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I Want to Be a Teacup ….

September 12, 2011

By Gloria L. Carter, (Sheri’s Mom)

On the evening of Labor Day, September 5, 2011, I decided to have a cup of my favorite tea, Honey Spice Chai.  As usual, my husband, Curt, and I were angry at each other.  Other than spitting out short growls at each other, we had not spoken for three days.  In an attempt to make myself feel better, I decided to have my tea in a delicate and elegant antique teacup.

I poured my tea and sat down in my most comfortable lounge chair.  I took a sip of my tea.  Then for the first time in years, as I held my teacup, I turned it round and round with my fingers and really looked at it as I enjoyed its intricate sculpture of engravings.  As I admired its beauty, I remembered a story I had once heard.  It went like this:

A lovely teacup sat on the top shelf at an antique store.  A lady glanced up at it and exclaimed:  “Oh, what a gorgeous teacup; that’s what I want!”

The teacup replied, “I was not always like this.”

“What do you mean?” asked the lady.

The teacup told its life story:  “I was once just a hunk of ugly gray clay.  Someone picked me up, pulled the pine straw out of my insides, and formed me into a ball.  When she had finished that demeaning procedure, I asked, “Are you finished, Lady?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She then placed me in a very hot oven and baked me.  That hurt. I had never felt pain!  No matter how much I complained, she kept me locked inside.  When she turned down the heat, I asked, “Are you finished?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She removed me, and she set me on a table.  I asked, “Are you finished now?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

When I had cooled, she picked up a knife and scraped, chiseled, and gouged me for hours.  Oh, it was painful; I was afraid I wouldn’t survive.  When she stopped, I asked, “Are you finished?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

Then she buffed and sanded me for days.  The pain was considerably less, but uncomfortable.  Finally, she quit.   Again I asked, “Are you finished now?”  She answered, “Not yet.”

She then placed me back into that dark, hot oven again!  “I’m done!  I’m done!”  I kept yelling.  She left me there anyway.  I knew I must be close to my melting point.  She turned the heat up higher and then higher!  I wanted to die, or least pass out!  Finally, she turned the heat off.  “Are you finished now?” I muttered.  Her answer: “Not yet.”

She removed me then and set me back on the table.  And then?  Oh!  No!  This time she was coming at me with a paintbrush!  She smeared that thick, stinky, colorful stuff all over me, making me cough, gag and needing to throw up!  I couldn’t breathe.  When she finally quit, I asked again, “Are you finished?”  She said, “Not yet.”

The paint dried; she set me up on her mantle.  How boring!  I wanted to return to the outside world to play with my siblings in the mud!  So, I asked, “Are you finished with me?”  She answered, “Yes, I’ve finished now.”

For years, I sat there lonely. Occasionally, folks walked by and admired me.  One day, my “designer” placed a mirror behind me so that, I guess, I would look like two pieces of clay!  Later, when I turned around, I saw “a miracle.”  I was no longer that hunk of ugly gray clay.  I had become a perfectly formed, colorful teacup.

The lady that I had believed “had taken all her frustrations out on me” had transformed me into a piece of beauty that folks could see and enjoy.  I looked spectacular … a Work of Art … a Specimen of Beauty … a Perfect Handiwork of the Master!  And I was a vessel from which one could drink.  I was pretty AND useful!

Revealingly, at that moment I miserably saw myself, not as a teacup, but as a chunk of old rustic ugly gray clay!

“I am a Christian,” I quietly said to myself.  “Then why don’t I act Christ-like?  I do, actually … most of the time … except towards my husband, Curt.  Why?  Why do I do that?”  I had no clue!

I had become angry at Curt over the dozen years of our married life.  He has never totally submitted his life to Jesus, and was a daily alcohol consumer.  “HE IS THE PROBLEM!” was the lie of which I reminded myself.  Over the years, I increasingly despised him for acting towards me in the rude ways he did!  “Why won’t he change?”  I wondered.   “Why won’t he accept Christ as his personal Savior and return to the sweet, wonderful, and caring man I had once loved to be with and married?  Doesn’t he know that without Jesus he will be facing death someday?  Doesn’t he understand we can never have a happy home until he is saved?  Why is he so mean to me?  Doesn’t he love me anymore?  Every year seems worse.  What’s wrong with him—is he blind, heartless, or stupid?  God, I have prayed for him for years; when are You going to do something to change him?”

As I continued reading my Bible daily, answers became apparently clear:  “God HAS done things to save him:  (1) He had sent Jesus to die to save him; and (2) God had allowed me to be in his life to show him an example of Who Jesus is!”  How?  By being Like Jesus!  As I reminisced, I recognized that I had failed.  I had not been an example of love; I had been a hindrance to his understanding of God’s Love.  Why would anyone want to know Jesus, or God’s Will for his life, by watching me live my life filled with anger, resentment, hate, disobedience, and irreverence?  (I’m sure that satan had a heyday laughing at my ignorance and belief in his lies!)

I had convinced myself that I was a good boundary-setter; that had been my best excuse for being a cruel and unforgiving person for years!  Personal boundaries work well when they are communicated in love as we do when we’re training our children to do the right things in life’s situations.  But whenever we state our boundaries showing disgust or shock that someone had the nerve to cross the line we set, we intimidate the offender by displaying negative vibes.  Our boundary becomes a negative tool that generates non-acceptance by our victim.  Thus, we can expect fallout rather than changed behavior.  “Constant training” rather than “demanding” is God’s Way of teaching!

