Marvin took the pot, the one that the student was so proud of, and held it up for all to see. He praised her for the fine craft she’d employed in the kneading of the clay, explained how that work had enabled her to “throw” a pot with such thin yet strong characteristics. She was proud of the work, proud of herself, clearly enjoying the notoriety being displayed in front of the other pottery students.
He went on to describe the beauty that she’d brought forth from a small lump of clay, went on to highlight the glazing, the gentle slope of the neck, the fine characteristics of the handle, the gentle coloring towards the base and overall composition; the student basking in the glow of her skill. Marvin was so enamored by the work, so driven to find each beautiful facet of the pot and explain it with forensic detail in the manner that only a teacher could appreciate, so engaged he was that he held it high for all to see it’s greatness.
Then he let go of it.
The pot in all its glory slowly slipped from his hands, somehow on its own hanging in the air it seemed to lose a bit of its power and majesty. Passing his chin it looked more awkward than beautiful, by the time it passed his belt – most hearts had stopped. By the time it reached his knees it looked quite sad, all that unveiled beauty was hidden. By the time it hit the floor, in everyone’s mind it was no more. The pot shattered into dozens of sharp, useless shards and the collective horror of the students nearly seemed to make time bend, the potter was in shock. Hearts were torn, emotions came forth and suddenly the entire room uttered a collective admission that there was a God, made evident by the way they all called on his name with a unanimous “oh my God”!
Everyone was furious with the teacher; how could he be so clumsy with such a beautiful vessel? What reparations could be made to the potter? What should the punishment be for such carelessness? All the descriptions of beauty had ceased, all the praise to the potter had vanished, all the excitement for the possibility had abruptly ended with one small slip of the hand. Except for the excitement of Marvin. Quickly, he reached down and grabbed a large chunk of the once elegant pot and with an even bigger smile than before held it up for all to see – “look at the inside” he exclaimed, “its even even more beautiful than the outside”! He went on to describe for each student how the glazing which had managed to drool down unnoticed into the neck of the pot had formed wondrous patterns and displayed the most incredible contrasts. His excitement increased as he toed through the broken pieces on the floor. Not a word was said from any of the students, not a breath had yet been exhaled from the horrified parent of the pot. Marvin could see a beauty that they could not grasp. Marvin saw value in what was now viewed as worthless.
He went on for a few more minutes explaining that there was untold beauty on in inside of the pot – explaining this to a confused and dazed group of young students. Then he stood still for a moment and looked directly at the student who by now was on the verge of tears. “I did this for a reason” he explained to her. “The pot was all those things I said, and more but you could not see it and you needed to know it”. He went on to tell the entire class not to forget that these works of art “are merely things; don’t get carried away with yourself in the process”.
Beautifully broken now were both the pot and the potter. Sometimes I find myself like that student, horrified that God would dare hold something so beautiful and so precious high above his head and then thoughtlessly, almost carelessly, let it drop and smash for no good reason that I could fathom. For the truly gifted, the ability to see beauty in broken vessels is an insight into a marvelous new world of wonder. For those unfortunate ones who cannot see the beauty because they’re not bold enough to allow themselves to be emotionally broken in such a fall, a marvelous gift lies just beyond their reach. For those who have experienced the fall and the inevitable crash and refuse to see the beauty and thoughtfulness in the breaking, for them the tragedy and injustice will haunt them the rest of their lives. For those bold few who like the student’s pot, travelled the distance, took the fall and now see beyond their self interest; a world of mystical beauty rewards them. Its not an easy life, in fact the only guarantee is that never again will the overtly precious artifacts in life – the things we cling to, hold the greatest value. Truth be told, the new things in life – the things typically hidden in the shadows will begin to shine with a true light.
Bethany is one of those beautifully broken pots and I, like those students who accepted the challenge have been beautifully broken as well.