Angie Smith is one who was quick to encourage a friend, but struggled to believe that God could truly make something spectacular out of her broken- ness and disappointments. Responding to God’s leading to both break and reconstruct a simple pitcher, she reflected:
It was as though God were saying, here you are, Angie. You are mended. You are filled with my Spirit, and I am asking you to pour yourself out.
The image of my life as a broken pitcher was beautiful to me, but at the same time, it was hard to look at all of the cracks. I ran my fingers along them and told Him I wish it had been different. How I wished I had always loved Him, always obeyed Him, always sought Him the way I should. I was mad at the imperfections, years wasted, gaping holes where it should be smooth. But God, my ever-gracious God, was gentle and yet convicting as He explained.
My dearest Angie. How do you think the world has seen me? If it wasn’t for the cracks, I couldn’t seep out the way I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you, just as you are.
Mended takes you on a journey to show how faith lived in the regular events of daily life is all that it takes to be a part of creating God’s picture of redemption in your life and those around you. Your life does make a difference—because of how He is magnified in the cracks.
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The Past and the Pitcher
"Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."
— Jeremiah 18:2–6
In one of the books I read on grieving the loss of a child, the author suggested smashing a piece of pottery as a form of therapy. When I read that, I thought it was one of the dumbest things I had ever heard.
Then, not long after I read (and dismissed) the idea about smashing a piece of pottery, I was driving along, listening to my favorite worship CD, and talking to God. I try not to dwell on the past any more than I need to, because as with all of us, there are hurts that aren't totally healed. But, it was a sunny day and I was alone with my music, so I guess it was as good a time as any to remember. As it turns out, I'm glad I did.
Before I get to all that, let me start with my first image of Jesus.
At my grandparents' condo, there was an image of the Lord that hung by the fold-out couch my sister and I used to sleep on in the guest room. It was surrounded by photographs of my dead Italian family, mostly women who: a) looked like they should have slowed down on the lasagna servings, and b) decided collectively that whenever a camera was around, they would pretend they were really angry and stare at the lens. Right there, on the wall of Sicilian terror, hung the face of Christ.
It was one of those "watch you wherever you go" faces. I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel like He was staring at me. I actually devised an elaborate system that involved my sister and me taking shifts so neither of us would be caught unaware in the event that He or any of the dead ladies decided to make a midnight visit.
Let's just say it wasn't a great first impression.
Years later, two events occurred that shaped my life dramatically. The first was during graduate school. My dad called me one day and told me he had been diagnosed with cancer. They were going to do further testing, but things didn't look good. I remember the words three months being tossed around. I am a daddy's girl to say the least. Although I had no background with the church, or with the Lord, I decided to do something crazy.
I made a deal with God.
It went something like this: You heal him, and I will find out about You.
It sounds kind of crazy, but I was desperate. The closest thing to prayer I had up to that point was when I asked God in the fifth grade to make my bowl haircut grow out while I slept. He failed me. I have pictures to prove it.
On Christmas Eve we got a phone call from the doctor. The tests had come back.
They couldn't find the cancer.
My family had always been Catholic, so when I got back to the city where I was attending grad school, I called the local Catholic church and asked them how to learn about God. It turned out they had classes for this kind of thing, and they were about to start (go figure). I went to classes for a year and got to know God a little better. I decided I needed to get rid of my boyfriend, whom I had dated for almost six years. He was abusive in every sense of the word, and there are a lot of deep wounds I still carry with me from that time period. It was a completely unhealthy relationship and one of those times I look back on and wish I could change. It hurts because even though I didn't have a relationship with God at the time, I feel like I was unfaithful to Him.
Fast-forward a few years. I was driving home from work and talking to my best friend on the phone. A woman was not paying attention and pulled out right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes but not fast enough to prevent my car from hitting her and rolling over. I remember the sound of glass breaking and a scream (I guess it was mine). I climbed through the window of my Grand Cherokee and cut my shoulder on the way out. It was the only injury I sustained.
I noticed the police officers who came to the scene of the accident were taking pictures of my car, now upside-down in a pool of glass. I asked them why, and they told me that based on the way the car had rolled, coupled with the fact that I wasn't wearing my seat belt, I should have been under the front wheel of the car. I didn't understand why that was interesting enough to photograph until I looked at the car. There was only one item that had come out of the car as I flipped, and it was now pinned under the front wheel. It was the rosary that I had been given by the Church when I finished my classes, and it was covered in my blood. Not a single bead was broken. I knew in that moment what many people are blessed enough to learn early in life.
He died for me.
Later that night I went to the chapel with my best friend (after she came flying to the hospital with wet hair because she had heard the wreck happen while we were on the phone), and we cried together at His mercy. The door started to open for a relationship with Christ, but I didn't fully let Him in.
All of that was about to change. I had become friends with some Christians who were really trying to get me into the whole church world. They invited me on a retreat thing, and to be honest, I thought that pulling my arm hair out sounded like more fun, but I was desperate.
