Earthen Vessels

Babies are pretty incompetent.

I mean that in the nicest way possible, but it’s true—at least for human babies. The animal kingdom is a whole different story. Take giraffes. When a giraffe gives birth to her calf, the baby falls about six feet and hits the ground. Within half an hour, the baby giraffe has figured how to stand, and in about 10 hours, it’s running around with its mother.

At around ten weeks old, eagles are starting to nudge their eaglets out of the nest, which is how they’ll learn to fly. Through the air. With their wings.

My daughter is a little over 4 months old, and so far, she’s really good at halfway rolling over and blowing raspberries.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Mary and I think that’s fantastic. It’s been such a joy to watch our little girl grow and learn and develop. We get so excited over every little milestone—we watched her learn to track things with her eyes, or reach out and grab things with her hands, or grin at Mommy and Daddy. We’ve been listening to her coo while she tries to figure out how to form words and speak.

I’m going to be honest; there was a period of two to three weeks when Mary and I high-fived each other every time Prim blew out her diaper—and that was probably when I realized, okay, yeah, I’m a parent now.

But as proud as I am of Primrose, as much as I have loved watching her grow these past 4 months—even I have to admit she’s not exactly sprinting across the Serengeti. She’s not leaping out of a tree and gliding through the air.

She’s rolling onto her side and making funny noises.

Granted, it’s worth pointing out that Primrose—and the entire human race—has something huge that sets us all apart from the animal kingdom, and that’s what the Bible calls the spirit in man (Ecclesiastes 3:21). As Prim grows, she’s going to be able to interact with and appreciate the world in a way animals never could. She has the capacity to learn and think and reason and feel and create far beyond any other creature of God’s creation.

But I guess what really strikes me about my daughter in this phase of her life is how much this tiny human being depends on us—like totally, completely depends on us. For everything.

She can’t feed herself. She can’t change herself. She can’t bathe herself. She can’t even move herself, unless you count pinwheeling around like Curly from the Three Stooges. Right now, her existence depends entirely on whether or not Mary and I give her what she needs.

* * *

There are probably a lot of spiritual lessons to draw from all that. Like, for example, there’s probably a good analogy in there about how much we depend on God and how, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Or we could talk about how important it is that we trust God to provide our needs, the same way Prim trusts Mary and me. I don’t think she ever wonders, “What if Mom doesn’t feed me this time?” She knows Mom will; that’s what Mom does; that’s who Mom is.

We could talk about those things, but four months with my little girl have helped me see something else in a different light:

This kid is God’s kid.

This baby—this tiny little baby, who can’t do anything for herself—was born with the potential to live forever in the family of God.

And it’s not like God is going to start paying attention to her one day in the future, maybe once she figures out how to walk and how to talk. He’s paying attention to her now, right now, when she has absolutely nothing to bring to the table. He loves her and He cares about her, and when He looks at her, He doesn’t see a baby who can’t even roll over all the way.

He sees a daughter. He sees the spirit being that she could become, that He wants her to become. He sees a throne and a crown and white robes and a life full of potential to become something truly incredible.

* * *

I don’t know about you, but that boggles my mind a little bit.

It changes things. Learning to look at my daughter through God’s eyes is helping me learn to look at everyone through God’s eyes. To see potential and possibility instead of only looking at the way things are. I mean, if God can look at a baby who can’t talk or walk yet and be thinking about where that baby will fit into His family as an eternal, unending spirit being, how do you think He looks at us?

It makes me think about something Paul wrote: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

It’s not really about the vessels, is it? It’s about what God is going to do with those vessels—what He’s going to do with us. It’s about the Spirit and the knowledge He placed in those vessels. That’s where the focus is. The earthen vessel isn’t impressive; the treasure placed inside it is.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we don’t have any work to do. We do—of course we do. But the work itself, on its own, was never going to justify you before God, was it? It was never going to be enough to transform you into an eternal member of God’s family.

The Bible calls us little children, and that’s true. We’re a lot like Prim in a spiritual sense—and on our own, we were never going to hit a point where God decided, “You know, this one doesn’t need diapers anymore, and he’s stopped accidentally hitting himself in the face while he sleeps—okay, I guess he’s ready to be unbound from time and space and rule beside Me for all eternity.”

There’s nothing about the earthen vessel that makes that possible. It’s about what God puts into the vessel that makes it possible—His Holy Spirit. Then it’s a matter of what we do with it, how we interact with it and how we let it change us from the inside out.

* * *

I know I’m not bringing you something especially profound today. I’ve only had us turn to one passage of scripture, and it’s probably one most of us have read many, many times. But having Primrose has really helped me to focus on the depth of what Paul had to say.

We have been given an incredible, priceless treasure in vessels that are severely limited. I mean, sure, the human body is capable of some impressive things, but on a grand, cosmic, all-encompassing scale, it’s not capable of all that much. And that’s not just true for Primrose; that’s true all across the board. How quickly are you debilitated when you catch a severe cold? Or eat something that doesn’t agree with you? Or push yourself too hard for too long? How many prayer requests do we get every single week about brethren who are going through severe health trials?

That’s the nature of these vessels. It takes years before we learn to use them to their full potential, and then it doesn’t take long at all before they start falling apart—before they start failing us and growing weaker.

And there’s a reason for that:

“That the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

* * *

When I look at my little girl, I see a tiny little human who is still a long, long way from figuring out how to operate her earthen vessel. But that will change, in time. She’ll learn to stand, and then to walk, and then to run. She’ll learn to talk and to read and to write. She’ll learn so many things, and I’m so excited that I get to be a part of all that.

But what I’m most excited for her to learn is that she has the opportunity to carry around the most precious treasure in the entire universe—and that she’ll be carrying it around in an earthen vessel formed from dust.

In an earlier letter, Paul told the Corinthians, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

One day, we and our earthen vessels will cease. We weren’t built to last—but the treasure we house, God’s Holy Spirit, is eternal and unchanging. And when the time is right, God will restore us to life and give us new bodies to better match that treasure. And when that happens—when we put away the childish things of this human life, when we see our Creator face to face, we will know Him just as we are also known.

I think that’s a beautiful promise.

And when it happens, the excellence of the power will be, as ever, of God and not of us.

Until next time,

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