own limitations, reminds me that I am after all a “jar of clay,” an “earthen vessel,” whose purpose is first to be faithful to her own location and story, and then to be the vessel or agency through which healing comes, wherever she is. I might be called, and am able, to bring water to someone thirsty for conversation or presence. I might be called, and am able, to be the patio light in which a small candle lights the way in the dark night gloom. I might be that colorful decorative planter that gives the tender shoots ample space in which to send their deep roots and thrive. All those things are with in my ken, may be within my calling. And in claiming my limits, I may be able to continue to be of use in God’s stitching up the brokenness of the world.
I could do worse than be a jar of clay.