Hidden Treasure

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I strolled right past this simple pencil drawing at the silent auction last month. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing it.

My co-worker’s husband purchased it for our pregnancy center. He proudly showed it to my husband and me as we exited the banquet. Still, I didn’t think much of it.

Until the following Monday morning at work, when I took the time to read the artist’s description of the story behind it:

Mother Teresa herself asked me to create this special drawing of a little child carved in the Palm of God’s Hand. She wanted me to include this beautiful passage from the Old Testament in which God says to each one of us, through the Prophet Isaiah, “See! I will not forget you…I love you.” I created this image for Mother Teresa in 1986, while I was with her in Calcutta, India. –Susan Conroy”

Wow. This was an original piece of artwork, conceived and commissioned by Mother Teresa herself! I realized that the drawing–that I had disregarded–was instead something very special.

But there’s even more to this story. If you look carefully, you will see a word written in pencil on each of the fingers in the drawing. The artist explains:

Mother Teresa wrote on each of the fingers of God’s Hand: “You did it to Me” to remind us of the Words that Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto Me.”

“You. Did. It. To. Me.”

Jesus’ own words, written in her own handwriting.

Those who knew this precious servant of Christ recall how she sometimes held up the fingers of her hand to explain this. The whole Gospel, she said, could be counted on five fingers.*

I call this the Gospel on five fingers—five words: You did it to me. In your five fingers you have your love for Jesus. Look at your fingers often and remind yourself of this love.” –Mother Teresa

What a treasure! The drawing now hangs in a place of honor in our center. I pass it in the hallway each day as I head up the stairs to my office. It reminds me of the evening of the silent auction. How I missed it, then dismissed it.

Just like I do with people.

How many have I just passed by, too busy or preoccupied to notice? How many have I glanced at with my eyes, but then rejected with my mind? Sized up based upon their outward appearance? Judged in a split second, before taking a few moments to learn their history?

My job at the center has been good for me. I’ve interacted with people I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. They are sometimes uneducated, unemployed, unkempt.

The least of these.

But then they share their stories. My eyes are opened. My heart is moved. I can appreciate their uniqueness. I understand their worth.

I am learning to care for them.

Teresa of Calcutta did.

I am beginning to treasure them.

Jesus of Nazareth does.

I am preaching His Gospel to myself.

The one in five little words.

The one that changes everything.

“You did it to Me.”

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40, ESV) 

 

*Monsignor Leo Maasburg

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Earthen Vessels

earthen-vesselThis fall I have the opportunity to teach, for the third time, a class at our church called “Foundations:  Christian Living.”  I’ve known and walked with the Lord for over three decades.  I should have this Christian Life thing down by now, shouldn’t I?

Well, turns out I don’t.

It’s easy to become discouraged when the gap between Who-I-am and Who-I-am-called-to-be appears to widen instead of narrow.  Being confronted with one’s weaknesses and failures at this stage in the game can certainly intensify feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy.  The enemy of my soul knows and loves to exploit this.

Who are YOU to teach a class on the Christian life?  Look at you!  All this time, and you still don’t have it together.  What kind of example are you to these young believers?

These defeating thoughts kept running through my mind last week as the start date of the class approached.  I decided to go for a walk in an effort to clear my head and pray.  So I headed down the hill that leads away from our house, pouring out my heart, confessing my sin, and acknowledging my fears and feelings of inadequacy to the Lord.  As I turned onto a side street, the following phrase entered my mind, clear and succinct, the way I’ve come to recognize God’s voice when He speaks:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

I caught my breath.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  I repeated this verse, which is from 2 Corinthians 4:7, over and over as I continued down the dirt road, meditating on the meaning of His words.

We have this treasure…  Jesus… the Pearl of Great Price… the One Thing that Matters… I have Him!

…in earthen vessels…  that’s me all right… weak… flawed… inadequate… unworthy.

See?  Just look at you!  That ‘other’ voice taunted again.  Only now I knew how to respond.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, The Message)

(That last part makes me laugh.)

What if our weaknesses actually create a better backdrop to highlight His power?  The apostle Paul certainly came to accept this as true in his life and ministry:

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NAS)

Rather than disqualify us for ministry, what if our flaws even help to enhance our effectiveness?  After all, they keep us humble, honest, and dependent on Him.  Isn’t that the best and safest place to be?

We are earthen vessels, ordinary and imperfect.  God’s only condition for service is that a vessel be clean.  Then He delights to fill and use it to accomplish His purposes.*

He is the Treasure, extraordinary and perfect.  May our weaknesses draw attention to HIS greatness, and our imperfections serve to showcase HIS glory.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NAS)

*See 2 Timothy 2:21.

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