“I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, ESV
Once upon a time there was a master glassblower whose exquisite work became so highly sought after by the wealthy families of the city that it drew the attention of the local newspaper.
“Everyone who’s anyone has one of these vases,” the editor told the arts reporter, showing him the gorgeous glass vessel on her desk. It was delicately tapered and colored with rainbow hues which transformed even the harsh fluorescent light of her office into something that glowed. “Get over there and get an interview.”
The reporter was happy to comply. He had seldom seen such beautiful artistry.
“I’m a huge admirer,” the reporter said to the artist when they met. “I’d love to watch you at work before I get to my questions.”
The glassblower agreed and took the man inside to the sweltering workshop. He smelted the glass and colored it. and then carefully blew through his instruments to shape it before it cooled. With sure hands he formed half a dozen vases, and the process was as beautiful as the results. The reporter was so awed that he happily watched for hours in spite of the sweat trickling down his back.
When at last the glassblower stepped away from his tools, six beautiful vases stood lined up along one wall. The reporter watched as the glass-blower inspected each of them. Each was unique, and yet each was equally luminescent.
After a long deliberation, the glassblower took up another tool: a hammer. The reporter barely had time to wonder about the choice of instruments when the glass-blower walked over to two of the vases and smashed them to pieces.
The reporter cried out, feeling as shattered as if it were he who had been struck. He had watched those beautiful vases be created, and to him they seemed perfect. It was a violation to destroy them so callously.
By the time the reporter recovered enough to speak, the artist was beginning to gather up the broken pieces of the shattered vases. “What … what was wrong with those two?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said the artist. “They were perfect.”
“Then why? Why would you ruin them?”
“They aren’t ruined,” the glassblower answered, lovingly placing the shards into a bowl.
“Well, I don’t see how you’re going to put them back together now,” the reporter said. “And even if you do, they’ll never be as beautiful as they were when you made them.”
The glass-blower nodded. “Come see.” He gestured at a door at the back of the workshop.
The reporter followed, still shaking his head. “I don’t see how you could spend so much time making something and then just smash it.”
“It breaks my heart every time,” the glassblower admitted.
“Then why would you destroy them when they were such perfect vases?”
“They were only meant to be vases for a short time,” the glassblower said.
He opened the door into another workshop. This one was cool and open and filled with light. Three walls were nothing but huge, incredible stained-glass windows. On a giant work table lay another wide window frame, a picture half-formed within its boundaries.
The reporter watched in silence as the glass-blower took the broken pieces of glass he had just collected and fitted them into the beautiful window he was creating. Their colors blended seamlessly. They were exactly what was required to finish the picture, and in its complete form it was a hundred times more beautiful than the perfect vases in the next room.
When at last the glassblower turned away from his work, he looked exhausted, but he led the way to a pair of chairs in the corner for the interview.
The reporter had only one question. “How long have you been making these windows?”
“From the beginning of my career,” the glassblower said. “I love my vases. I love that others love them. But the windows have always been my passion.”
That night, the reporter sat at his desk for many hours before beginning to write a very different story than he had planned.
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory ...”
Romans 9:20-23, ESV
Image: "Glassblowers 'Gathering' from the Furnace,' by Mervyn Peake