We’ve been back from Nepal for a few years now and I’m still really enjoying hot showers! Every day I hop in there under the water and thank God for such a wonderful thing. And then sometimes (while I’m in there) I think about our struggles in the West… which seem quite different to the struggles of Christians in the majority world.
It seems that the more I travel around churches in this country, the more I realize how good we are at getting the externals right. Maybe it’s precisely because of the hot showers (and the hair dryers and the clothes and the latest products from the pharmacy) but we seem to be really good at creating an external appearance of looking okay. And then once we’re all clean and nice on the outside… we’re all set for church.
And then, not only that, but when we arrive at church, we become very skilled at putting on Christian veneer. We use a nice tone of voice while we set up the microphones or the chairs or the coffee cups. We greet the newcomers pleasantly. Then we speak in a measured and smooth way to God during corporate prayer times, to the point that we can even fake our relationship with Him. But a few hours later, when we’re alone with Him, we have nothing to say.
And this week I was reading again from 2 Corinthians 4:7. “We have this treasure (the gospel) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
It struck me again that our goal is not to be the most beautifully decorated jar but to hold the treasure. In Nepal they don’t tend to use banks, so they keep their treasures in a tin box under the bed. The tin box itself is not important, it’s not even attractive to look at – more often it’s covered in dents and marks because the tin is so weak. But what it holds is very important. And maybe here in the West, we also need to keep reminding ourselves of what’s important in our lives… it’s the message inside us.
Maybe the problem is that the more we focus on the externals, the more we neglect what’s inside. And because we’re so good at getting the outside right, we can fail to see what lumps of clay we actually are, dented with bitterness and coldness and complaints and insecurities. But God has done something amazing… He’s made us new, given us life forever through the death of His son. And not only that! He’s actually choosing to work through us, even through our lumps of ‘baked dirt’ – to show that this all-surpassing power is from Him and not from us.
In the leprosy hospital in Pokhara, some of the most devout people were the most deformed. They were the ones who had come too late, whose fingers were already gone and there were no tendons to reconnect. They didn’t look good on the outside but they contained the treasure. We’re not called to be the treasure. We’re called to contain the treasure. And maybe we need to learn from those who are less together externally so that we too can display the incredible treasure of the gospel.
Naomi Reed is a former Interserve Partner. She is also a bestselling author and gifted speaker. Her latest book, The Plum Tree in the Desert shares stories of faith and mission from Interserve Partners over the last 25 years. Naomi is also speaking on the Australia-wide Unfolding Grace tour. For more information, see Unfolding Grace.