The theme of the retreat was grace. I walked by a room where the group leading worship was rehearsing, and I saw him. The man who became my husband. He loves this story, because I basically fell head-over-heels for him instantly. I have my bm_scripture entry from that day, and this is what I wrote:
"Lord, I know I'm not good enough for him. But could you just let me have someone like him?"
Almost eleven years and five kids later, I am a better person because God let me have him.
So, back to the pottery and the drive to the airport. As I was driving, God spoke to me clearly, and He asked me to do something odd. I started thinking about a certain pitcher I have in my house, and as soon as it came to mind, He told me to smash it. I thought about that book that said to break a piece of pottery and how I had kind of shrugged it off, but I really felt like that's what God wanted me to do. Thankfully, my neighbors know me well enough to not call the police when I throw a perfectly good pitcher onto my front porch at ten o'clock at night. I watched it shatter, and I must apologize to the author of that book for my initial skepticism. It felt great.
I waited for a few moments, taking it in. What next? I asked.
Again, He was very clear.
Put it back together again.
What I wanted to do was go to bed, but I felt like He was meaning now, so I gathered all the pieces together and brought them in the house. I told Todd what was going on, and he took a look at the tiny shards of porcelain, knowing it was going to be a long night. I went and got the hot glue gun and sat down in the kitchen. It was hard to know where to start, but I found the lip and the handle relatively intact, and just kind of made it up as I went. I talked to the Lord while my fingers worked, and He stayed near to me. I would love to tell you that it was like a movie where everything about the moment was all sweet and perfect, but the truth is that I glued my finger to it at one point and cut myself several times. I thought about swear words that I wanted to say. But, still I kept at it.
And as I worked, He let me think about my past. Mistakes I have long regretted. I began to realize that this pitcher was my life, and every piece was part of a story that He had chosen to put together. I started crying, and remembering things I thought I had forgotten. It took a long time to finish, but it was time well spent. Every nook and cranny whispered to me, until at last it stood in all its imperfection.
Here you are, Angie. You are mended. You are filled with My Spirit, and I am asking you to pour yourself out.
The image of my life as a broken pitcher was beautiful to me, but at the same time, it was hard to look at all of the cracks. I ran my fingers along them and told Him I wished it had been different. I wished I had always loved Him, always obeyed Him, always sought Him the way I should. I was mad at the imperfections, years wasted, gaping holes where it should be smooth.
But God, my ever-gracious God, was gentle and yet convicting as He explained.
My dearest Angie. How do you think the world has seen Me? If it wasn't for the cracks, I couldn't seep out the way I do. I chose the pitcher. I chose you, just as you are.
At the risk of sounding like a nutcase, I am going to make a suggestion. Find a piece of pottery, and let it shatter at your feet. Then take the time to be with the Lord as you piece it together again (but beware the wrath of the glue gun!). Let Him tell you who you are, and let yourself be reminded of the grace that seals us all. You may not know Him at all, or you may be a "flannel-board Jesus" kid. It makes no difference. As I type these words I am praying that He will come to you and remind you that He loves the gaps because there is the potential for more of Himself to be revealed in you. Let Him help you smash and rebuild His most coveted possession ... you.
I'm willing to bet that you have seasons of your life that feel "unmendable." Despite the heartache you have over the choices you have made, it's never too late for Him to sculpt you into something beautiful. Consider a time when you were not walking with Him the way you would like to have been. What were the circumstances? How can you protect yourself from walking there again? Spend some time today praying through your thought process as you look back. Allow the Lord to remind you that you aren't a mistake. I'm big on list making, so sometimes it helps me to write down things that made me susceptible to making bad choices. I have found that it doesn't normally happen out of nowhere, but is a combination of factors. The more I identify the factors, the easier it is to see when I'm starting to drift again.
I want you to have a "pottery" experience of your own. Find a (preferably cheap!) piece of pottery that you can break. It can be a bowl, a vase, a pitcher, or anything that will give the same effect. I learned the hard way that it would have been easier to put it in a plastic bag before I dropped it (let's just say the kids had to wear shoes for several weeks on that porch to avoid wayward shards!). Break the pottery, and glue it back together. Take your time; it isn't a race. It's an opportunity for the Lord to speak to you, and for you to be reminded of His great love for you — His precious broken vessel.
Whether here, in a bm_scripture, or on a Post-it note, write one word, thought, or prayer that came to mind as you read "The Past and the Pitcher." Continue this with every entry throughout Mended and pray that God will remind you of what He showed you in these entries whenever you hear or think of those words as you go about life.CHAPTER 2
Your Road to Emmaus
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"
— Luke 24:30–32
I always loved the idea of God, but He just didn't seem practical, and for most of my life, "not practical" meant "not necessary." I put my full weight into what I could see and touch, and I found out the hard way that this life let me down (several times). I tried to read the Bible, but it just seemed huge and totally foreign to me. I felt like it had nothing to do with my life. I decided to read it the whole way through before I made up my mind, but I only got a few chapters into Genesis and decided it was less fun than trigonometry. I hosted a Young Life group in my basement in high school, but truth be told, it was because there were some really cute Christian boys whom I wanted to notice me (it didn't work ... turns out they really were coming over for Jesus). I used to sit on my bed and say "Show me you're real!" to Godand then let my Bible fall open, pointing my finger randomly at the page, positive He was going to give me a Scripture that would answer all of my nagging questions. He taught me two great lessons in my "Bible-pointing" days.
