Monday, August 5, 2013

Jars of Clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

A familiar verse from 2 Corinthians 4 if you know the Bible.  We are easily reminded that we are jars of clay or earthen vessels.  We're not made of steel or titanium.  We're made of mud; wet dirt hardened into something practical.  Not always beautiful, but useful.  (But I do wonder sometimes why my "dirt" is flabbier and has more gray hair than other people....)

The part that really made me think was that, as part of bearing the hardship of being human, we are perplexed.  Perplexed.  Seems like an odd word for the Bible.  As I started to ponder the meaning of the word perplexed - bewildered, puzzled - I realized that it pretty much describes me.  I am perplexed by God and His purposes.  I am confused, bewildered even....

Before I got married, I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom.  So, on my checklist for potential partners, that requirement was right near the top, along with finding a man who was a committed Christian and was willing to feed me chocolate on a daily basis.  I found Al about 6 years before I realized he was "the one," but God knew all along.

So I got to be a stay-at-home Mom for 10 whole years. Early on in parenthood, I was convinced that homeschooling would be the best option for our kids, and I talked my skeptical husband into it. I homeschooled for 5 years and then I burned out.  The hubs talked me into putting the kids in school.  It was a blow for my ego, to realize that I couldn't be the perfect do-it-all Mom that I wanted to be.  But God knew I struggled with depression and fatigue, and he also knew that I would get mono that first year the kids were in school.

By the end of my kids' first year at their school, a position opened up in the office.  I was nowhere near ready to work full-time, nor had I ever dreamed of working outside the home again after experiencing the heavenly silence of having children at school all day!  But there was a nudge.  God was in this somewhere:  A nagging thought in the back of my head.  At the time, money was a little tight, as always, but my thinking was that maybe I would work for a few years so we could pay off some debt. My husband agreed to let me apply only if I really wanted to do it.  By the end of my kids' first year, I  was working part-time at the school; by the beginning of the second year - September 2010 - I was the full-time Office Administrator.  It was an extremely busy job, but I loved it.  God had a plan.  He knew I could do something I didn't think I could do.

Then in January 2011 came the stroke.  It then became obvious to me that God led me to want and take that job so that I could bring in some money during that extremely challenging time.  And it was oddly comforting to have something I could do that kept my mind off the fact that my husband was suddenly and severely disabled.  I continued to work full-time for another year and then I caved.  I told my boss that I just couldn't handle a full-time job while trying to care for my husband and children.  Once again, I felt like my ego had taken a hit.  I couldn't do this either.  I felt like I kept failing at everything I tried. But I was blessed to transfer to a part-time position in the school's library, which I still enjoy. 

So, what am I perplexed about?  It is apparent, looking back over the past years, that God had a plan to provide for us in every way.  I would think my faith would be a lot more solid by now, like "Yeah, God's got this under control."  Yet, each day the future is still uncertain, challenging, and occasionally very scary.  I am perplexed as to why God continues to perplex me!  I feel like life is ALWAYS challenging, ALWAYS perplexing.  Can't He just give me a break once in a while???  (I say with a little sarcasm and a lot of faith, so as to hopefully avoid a lightning strike.)

The comfort in this passage is that I am not alone.  Scripture tells me that we are all perplexed from time to time, but not in despair.  Sometimes I despair, but God always gives me grace to trust in spite of my confusion.  We are hard pressed - PRESSED. HARD. - but not crushed.   We are struck down, but not destroyed.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  (2 Cor. 4:16-18)