05 September 2007

What if I'm Pharaoh?

Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? (Romans 9:21)
What if I'm Pharaoh? Or Esau? Okay, so I know that those examples are bad because I know that I'm a child of God. But what if I'm ordinary?
What if I'm not Esther or Ruth or even Rahab? What if my "for such a time as this" comes down to doing the laundry on a regular basis (and believe me, this is not such a time for that).
Free will and predestination are tricky things. My dad explained it to me this way: there are two ropes hanging from a ceiling. One is free will. The other is predestination. On the other side of the ceiling, they are connected by pulleys and levers. We don't know how. We have to use both ropes to get to the ceiling. Let go of one rope, and you fall. If you look in Exodus, sometimes it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Sometimes it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Other times it just says that his heart was hardened. But however it happened, God used it for His glory.
Here's the thing, though. I want to think I'm special. Or at least, I want to think that God has a special purpose for me, some shining moment. I want to think that He's going to use me through published books. But what if He's not going to? What if my purpose is--gasp--ordinary? I don't want to be the pot that goes to the well everyday for water. I want to be the pot painted with muses and set at the king's table.
But that may not be the case.
I may be ordinary.
And after all, it was the ordinary vats that held the water that was turned to wine. And it was an ordinary jug that filled and refilled with oil for the poor widow at Elijah's word.


Michelle Pendergrass said...

I wanted to be famous for a long time. I'm competitive so I wanted to be the best--at something, I tried many things.

In 2003, I started praying "your will, not mine" sincerely, chaos ensued. I kept praying (and still pray it) and through these past few years, I've realized that not only am I special to Him, but I do what only I can do. There are people in my life that only I can reach. My Uncle Ed was one of them. There's a handful more. I stopped taking ordinary things for granted and started realizing that everything that led to this, was for a time such as now. And all of my tomorrows are a time such as now.

Jenn said...

This is really good--both the post and the comment. Prepare for a link . . .

Real Live Preacher said...

Ouch, you certainly pulled out one of the hardest, most painful passages in the entire New Testament. It reminds me of Joshua and Judges, two books I can hardly read.

Honestly? You really want to know? I don't care if Paul said it. I refuse to live thinking that way. I'll apologize to God someday if I'm wrong.

Heather said...

I don't exactly live like I'm "ordinary." Like any American, I was told I could be president if I wanted to be, and I'll pursue "extraordinary."
But then I have to keep in mind, personally, that if God's idea for my life is different, if it's a normal jug that holds oil, than I have to be okay with. No, I have to desire that.

Karmyn R said...

Great post and very deep thoughts.

I have been thinking that if I was to have some grand special purpose - would I be up to the challenge? Sometimes being Ordinary is a lot easier.

Pamela said...

who defines ordinary?

Esther had beauty and courage
Ruth had persistence and loyalty
Rahab had curious faith and a lucky dagger

Don't you have all that?
(well... not the dagger I guess0

Jeanne Damoff said...

You're not Pharaoh, Heather. Think about it. He wore that dorky hat, heavy eye liner, and had that bizarre rectangular goatee stuck to his chin. No. Def-definitely not Pharaoh.

As for finding contentment in my calling, it helps me to approach it from the opposite perspective, asking myself what I deserve from God. When I look at it that way, I count my blessings that He doesn't pick me up and hurl me against the floor, shattering my sinful, selfish, egocentric pottishness into millions of shards. On the contrary, He calls me beloved and allows me to be part of His plan. My response should be to fall at His feet in adoration.

Don't you think a pot designed to hold oil would look and feel foolish if set among gilded vessels? I imagine there's a lot of frustration in the body of Christ simply because we're all trying to grab attention not intended for us at all. Contentment, peace, and satisfaction lie in finding and doing that for which we were created. Why would we desire anything else?

One last thing. There were countless beautiful vessels in the temple, but we're told of none that were singled out for special use the way God used the widow's pot of oil. Greatness isn't always what we imagine it to be.

Love, Jeanne

Jason said...

Sounds like we're wrestling with similar issues. I'm wrapping up a post with similar sentiments.

Hey, at least I'm in good company! Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Heather said...

Who says I don't have a dagger?
And Jeanne, apparently you haven't seen me on Friday nights.
Seriously, thanks for the thoughts, encouragement, and challenge. I seek the peace that passes all understanding and the type of beauty that uplifts, but sometimes I get in my way like clown feet.

Nicole said...

H, you are supernaturally born again, called by God and of God, and His plan is NOT ordinary. We've been brainwashed by being "famous" as Michelle described so well, drilled with the "extraordinary" instructions to be worthy of recognition, and we associate "mundane" with worldly definitions. God is amazing, faithful, and simply mind boggling because for each one of His creation, He does in fact have a plan. And to Him that plan is good and perfect and anything but ordinary. And even the most "mundane" thing (our assessment) requires extraordinary obedience which we are so not inclined to do more often than not.

I've sruggled through everything you've voiced in this thoughtful post. And really the best solution is what Michelle did and the conclusions she arrived at.

You are extraordinary, H. No jive. Be obedient and prove it to anyone who doubts it--including yourself.

Nicole said...

"sruggled"? That's a good one, isn't it? How 'bout struggled? That, too.

Becky said...

Great post, Heather. Great material here for a novel--this is a worthy struggle to put a protagonist through, don't you think?

Interestingly, all the "greats" of the Bible faced some humbling, broken years. I grew up singing in VBS or Sunday School "Dare to be a Daniel." Sounds triumphant, but the next line is "Dare to stand alone."

David wasn't David until Saul had chased him all over the wilderness for years. Esther lost her parents at an early age and was raised by her cousin. Ruth was a widow, an immigrant, away from all the comforts of home.

There's a cost to becoming a costly pot.

And interestingly, in the New Testament, Jesus identified some costly pots no one else thought to look at twice: the widow who gave her last two coins in the temple; the Gentile woman who persisted in asking Jesus to heal her son even after he initially said no; the short tax man standing in a tree; the prostitute who broke a jar of perfume over Jesus. I could go on.

I guess, as I think about this, I conclude that 1) we're all ordinary pots--it is what God does that makes us look extraordinary; 2) the only things that count are the things we do in obedience to our Master. All the rest, though we might think it looks pretty special, will be burned up as wood, hay, or stubble.

Thanks for the provoking thoughts!


Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Great look at free will/predestination. I think that being ordinary or extraordinary is all how you look at it and has a great deal to do with being content in whatever the circumstance.