“Help me spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
that my life may be only a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every
soul I know will feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You.”
John Henry Newman / Mother Teresa of Calcutta
It’s so darn easy to make my life about me.
I want to be heard. I want to be noticed. I want to be appreciated. I want to be respected. I want to be significant.
I’m comfortable admitting these things because I understand just how innate these desires are to us. They are so innate even, that some of them seem to blur the line between want and need. Do I want to be appreciated or do I need it?
Either way, having so many desires that begin and end at me, there is something deeply radical about the act of submitting ourselves to be vessels. This poetry, through its beautiful languages, paints a picture of a conduit more than a person. To be honest, I have a tendency to rail against this scriptural idea, but the language of being filled is too ubiquitous in the scriptures to be ignored.
“For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love”
“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:21
And even more poignantly:
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What a big ask. To be crucified with Christ. To deny myself. On the surface, it certainly sounds like I have to surrender all which makes me unique to follow Christ. Even more, I have to kill these things in me. But I don’t think individuality is the enemy of Christendom. I think we’re just being taught what true surrender looks like, and why it is important.
The purpose of a vessel is to share that which is within it, not to add in its own flavor. If a cup makes everything you drink taste like Gatorade, then it is not a good cup!
Our calling is always to be vessels of an unadorned, unaffected, unflavored truth. It is such an easy temptation to let our interpretation of scripture and the Gospel become flavored by other allegiances, ideologies, or life experiences. Yet, to say that the Gospel is “flavored” by these outside influences is too weak. Like water flavored by a Gatorade cup, the Gospel is tainted by those ideas we add to it!
So cleanse the vessel you are in the simplicity of Christ’s words:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”