My oldest daughter once brought home from junior high school an art piece she had sculped from clay. She presented it to me with no explanation other than, “Hey mom, look what I made at school.”
“Oh,” I replied trying not to reveal in my tone the true sense of disgust I was feeling staring at her creation. It’s bulging eyes, gigantic nose and elephant-like ears made me want to distort my face in response. “Tell me more,” I said.
“We had to make an ugly jug.” I was instantly relieved. Phew, it was meant to be revolting and repulsive.
“Well, you crushed the assignment.” I introduce you to the mental picture of “Ugly Jug” as a dramatic visual of a question I have for us all. What’s the trajectory of your way of life? Is it the path of the life-giving way of Jesus? Are you growing towards flourishing, love, health, and wholeness in Christ, or is your lifestyle on a path towards distraction, impatience, unhealth, relational tension, and life-sucking for you and others around you? In more simple terms, is the trajectory you are on towards wholeness in Christ or to be more like an ugly jug?
Verses like Romans 9:21 and Isaiah 64:8 remind us who we are in relation to our creator. We are the clay and He is the potter. He is inviting us to participate in the process of renewal shaping. Are you willing to surrender to the transforming power of God through the Holy Spirit at work in us? Colossians 3 makes it clear that we are in the process of being renewed. We have been made alive in Christ through faith. And we are called into the life-giving way of Jesus. But what does this practically look like?
First, we need to acknowledge that we are always being shaped and formed by something. Without intentionality to submit to the ways of Jesus, we are passively molded by the ways of the world. Romans 12 cautions us not to be conformed to the ways of the present age, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Do you realize we are being conditioned by the ways of the world just by being in it? We are conditioned by the culture we live in and the sub-cultures we participate in. We are conditioned also by our beliefs, by our habits, and by our experiences. A friend pointed out recently that we are being conditioned greatly by our suffering.
Second, we need to submit our lives, which means our lifestyles, to the ways of Jesus. Colossians 3 exhorts us to put off our unhealthy ugly jug ways and put on the way of Jesus. Here are some areas for encouraged contemplation to reveal unhealth:
- What are my values guiding my decisions? Are these values aligned with the way of Jesus?
For example, I discovered through contemplation that while I hold a high value for relational connection, my value of efficiency hinders me from loving well at times. Naming this ugly jug area in my life has freed me to leave margins for unhurried interactions with others.
- What generational sins have I inherited from my family of origin?
Might you share a tendency to harbor bitterness like me? Have you inherited relational dynamics, such as avoidance of conflict? Blind spots such as these give off ugly jug vibes rather than the invitational nature of Jesus. Naming the unhealth is the beginning of surrendering.
- What false narratives am I believing that aren’t aligned with the Gospel?
A couple false narratives I’ve caught in myself are the beliefs that my value is in what others think of me, and my worth is in what I have accomplished or how I perform. Do you have the courage to look deep inside to identify the false narratives you have been functioning from that are not aligned with the Gospel?
May we put off the ugly jug ways of the present age and put on wholeness in Jesus.
Jen Binford, Coach