Loving Feet of Clay

9 02 2011

I just called by to check when I had last written here – a year ago!  Well 2010 anyway. I noted titles of things I had recently (or fairly recently) written and noted one about time passing. So where am I today that I wasn’t back in 2010?

I think the answer has to be, more aware of people and more appreciative of people. For the past four months I have been interviewing people from all walks of local life and I have enjoyed people. It has caused me to think about these people a lot more: are they as good as they seem, and why do I even have to ask that question?

Have these people been putting on a show for me? I don’t think so for they are often remarkably honest. No, I think it is just that I have been focusing on one side of their lives, their work, their vocation, the thing they do everyday, and many of them are really enthusiastic about it.

It has made me think about being made in the image of God. I pondered that a number of years ago. What is it that differentiates us from the animal kingdom? What characteristics do we have that make us similar to God? Well, we are not all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise like He is, so what is it?  It is the abilities to communicate, think, plan, reason, invent, create, write, work, order, purpose and enter into the fullness of what we were designed to be, i.e. grow and change. The amazing thing is that we have all of these things despite being sinners – and that is what I have been observing in the people I have been interviewing.

But then I have also been becoming more aware of what I shall simply and gently refer to as people’s feet of clay.   It doesn’t matter how nice people are, how fulfilled people, how creative they are, or whatever, they are still sinners, so they don’t tell me how they have argued with their spouse or ‘partner’, or how unsure of life they are, or of their fears – those will come later when they trust me perhaps.

I have seen this distinction most clearly in reading biographies or autobiographies (written by another or written first hand).  I started a year or so ago reading the biography of a hero of mine, Alistair Cooke of ‘Letter from America’ fame. There was an amazing amount more that he did and I found it an enthralling book – but he certainly had feet of clay. He was emotionally stunted in respect of his children and divorced from his first wife. That will do to be going on with. I was disturbed by that because I had always enjoyed his way of writing and speaking and he was my hero – but he had feet of clay. I learned that feet of clay should not stop us admiring the “in the likeness of God” side of people, even if they weren’t aware of it themselves.

I next went to read of Anglican bishop, David Pytches. I have only seen and heard him minister once, and that recently, and he struck me as an immensely gentle and godly and sensitive man growing into old age with some struggles. But when I read his autobiography, I felt his feet of clay often shone through (there’s a mixed picture!

I’ve also been rereading Francis Schaeffer’s biography, another man greatly used of God but again a man known by those close to him to have feet of clay. My wife speaks of her teenage years of knowing Tom Rees, an evangelist greatly used in the mid-twentieth century by God, but again, known by those close to him, as a man with feet of clay.

Next I took a book token given for a birthday and bought and read Alan Sugar’s autobiography. Quite an amazing business man in many ways, often with streaks of humility and loyalty that stood out – but what feet of clay does he admit to! But I still found myself appreciating the ‘in the likeness of God’ aspects of his life.

So there we are, people made in the image of God, capable of great things, but at the same time with feet of clay that reveal we are sinners in desperate need of a relationship with the loving God. That is the sad part of so many of these lives. Yes, they do have reflections of greatness in their lives, but at the same time there are these ‘feet of clay’ these things that spoil and limit and hinder, things that stop us becoming so much more. And that is sad!

The truths underlying all this? I believe there are three key things here. First, we are called to love all men, whether we are aware of their feet of clay or not. Second, God loves us even with our feet of clay and will still use us if we are available, despite our feet of clay. Third, God is saddened by our feet of clay because those are things we seem to fail to get to grips with, and they mar and spoil what we could and can be.

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