I’ve read that the Japanese like to enhance an old clay cup that has cracks in it by adding gold to the cracks. This doesn’t hide the cracks at all. It makes the cup stronger and more beautiful. They also have an idea called “wabi-sabi” where things that are a little “off” are seen as more beautiful than things that are perfect. The idea is that old, worn, slightly unbalanced or otherwise imperfect items have more charm than mass-produced, exactly similar items.
Then I began thinking about the word “Ephphatha,” which means “Be opened.” Jesus said this while healing a blind man in Mark 7:31-37. Our burdens are the way for God to get in. We have to be opened in order to be healed.
I’m reminded of the story of another blind man, one who was blind since birth. Jesus healed him, and his disciples said “Who sinned, him or his parents?” and Jesus said that “No one sinned. He was born blind so that God’s will might be made manifest in him.”
Our weakness can be what gets us to ask for help. I’ve read recently “When our burdens bring us to our knees, we are in the perfect position to pray.” We usually call for help when we are over our heads. We call out when there is a big storm coming, like a tornado threatening to tear down our houses. We call when there is a diagnosis of a chronic disease. That threatens us in the same way. Our well-laid plans for our futures are looking a little shaky. Our goals and dreams that we built as walls against boredom and obscurity are about to be swept up like so much drywall and vinyl siding in a Tennessee summer storm.
We are really good at calling for help when we feel threatened. We often make promises while hiding in the basement during the storm, or laying on the hospital bed in the ER. I promise to be nicer to my neighbors. I promise to stop smoking and start exercising. I promise to be more generous.
When the storm passes and the diagnosis comes back to be not so bad, do we remember those promises? Do we honor them? How many of those conversations are we going to have with our Creator or our conscience that don’t result in change?
Then I see people who are really burdened. It looks like the weight of the world is on them. Obese, reeking of alcohol, angry at their children and spouse. Some people just seem like they walked off the set of Jerry Springer. I used to look at them and think “Why can’t you just pull yourself together?” I saw their “sins”, their weaknesses, as signs of a lack of willpower.
I had a lot of the same problems. I was not just overweight. I was obese. I smoked pot up to three times a day. I’d gotten to the point that I couldn’t fall asleep without smoking. I smoked clove cigarettes too. I ate fried foods and if I ate vegetables, they were fried too. Exercise? Hah! How could I afford that? How could I do it, when my knees hurt so much?
Then something happened. I’m going to say it was the grace of God. I’d prayed for healing and finally it came. I wasn’t miraculously transformed. God gave me the spark but I had to tend it and build it up.
Somehow, in the middle of my mess, God woke me up and showed me a new way. I discovered water aerobics at the Y. I figured out that if I ate two frozen dinners a week at work instead of eating lunch out, I’d have the money to afford the membership. I decided to have organic vegetarian dinners, so that made it even better for me. Then I realized that the extra time I got from not driving to a restaurant meant I had a longer lunch. I started walking for 20 minutes at lunch.
Now I see the burdens people have as their way out. They aren’t stumbling blocks, so much as stepping stones. They can trip us up, or raise us higher. Call on God to open you, and wait.