chicken cup crop

Broken Cups

Sweeping calligraphy. Brilliant Jade. Ornate carvings. Exquisite porcelain. Ancient bronze. Priceless texts.

I walk the halls of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, in awe of the beauty and history. The 650,000+ pieces housed here represent a millennium of imperial collecting by emperors and royal families through four dynasties. The story of the rescue and preservation of these antiquities from The Forbidden City in Beijing is astonishing and miraculous.

My companions and I are in rapt attention as our knowledgeable guide describes the creation of a porcelain cup for the emperor: the precision of lacquer work, the delicate handling of clay and brush. One hundred craftsmen would all fashion the same cup. Then, the master artist presents the three most impressive pieces to the emperor. The imperial leader selects one. The other 99 are destroyed. The broken shards of the “unacceptable” are buried, that no one may replicate or reassemble what the leader has commanded destroyed. No one else may have these pieces of art or utensils that would place them in equal worth with the one known as “the ruler of all under heaven.”

While mesmerized by the beauty, my heart is crushed by the weight of the other 99. How does it feel as an artisan to have the one thing that could potentially make you worthy to the emperor, could bring honor to your family, could bring you from shame and hiddenness, not make the cut? Even the craftsman who is ”chosen” is only as good as his next piece of work. Will he make the cut, be acceptable next time around? Can he repeat his performance?

How grateful I am for a heavenly Father whose cherishing and keeping depends not one bit on performance. He holds and treasures all 100 because He made them with precision of design, delicate handling of heart and soul. In fact, he keeps the 99 safe in his love while he pursues the one who has wandered away, who feels lost and ashamed and unworthy. It is his will that none of his little ones perish (Matthew 18:12-14). Our glorious King calls us wholly acceptable, bestows on us the same love and righteousness as he does his own family, his precious son. When we are held up for inspection and evaluation we are found unique, priceless, and stunning, every broken shard reclaimed and redeemed.

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