“God, forgive me,” was all I could mutter.  I know now that our Loving Father places us in keels at times to burn off contaminations and other impurities we allow into our lives.  Then He scrapes and chisels on us for hours, days, and sometimes weeks to change us into a disciples that He can use for His Glory!  Sometimes He has to return us to the keel for more firing.  Afterwards, He paints us beautifully so that He can use us for His Glory for others to view,

Admire, and desire to be like Him.  And, He never forsakes us.  Whenever we ask Him, “Are You finished?”  He usually answers, “Not yet.”

Time after time, He grooms us for the Beauty of His Work.  We are useless in our narcissistic state of being just a dirty old piece of ugly clay, or as a half-fired vessel.  But oh, what we become when He places His hands around us, refines us, and forms us into a beautifully finished product of His Work in us!  And yes, only then, with prayerful changes do we become willing to help inspire others to want to choose Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!     ISAIAH 49:2:  The Lord hath … made me a polished shaft.

I am no longer that hunk of ugly gray clay.  Now I am a sweet, gentle teacup that Curt desires to keep and love.  The following scriptures are a few of the truths that God engraved upon my heart as I began retraining myself to live in His Likeness, lovingly, gently, and patiently:

PROVERBS 15:1:  A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

EPHESIANS 4:32:  Be ye kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to others, as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.

I CORINTHIANS 13:  4 – 8:  Love is long-suffering and kind.  Love does not envy or misbehave.  Love is not self-centered; thinks no evil; rejoices in truth; and BEARS ALL THINGS.  Love believes, hopes, and ENDURES ALL THINGS.  LOVE NEVER FAILS.

MATTHEW 5:39:  Resist no evil; but whosoever smites you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.

MATTHEW 5:  44-45:  Love your enemies; bless them who curse you; do good to them who hate you; and pray for them who persecute you so that you will be like your Father in Heaven.

LUKE 6:35:  Love your enemies; do good to them; hope for nothing in return; and YOUR REWARD SHALL BE GREAT ….

II TIMOTHY 2:24:  The Lord’s servant must not strive; but be gentle; and in patience and meekness teach truth to all men who have been taken captive by the devil.

No, Curt hasn’t changed … that is, he hasn’t accepted Christ as his Savior … not yet!  But oh! How his attitude and demeanor towards me have changed! BUT I HAVE CHANGED!  It is impossible for us to change another person!  I tried to be Curt’s Potter for twelve years.  It didn’t work.  Why?  Because I’m NOT his Potter; God is his Potter!  But I CAN change ME!  And I did … under God’s Leadership and with The Holy Spirit’s Nudges nagging me day after day!  PHILIPPIANS 4:13:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Whether or not Curt ever chooses (1) Salvation or (2) to become the sweet and wonderful person I once knew and chose to marry are no longer my concerns.  He once was a kind, considerate, and loving man.  At that time, I chose to become his wife.  Today, whenever my husband rants and raves, usually over some misunderstanding, I do not feel anger towards him.

There is an old adage which says, “Silence is golden.”  There are times when one can say more by being silent.  No doubt Solomon had reference to such when he wrote:  “He who restrains his words has knowledge … [and] even a fool, when he is silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.”  Proverbs 17:27-28)  Therefore, I become silent whenever Curt starts yelling or misbehaving!  I am not responsible for his actions, although he often accuses me of being the SOURCE of his bad behavior!

I also choose to BE a faithful Christian.  Therefore, I choose to BE a kind, respectful, honorable, and loving Christian.  I trust God to use me as an example as He continues His work on and through me.  However God chooses to mold Curt is not my problem; but I will continue to pray.  God is my Potter.  I know that I am a piece of clay that needs God’s constant remolding and refining.

It is an miraculously heroic thing to do to accept Jesus as Lord of our lives!  It is an incredibly  POWERFUL thing to do to accept Jesus as Lord of our marriages!

Today, I am the joyful wife who loves my husband and portrays God’s Love to him.  God did not put me in Curt’s life (to save him); He brought Curt into my life (to scrape, chisel, buff, and sand me into a useful teacup of Love and Christlikeness so that I might inspire him to desire Jesus)!  I am no longer critical of my husband with his egocentric ways and shortcomings.  I no longer try to change or control his habits, ideas, nor lifestyle.  He belongs to God … not to me!  Now he shows love towards me again … because now I am lovable, grateful, supportive, and complimentary to him instead of being constantly angry, hateful, and narcissistic.

In addition, now in our conversations, I don’t feel the need to prove I’m right; it’s okay to be right if we don’t try to convince others.  Eventually, they’ll figure it out on their own … if it’s true!  When I recognize I’m wrong, I apologize sweetly and move on.  Yes, my many practices during my changes were difficult at first; but eventually the rewards outweighed my pain.  Once we change our minds, God changes our hearts; and the end result is that our lives change.

Praise the Lord!  I’m finally “over myself” and back “into Jesus.”

I would now like to ask my Heavenly Father, “Are you finished with me yet?”  But I already know His Answer:  “Not yet.”

Gloria Carter is a wife, mother, grandmother, Red-Hatter, and all-around enjoy-er of the life God has abundantly blessed her with.

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