The Allegory of The Fellowship - Nic Linde
There was once a great sculptor, his name was Zeno he was well renowned around the world for extravagant sculptures depicting people of high esteem.
The people would either love or hate these sculptures, some worshiped them as idyllic figures, others jeered them as symbols of hate and injustice. This never stopped the sculptor from sculpting. It simply made him refocus his most skilled work into pottery; simple, elegant, and purposeful. Something no one would worship or loathe, maybe just observe and acknowledge. He created some pure clay bowls that he decided he wouldn’t even give a glaze with a color. After they were thrown and kilned there were 14 bowls total. The sculptor determined that they would be best put to use doing daily or menial tasks. Cereal, oatmeal, and other useful methods were their destiny, never to be put on any displays or placed on the wall. They were never stored away either, always ready to be put to use at the most opportune times. The sculptor, who is to the bowls a potter, but still remains the sculptor none the less, and the bowls loved each other, the sculptor saw the usefulness, subtle beauty, and individuality of each bowl. The bowls loved the purpose, beauty, and relationship the sculptor gave each one of them individually. The bowls, however would acknowledge that the sculptor created such beautiful sculptures and yet created them so plain, unglazed clay with no color and simple texture, they desired to be more noticeable and beautiful.
The sculptor would tell them “I made you exactly the way you were supposed to be! Why do you want to be different when you are so beautiful?”
The bowls responded by saying: “We are only beautiful to you, we wish to be known and loved by all. Why can you not… simply improve us? Don’t you love us? We want color, we want texture, and to be put proudly on display or on the wall.”
He replied, “Of course, I love you! I have always loved you, but I love you for what you are…what I created you to be.”
“What you created us to be is all fine, but make us more beautiful please! It is all that we ask.”
The sculptor looked at his simply pottery and said “I will make you more beautiful, but it will not be exactly how you think.” He then proceeded to take them each of them and put a beautiful and individual glaze to them. He purposefully mixes and swirls each color that he will intently pair to each bowl before he puts them in the kiln. He paints each bowl with long and beautiful strokes, making them only marginally more beautiful to him. The bowls however, could not be more ecstatic exclaiming “Now we will finally be beautiful!” and “This is what we were always created to be, not that simple and ugly thing we were before!”
The sculptor told them “This is not how I make you beautiful.” He took each of the 14 bowls carefully and placed them in the kiln to finish the glazing process. The sculptor alone is the only one who knows the truth of the process, that was about to happen to each bowl. He goes on to explain “I am unfortunately going to have to start the kiln, it will be hard, hot, and will change you forever. Is this ok with each of you?” At varying intervals, they all reply with varying degrees of excitement “Yes”.
The sculptor turns the kiln on, the heat building to an unbearable level. The bowls excitedly stand the heat for a while making bold comments like “I’m so excited to do this.” Or “Lechanvi, I can’t wait to see you when this is over, you are going to be so beautiful after this.” They continued this shielding banter of phrases designed to take their minds off the heat, however it was undeniable that the heat wasn’t even beginning to stop rising. The glazes were beginning to go from soft texture paint like covering, to bold and swirling colors with a glass like shine to them. “Aww Kutteo your glaze is so amazing!” The bowls would say and “I am so happy I can finally see the real you Kabata.” Too bad they were sorely mistaken, only the sculptor knew what was still to come. The heat still rose and there were less and less bold and encouraging comments. They had changed, the comments started to get more abrasive cursing Zeno. “That stupid sculptor he should have never put us in here, it’s so hot!” and “I don’t think that I belong in here, I was too good for this.” As the heat continued to rise the bowls only became weaker and weaker until eventually cracks in each bowl form where they are weakest. They writhe in agony as the cracks eventually widen. The heat violently revealing the unwitting imperfection of each bowl finally and slowly causes each bowl to break.
The bowls didn’t understand, they wallowed in their brokenness and could only peer at their broken pieces with distain. The bowls cried out to Zeno “How can you be a good sculptor? You told us that you would make us beautiful! Instead you break us, now we are only shards of putrid should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a being and now we are nothing! How could you do this to us?”
The sculptor could only ask one question, “Why do you doubt me? I promised to make you beautiful.”
“You promised to make us beautiful, yet here we lye, uglier and more unnoticeable than ever.”
“Why do you assume I am finished with you? Is a sculptor, potter, painter, or any other artist ever finished with their work?” Zeno retorted to his shattered art. “Also, why do you believe that you are not, in your current state, beautiful? Is brokenness not beautiful? Did I not also address you as beautiful before this entire debacle?”
The splintered bowls lay at the bottom of a cooling kiln, speechless in the wake of the milieu of emotion evoked in the questions bestowed by their creator. They simply had no reply. In the silence the sculptor moved quickly and quietly, taking each bowl in the entirety of the pieces and took them to separate tables. A few of them cried softly and suffered on their own in silence. A few cried out to the others in order to feel the warmth provided by knowing that there are others in anguish with you. A few tried to deny their brokenness, claiming it as who they were and who they were destined to be. The fewest however, went straight to the sculptor as they dwelled in their own time, eventually all of the bowls would partake in this mindset, this is what they did.
