Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Copper Coins and Pistachio Shells

There is a to-do list on my kitchen table covered in pistachio shells—the remains of the afternoon snack I'd hoped would make me feel a bit better. But three handfuls of pistachios later and my muscles still ache somethin' fierce, and my fatigue is so deep it feels like it's located in my soul somewhere.

My mind is racing, tripping over discouraged thoughts, trying to figure out why I felt good for so many days and then woke up today feeling like I was hit by a freight train.

I stare in silence at the checklist I can't read for all the shells heaped on it, and it's just as well I can't see what I've written because I've been in bed all day, too achy and exhausted to do much more than feed myself the last of my leftovers.

This is so hard for me, the woman who used to make her roommates laugh at how quickly she blazed through a heap of responsibilities; who literally sprinted her way through college on a track scholarship; who is energized by productivity and is wired to scale and conquer metaphorical mountains—mountains that get higher and steeper with each victory.

And here I sit, the only mountain I've recently conquered in front of me: a pile of empty pistachios littering the list I am too exhausted to look at.

I feel impoverished, somehow. Like I have little to offer God when the fruit of my day is a pile of empty shells, when even my good health weeks allow me to do nothing more than scale mole hills.

The patient ache in my heart quivers and then I remember the widow in Luke 21 moving quietly toward the church offering, dropping in two copper coins worth less than a penny. They mustn't have sounded more than a quiet *clink* when they landed, swallowed up by piles of weightier coins.

I've often wondered how the widow felt when she watched Ol' MoneyBags walk ostentatiously up to the offering receptacle before her and pour in a heavy bag of gold and silver coins. Did she shift uneasily as the Rabbi, Jesus, watched her drop in her meager offering? As she gripped the two copper coins—all she had to live on—and walked up to the offering behind the pompous rich man, did her heart ache like mine, wishing she had more to offer God?

Perhaps not. Perhaps the kind of heart that is eager to give God everything is the kind of heart that understands the Kingdom of God—that knows that in this Kingdom greatness and value have never been determined by what we have to offer God. For what can clay do for the Potter or tools do for the Carpenter?

When Jesus saw the poor widow's offering he didn't see just two copper coins. He saw what no one else could see: a woman whose heart had taken a posture of surrender; a woman who had given the little she owned to God because she knew that the best thing clay can do is remain wholly available to the Potter for his purposes. Jesus knew that in his Kingdom—where less is more and loss is gain—the widow had given the most valuable gift of anyone in the temple that day.

The story of the widow's gift assures me that when Jesus looks at me he sees much more than a history of scaling and conquering mountains. I think he often sees a heart that strives: clay that believes deep down that its efforts and achievements are important indicators of its value and influence. Perhaps this is why God has stripped away my ability to achieve and conquer mountains this year. Perhaps he is redeeming this chronic sickness by teaching me, in still and helpless solitude, that clay is valuable, not because of its efforts, but because of the hands it rests in. Strong, capable hands that belong to a Potter who cares most about the things unseen: about hearts that need to be kneaded and shaped and taught to trust so that they can surrender to the loving plan of the Potter.

There is a stirring in my heart now—a lifting of my heart's gaze—and I know that Jesus sees beyond my pile of pistachio shells. He is looking for something smaller, something unseen. He is looking for faith the size of a mustard seed. The kind of faith that prompts a heart to surrender to the Potter's loving hands, available to be used for His plan because it knows that He is a God who uses a seed of faith—not to scale mountains—but to move them.

I think it's time to turn over my climbing gear.

© by scj


  1. sarah. i love the care you give to sentences and stories. that you don't just settle. that you didn't litter it with abstracts or cliches. i find with a post, like this one, I read and i am pierced.

  2. Amen! Your willingness to surrender and always searching for what God is teaching you is a blessing for me to see.

    ((hugs)) to you, sweet cousin. We're lifting you up in prayer for physical healing of that body. Even if all you do is write right now, you are doing more by letting God work through you as that is directing others' gazes back to God.

    We're studying Acts in BSF this year, and one thing that is consistently convicting me is that the Holy Spirit takes no glory for Himself. He's always directing our gaze to God and Jesus Christ so that God receives the glory. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives should be pointing toward God in His glory.

    The fruit of the Spirit shines through you, Sarah. ((hugs))

  3. Hoops, thank you for your kind words.

  4. Sharalyn,

    Acts so powerfully reorients me by helping me to recover a Kingdom perspective. Thank you for the reminder that we are God-imitators when we give the glory to him. Thank you also for your encouragement and prayers.

    Love you,


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  7. just catching up on a little blog reading and read this post...thank you again for your great words and your heart surrendered to the Potter. 2004 was an stripping year for me...it was so difficult in so many ways yet I walked out of the "desert" knowing God's love for me and His purposes for me...to not be valuable because of all I did, but because I was His. I am thankful beyond words for that year and how it drew me to Jesus. So glad you are tasting and knowing Him and His kingdom ways in the midst of your struggle!!! He is so good to lead us to Him...