But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We arehard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.”(2 Corinthians 4:7-12, NKJV)
Last year, I taught on the principle of Earthen Vessels all throughout the year. God was quickly and fastly revealing to me about the principle of His spirit at work within us – and the realization that we do not always do everything perfectly. Even God’s servants throughout the ages, no matter how history has tried to sanitize, deodorize, and clean up its people, were earthen vessels. They made mistakes. They adhered to certain traditions, problems, and issues they had as was customary in their time. They rejected certain things and did some things better than or worse than others.
Very few people I am in contact with now knew me ten years ago. A part of me has always been very grateful that many of those who know me now did not know me back then, because I wasn’t the best of people. Ten years ago, I encountered someone that would change my life: I encountered myself. I knew the Lord, or so I thought. What I knew were extensive levels of rules and regulations that caused me to be someone and interact in a certain way with other people. The person I was was not who I wanted to be, but it was the only way I knew how to be, and somewhere inside of me, it was the way I wanted it to be. I wanted to believe those rules and regulations would change me – change my heart – change others – but the stark reality was that they would not.
Ten years ago, I met someone who made me realize this. At the time, I was not ready to receive what God was showing me. I wanted to reject it in rules disguised as truth, legalism disguised as holiness and the traditions of man cleverly disguised as truth. I did not want to receive the message God was teaching me. I was so much about making things different and trying to redeem people with my concept of rules and regulations that I forgot about being a person, being an earthen vessel.
I fought it ten years ago. Over the past ten years, God brought me to a place of a cceptance and truth I would have never known previously. He used someone that no one would have ever expected to start the process in me. Had I never met that individual, and continue to know this individual in my life, and experience their influence, I would not be able to be who I am: but I had to first receive.
The past eight days have caused me to reflect over the past ten or so years. The reason why I am reflecting on this specific period of time relates to what I have just shared above. In reflection upon the many things that have come out, the depths of revelation about intimacy which God has brought forth, and the truth of time shows me something I have needed to see, I believe, for awhile.
Receiving is extremely difficult for me. It is not just about receiving correction, because that is not easy for anyone; it is also about not being able to receive the blessing. My entire life, I have been one of protocol, obedience, and yes, service. Ten years ago, I was so into the protocol, I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I could barely have a conversation with someone, let alone reach out to someone with God’s love. I pushed people away who cared because I could not receive. I refused to accept, to receive, to embrace in my life. People were not drawn to me.
Through the years, through much introspection, some healing, and a true change of heart and understanding on many matters (that I can only credit to God). Even though God has given me a supreme revelation of favor in my life that is manifested in my ability to love and relate to a wide variety of people (thank you Apostle Catharina for calling out what it is!), receiving is still difficult. I have had many attempt to psychoanalyze it or tell me it’s a feeling of unworthiness, but that’s not it. It is something different, something on a different level of understanding. As apostles, we are called to serve, to give. God ingrains service within us; within our personalities we are wired for serving others. This means….receiving is hard. I am uncomfortable when our Father or people try to give to me.
For the past week, I am realizing how deeply important it is for us to receive as well as give. If we only give, we will find ourselves empty. If we only receive, we will be full with no purpose. In the divine balance desires for us, we most both give and receive.
I can see that God is calling me to a greater place of balance in my own life. Receiving is important to see and understand the mercy of God in all we go through. Think, for a moment, on the consequences of only giving. If we only give, we cannot receive God’s forgiveness. We cannot receive His blessings; we will feel guilty for having them and will somehow reject them. We cannot receive healing; we will feel as if we need to remain bound. We cannot receive hope; we will feel lost and rejected. We cannot receive a calling; we are too full of bondage to understand true selflessness and divine love.
God calls us “earthen vessels”to indicate we are a people who must be filled with something – His Spirit – and that comes by receiving. It indicates a necessity to empty ourselves, leave ourselves behind, and become something entirely different. When we receive, we are able to pour out. We cannot pour out that which is empty, because there is nothing there to pour forth. Receiving is vital because it reminds us of God’s eternal promise of love and hope in our lives.
In my commentary on the Song of Solomon, I make the statement: “Deep wounds heal only by deep love.” This is a short, but profound revelation of God to us as His earthen vessels. Being created of the earth means we are fragile, easily breakable, can wear and tear, and can experience decay. Being a vessel means we can be filled to receive something profound: His love. God’s love covers every sin, every hurt, and mends that which is broken in a way that cannot be accomplished by human means. No matter how much we go to a doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or someone else of the world, only God can truly take the brokenness we have, and turn it into something else. He does this as we receive His love.
Sometimes we need second chances. Some of us, such as myself, are probably on the third, fourth, fifth, or millionth chance. Sometimes we need forgiveness. Sometimes we need a hug, not preaching. Sometimes we need to listen. Sometimes others need these things, as well. We cannot expect to give it if we have not received it. As I can testify in many years of ministry, there is no more powerful witness than the sincerity of God’s love. We can tell people something…or we can help them to experience it.
Knowing the individual (they know who they are) I mentioned has changed my life, in more than one way. Had I not received that, I would not be able to give and receive the favor God has placed upon my life. Had I not had my experience here in Europe the past few days, I would not have been able to receive and learn about receiving, so I can continue to go on in ministry and give as God has given unto me. I am learning to receive, and in learning to receive, I am also learning more about giving. It is a process. Faith is a process. Love is a journey in our process of becoming a receiving earthen vessel to give something to others.
For the first time in a long time, I can say I have something that prior I only touched: the filling of God’s earthen vessel unto hope.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7, NKJV)
“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.” (Lamentations 3:21)
(c) 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.