They asked Zeno, “You asked the question ‘Why do you assume I am finished with you?’ what did you have in mind when you said this?”
Zeno smiled with warmth and welcome. He responded “Let me give you an explanation.” As he began to explain he fiddled and began working on the broken pieces that lay on the table before him.
“Did I ever cease giving you purpose?” the sculptor asked.
The bowls replied “Well…no.”
“Did I ever tell you that you were not beautiful, or that I would not ever make you more beautiful?” Zeno asked.
The bowls replied a bit ashamedly “Well…no.”
Without losing the inviting warmth in the tone of his voice the wise sculptor boldly asked. “Then why, when you are lying in your most vulnerable and broken state, which you begged and pleaded for, would you believe that I was finished?” Then there was a brief moment of silence before Zeno asked a second question. “Would a good father give his son who is hungry, a stone instead of bread? Exactly how that is an impossibility, it is impossible for me to not make you the most elegant, pure, and yes beautiful piece of art in my eyes.”
“Well, can we not deeply care about what you think, and have ourselves look good to others?” at this question is when the bowls began to realize that they were not just warm from the tender voice of their creator, but were feeling warm from the physical happenings of the sculptor’s hands.
“Art that is made for the sake of others approval, is art that will never be enough. The fact that I love you for exactly what you are should be enough. This is because I love you exactly where you are AND for all of the incredible things that I know you will become. Being my work means that you bear my name, and that is something that I take seriously. All 14 of you, each as individuals, I always meant to break you. I will continue to do so in fact, because in your brokenness my work is revealed. Even now look at yourself…”
At that moment the bowls looked at the work that had been done while they weren’t paying attention. The bowls once totally broken were made more whole, but now they were more than just clay. The bowls now had amidst their clay and fine glaze inlays of pure gold. The sculptor had used an ancient Japanese pottery technique called kintsukuroi, which means to “repair with gold” to bind the shattered pieces of pottery into something much better than they were before. The potter then took the bowls and the pieces yet to be bonded and put them all together on one table.
Zeno continued to explain, “You are not fully whole yet, and even though I am going to finish putting all the pieces together, you won’t be whole until a much later time. Now that you have all dealt with me in your brokenness, this is the time where you will become one set of bowls. You are individually beautiful and may be incredibly different, but you were all created by me and that is the most important similarity you could have. As a set you will be recognized together, you will experience great joy together, and you will learn how to love together. Unfortunately, you will also experience hardship and great sorrow together, you will hurt and maybe even chip off parts of each other, you will surely struggle together, and hardest of all, you will constantly fail each other. I won’t leave you to your own devices, I will never leave you, individually or as a group, and I love you. I will always love you, that is why I gave up my sculptures for you all, now go and continue to do the tasks that you have always done. Just because you are made of gold does not mean that you have stopped being bowls created to for specific tasks, be humble, learn, and grow. Come to me when you are tired, breaking, falling apart, and just every day because I will give you strength in your weakness. I love you all and I will always show up when you need me. Good luck my fellows I will be near.”
The allegory is this: I am attempting to memorize the book of Romans this year, unfortunately it is not going well. However, I have gotten to read Romans 9 more than once. I know that this, to some, is quite a controversial piece of scripture, but it gave me the framework for this story. God being a potter who has relationship with his creations in an intimate and yet unbalanced way. God being the potter makes him, securely above the creation of his hands. In my Allegory, Zeno is God in fact the name Zeno came from the Japanese work for Lord or Almighty. Him being a sculptor shows many aspects of God that I was desiring to portray. God is gentle, He is creative, He is our creator, He is constantly working, He knows and wants us to be what in his eyes is most for his glory, but still beautiful to him. The 14 bowls are the 14 of us Van Fellows. We all came to the Fellowship in order to look more beautiful in the eyes of God, or at least I hope so. This doesn’t mean that we all came into the Fellowship with the same expectations or that we are not also sinners. All 14 of us are exactly that sinners, but we are sinners who want to look more beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. Sometimes in our desire for worth in the eyes of God we are misguided and seek simply for worth. The beauty of this allegory is that it is currently true of each of us. In our desire to be beautiful in the eyes of God we have also asked to be beautiful to either others, or even simply to ourselves. We have all tried to deal with it in our own ways, however as in the allegory eventually we all have to come to the feet of the father in our brokenness. In His eyes our brokenness is exactly where He wants us, because that is the most dependent on Him that we can be. When we come to Him in our brokenness, He reveals Himself to be the good father that he is. He picks us up, puts us back on our feet and says “I am not finished with you yet.” We simply have to be obedient and ask “What do you still have for me?” Thankfully, I have been able to see that growth in my compatriots and in myself. That is the heart of what this allegory is about, the set of 14 learning as individuals, a fuller view of who we are in the kingdom of God. It is also about us learning how to become a community, a “set of bowls” if you will. Learning how to run the race set before us, while caring and pushing the people who are running with us. Through hardship and joy, through hurt and hurting each other, and mostly fighting hard for each other to look more like Jesus every day.
- Nic Linde