1. I can't put God in a box, and I cannot expect Him to show up on my timetable.
2. I pretty much always end up somewhere in 1 or 2 Chronicles, wondering why God loves the word begat so much.
Years ago, I sat down with my Bible and I asked the Lord to speak. Unlike the other times, I wasn't "testing" Him; I just wanted to feel His presence with me. By this time I knew Him, and that definitely changed my attitude and motives as I sought Him in the pages. I didn't do it because I wanted Him to prove anything, but rather because I was hungry for Him. He led me to two stories within a matter of days, the first being the story of the Lord calling Samuel (1 Sam. 3:1–21). It is still one of my favorites, and includes what was, for me, the key that began to turn the door of faith: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" (v. 10 nlt). It has become something I repeat over and over as I go about my daily life. I realized that God had created me to be in communication with Him. He wanted me to invite Him into corners of my life that seemed too small for Him to fit. I began to listen, and I invited Him to speak.
The other story is in the Gospel of Luke, where two people are traveling the road to Emmaus. I decided I was going to read it over and over again, slowly digesting the words and asking God to reveal Himself to me. I did a little word study and found that the name Emmaus means "warm springs," and that these springs were frequently used for healing purposes. So I began to picture two people walking toward "healing" instead of to just some random biblical location. The full story is found in Luke 24:13–32, but here is the gist of what is captured in that passage.
Three days after Christ was crucified, two of His disciples were walking to Emmaus, and they were sad because they didn't feel convinced that He was risen, or that He was really the Christ at all. They were discussing this when a man (Jesus, raised from the dead) "catches up" to them. The word used is the Greek word eggizo, which means "to draw near, approach."
The men didn't know who He was. They told Him all about their disappointment, sharing that they had believed Jesus was the promised One, but now they doubted. There was no evidence.
There they were, walking with the living Christ, and they had no idea who He was. They were looking past His face and into the abyss that demands proof. They saw His sandals, His hair, His eyes, His robe, but they did not see Him. They continued walking side by side for miles as He spoke to them, reminding them of everything from Moses to the prophets, but they did not know their Shepherd.
Finally, they reached their destination. Jesus acted as if He was going to continue on, but they begged Him to stay for supper. They longed to be in His company, so they invited Him to be their guest. As they sat around the table, their eyes were opened. Scripture says that Jesus "took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him" (vv. 30–31). Immediately upon their recognition, He disappeared from their sight, and they asked each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (v. 32). It all finally made sense. He was the great Rescuer. They immediately headed to Jerusalem to share their news. "We have seen Him! He is risen!"
I realized that in this beautiful story, God had posed a very important question to me, and He may be asking you the same.
Where are you on the road to Emmaus?
I thought about the way I had finally slowed down enough so He could catch up to me. I thought about how I had walked for years beside Him but never really knew who He was. Then I thought about the way I was drawn to Him and how I had invited Him to stay with me. And then, the bread was broken, and I saw Him for who He is.
Just as the disciples said, I remembered the way my heart had burned for Him, even before my eyes were opened. I love the Greek word that is used to communicate how the disciples felt as they walked with Him, not recognizing who He was. It is kaio, and it means "to set on fire, to be consumed."
This has crystallized in a way for me, and has helped me understand the walk of the believer in a tangible way. I write this knowing that we are all in different places along our walk with the living Christ, but there are some things each of us can do, no matter where we are.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Mended"
Copyright © 2012 Angie Smith.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Past and the Pitcher (Jer. 18:2–6),
Your Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30–32),
Crucified by Love (Gal. 2:20–21),
Why Weren't You Moses? (1 Cor. 1:26–31),
The Scarlet Cord (Heb. 13:20–21),
Flee and Don't Look Back (Phil. 3:12–14),
Honeysuckles and Fireflies (Eph. 2:10),
Us, Not Me (Phil. 2:3),
The Sea and the Scarf (Matt. 10:29),
The Glorious Hem (Rev. 21:4–5),
Worth More Than Diamonds (Jer. 9:23–24),
Wicked Weeds (Rom. 8:12–15),
Immediately (Matt. 4:18–20),
All In (Matt. 16:24–25),
Tree of Mystery (Ps. 27:13–14),
One Better (1 Pet. 4:8–9),
Teacups (Ps. 16:11),
The Reeds (Job 26:14),
Sketched (Eccles. 3:11),
He Loves You (Rom. 8:38–39),
The Tyranny of Choice (Phil. 3:8–9),
Ransomed (Heb. 10:12–14),
The Threshing Floor (Ps. 23:3–4),
Hush (Zeph. 3:17),
House of Mercy (Matt. 19:26),
The Gift Giver (Ps. 73:28),
Blink (Phil. 4:8–9),
Blessed Be the Name (Job 1:21),
Baros (Gal. 6:2),
Her, Here (Matt. 16:24–26),
What Is Left (Phil. 1:6),
I Will Carry You Sampler,