I was at a small art gallery in town last year and came across a piece that has stayed with me ever since. It wasn’t particularly striking aesthetically; a couple of sheets of tissue paper taped to a window, with distressed lines scribbled across them. But it was the title underneath that caught my attention:
‘It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through’
It got to me because I realised that so much of our time is actually spent being (or trying to be) ‘The Ones Who Hold It All Together’. We pride ourselves in our ability to cope, to handle the pressure, to make do and muddle through. We fear weakness, concerned perhaps with how others might perceive it or worried that any chink in our armour could snowball into something much more catastrophic.
Best to maintain an even keel, then.
Best to show we’re in control of the situation.
But do you know something? No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you might wish it to be true, you’re not in control and you never will be.
You’re a human. A human created wonderfully and fearfully in the image of God. And it is your humanity, and not some idealised standard of perfection, that he uses to display his glory.
What if our attempts to mask any hint of weakness only serve to withhold the true beauty of who we really are?
What if it is our humanity – those cracks in the veneer – that actually lets God out from within us?
TAKING A CANDLE TO A SWORD-FIGHT
Have you ever read the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7? I love it for so many reasons; not least for how Gideon is plucked from obscurity and commissioned by an angel to lead the Israelites to freedom from the oppression of the Midianites. But it is the way that God ultimately secures the victory for his people that is noteworthy here.
Firstly, God decides that the Israelite army is too big (yes, too big!) and through an arbitrary selection process, based on how you drink your water, strips it down from 10,000 men to just 300. There is going to be no hint of a suggestion that the Israelites made this happen for themselves. This is a full-on deliverance.
Second, he gives Gideon a confidence boost. He allows him to hear of the dreams of the Midianites and how they have foreseen that God will hand them over to Gideon. Even before the ‘battle’ God was already moving and preparing the way for victory.
Finally, check out the weapons that Gideon gives to his tiny army:
“And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.” – Judges 7:16
Here’s how it played out:
“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled.”
– Judges 7:19-21
And so the most unlikely of victories was secured with just a blow of a trumpet, a smash of a jar, and a revealing of the light that was hidden inside.
It was foolishness, of course it was… Who brings a candle to a sword-fight? But God has been in the business of using that kind of thing for a while now, and I can’t imagine he will be stopping any time soon.
TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY
One thing we are certainly not lacking today is access to worldly ‘wisdom’ on how best to navigate this thing called life. And in the same way that having lots of actual soldiers is generally good advice for a battle, so there is much that we can learn from a plethora of sources that will be genuinely helpful in life. There are many ways that we can grow and become the healthiest versions of ourselves. And we should wholeheartedly pursue that.
I just feel that, before all of that, there is a deeper, ancient principle that we need to hold on to. One that Gideon experienced and that weaves itself through the entirety of scripture: that we live and move and have our being through the person of Jesus Christ, and that it would serve us well to lean on him and who he is, and on his Spirit that dwells within us, rather than the best of what we can muster up ourselves.
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, 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 jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:5-7
Constantly putting on a brave face and holding it all together can be exhausting. What if it’s time for you to let the jar smash so that the treasure placed within you can come pouring out?
Just like with that tissue paper in the art gallery, so it is with us:
It’s the ones who have cracked that the light shines through.
By Ralph Pedley
Ralph lives in Manchester with his wife, Laura, and two young boys. He has been part of the Campus Awakening UK team since it launched in 2012, and involved in church ministry since his time as a student.