A Broken Vessel
(written for the Round Farmhouse Ministries and published 2023-07-20)
He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters.
~ Psalm 18:16 (NLT) ~
The first piece was lost the morning my heart dog of 14 years took his last breath. Then, a giant chunk fell away a few months later when the Lord took my beautiful mother, suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, Home to be with Him. Yet another part broke off only 2 months after that when my other darling fur-kid girl of 12 years quietly passed away in my arms. And, the most massive piece dropped away shortly thereafter when my beloved Pops lost his battle with bladder cancer. Bit by bit I was breaking into pieces. A heart-wrenching estrangement from my only sibling and his family, the beginning of a world-wide and frightening pandemic, and isolation all continued to chip away pieces of me. As I prayed for all those who were sick and dying, all those who were hurting, traumatized, and grieved by their losses, and all those who had tried to save them, I never prayed for me. My heart was broken and shattered; I was alive but not living. I was talking to God, but not listening. Little by little my soul was pouring out of that broken vessel.
Sometimes, I believe, we can get so busy praying for all those in our lives who are struggling with pain and fear and illness that we forget ourselves. We feel the anguish in relationships with our friends and loved ones but we ignore our own feelings. And, if you're like me, you place those feelings for others at the top of your list.
As pieces of myself were falling away, I began to feel like I was drowning in a turbulent sea of sadness. As I talked with my Dad weeks before he died, I cried at his bedside that I wouldn't have anyone to share my faith with after he'd gone. It had been just him and me loving the Lord together after Mom had passed several months earlier. Then he left me, all alone in his hospital bed because of pandemic restrictions. I was beginning to drown in my anger, grief, and sorrow.
I burst into tears the first time I heard Francesca Battistelli's song Defender (written by Steffany Gretzinger). It was as if those words were meant for me alone.
"When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the Defender of my heart"
Then, out of the blue and totally unexpectedly, my friend asked if I would like to do a Bible study with her. Soon after that, my husband began to attend Sunday service with me and we enjoyed meaningful, faith-filled conversations. And, finally, I found the courage to follow a dream and launched my faith-based pet parent online community. God did all that!
"Your mercy is the shade I'm living in
And You restore my faith and hope again"
I suddenly realized that God was pulling me up from the abyss and slowly putting me back together. "He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters." Psalm 18:16 NLT. Without my knowing it, He was setting me on dry land and was collecting all those broken sherds, reassembling them into a new me. I recognized that the Lord was working behind the scenes; His plan for my healing was unfolding even while I was still barely treading water. As Isaiah 64:8 reminds us, "Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand." (NIV) My soul was refilling and being refreshed.
As the Lord’s vessels, we will all suffer cracks from time to time that, left untended, may result in breaking away and draining our souls. A popular saying, "you can't pour from an empty cup" is true. And while we struggle and pray every day to be Yahweh’s hands and feet, we must remember to take care that the jar is sturdy and filled. That means taking time to love and pray for ourselves as well throughout our difficult times. As King David wrote, "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good." Psalm 19:8 NKJV