One of my husband’s favorite sections of Scripture is found in Genesis 12 when God shows up on Abram’s doorstep, invites him on a mystery road trip and announces, “I will bless you. You will be a blessing. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
No pressure, Abram!
Many centuries later, the Apostle Paul wrote to his protege, Timothy: “Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing” (2 Timothy 2:22, The Message).
Are you detecting a theme? From beginning to end, God is out to bless all people through his people. The gift received, the gift released.
We, friends, are the containers through whom all blessings flow. Not from whom, but through whom. An important distinction.
As I’ve sat with Paul’s words in particular, I’m gripped by the idea that God has gifts and God has guests.
Please note to whom the gifts and guests belong. Neither is ours; both are God’s.
God’s desire is simply to get the gifts to the guests. Sounds easy enough, but we, the containers, tend to complicate the matter.
The problem for me is this: I like control. I like to choose what gifts and which guests, thank you very much. Sometimes I think I know best. Sometimes, like Jonah, I’m OK with the gift (in his case, salvation) but um, not those guests, God. Any guests but them.
Are you with me? God has gifts and God has guests. Become the container, we’re told, not the controller.
At other times I’m good with the guests, but not so much the gift. It’s not that I disapprove of the gift itself as much as I think God is crazy mistaken in choosing me as a qualified container in which to place it.
This is when I feel akin to Moses, who pleaded with God to choose anyone other than him to set his people free.
Here’s the thing: It’s not only the gifts and guests that belong to God. The containers are God’s as well, and God chooses them.
Shall I say it again? We are the containers, not the controllers.
These days before entering a meeting, penning a letter, chatting with a friend, preaching, writing or a myriad of other things, I pause to pray. I ask God to put in me any and every gift he’d like to give his guests for their blessing.
I am increasingly aware I am but a container. I find a good bit of freedom in this, as the burden rests on God. I simply receive and release, carry from one place to another.
“Become the kind of container,” Paul says. Become. A loaded word if ever there was one. A forming word. A word that has me feeling like clay on a potter’s wheel.
Maybe being a container isn’t as simple as I thought. Not, that is, if it involves becoming, forming, shaping — and, perhaps most of all, emptying.
There must be room, after all, to receive what God would give. There’s a humility and a hollowing that precedes the holding. Fragile jars, all.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church on this very theme: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are merely and marvelously the containers who carry.
God puts precious and powerful gifts in fragile places and spaces. His very own Son in an unwed teenage girl. Indeed, Mary serves as an example to us in both receiving and releasing a gift of God to bless the world.
God has gifts and God has guests. In mercy, wisdom and kindness, God invites us into the intersection of the two. Invites us, like Moses, Mary and many others before, to carry his blessing to the world.