Today, I’d like to tell you a story. A children’s story. Anyone who knows me, knows that God rarely speaks to me through deep theological conversations or powerful worship experiences. Nope, He has chosen more often than not to bring His word of truth to me in the form of a story meant for children. Simple and yet profound. It is easy for me to feel silly and at the same time, I see Jesus regularly reminding us to have faith like children. I think He chooses children because they are humble, raw, and unable to hide behind the masks that we adults so easily put up to make ourselves appear to be more than we are.
I recently read the story “The Empty Pot.” In the story there was a young boy named Ping who was quite good at gardening. In Ping’s village lived an Emperor who was very old. This Emperor knew that it was time to select a new Emperor, so he gathered all of the children of the village and gave them each a seed with instructions to take the seed, plant it, and bring their grown plant back to him a year later.
With pride and excitement Ping planted his seed and began to tend it, fully expecting to grow the most beautiful plant in the village. To his dismay, the seed did not grow. He continued to work hard to tend it, transplanting it to larger pots, watering it, making sure that it received everything it would need to grow. Ping was faithful to that seed for an entire year.
When the time came for the children to present their plants to the Emperor, Ping was ashamed that all he had to present was an empty pot. Other children laughed at him in derision as they sped past with beautiful flowers in large pots. How could he present the Emperor with something that was not big and beautiful?
One by one the children paraded their flowers in front of the Emperor, who frowned in concern. Whispers and snickers could be heard in the crowd as Ping approached the Emperor with tears in his eyes to present his empty pot. The Emperor asked Ping why he didn’t have a beautiful flower to present. Ping explained that he had done the best he could to tend to the seed carefully, but the seed had simply not grown. To his surprise, the Emperor exclaimed to all those gathered that he had finally found someone worthy to be the Emperor. You see, all of the seeds given out to the children had been cooked so that they could not grow. All of the other children had replaced that seed with other seeds that would grow, seeking to present something that appeared to be beautiful, but wasn’t actually true.
Ping, on the other hand, had chosen to bring simply what he had to offer: an empty pot.
Lately God has been really challenging me on this. I struggle to believe that He really is fully satisfied and even delighted in the “me” that I work so hard to defend and protect. The me that feels like an empty pot.
Let’s face it, most of us begin to squirm when it is suggested that there is nothing we need to do to be loved by God.
We are loved just as we are. We work so hard to prove our worth, through promotions at work, financial success, relational pursuit and service, even ministry opportunities. It is easier to measure worth and value by those things that are tangible and visible to us and the world around us.
As we travel on our journey with Christ, at some point, we may be asked to leave these tangible consolations behind to simply be with God without all of the transplanted fluff.
We may find that He is not the one that is disappointed in our offering, but instead that we are the ones who are dissatisfied with what we have to give.
When I really look at Jesus, I can see His gaze falling upon me in pure delight.
Ping believed the Emperor would be disappointed in his efforts, and yet the opposite was true. The Emperor found in Ping one who was humble, who brought the best he could bring…himself. I cannot seem to grasp or fathom this unconditional and deep love God has for me. And yet, when I receive His delight and find myself truly loved, the beautiful overflow of His love that spills out on others is something I know that I could never have produced on my own.
Perhaps this is why Paul prayed that we might somehow be able to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3: 18-19).