I was visiting Cape Town with my family about a year ago when we visited a Saturday flea market in a Rondebosch park. It was while browsing the stalls, which featured anything from second hand rubbish to some really creative arts and crafts, that my friend Sharon discovered a selection of handcrafted pottery. On display at this artist’s stall were objects ranging from vases, plates, cups and pots. Most of the pieces were beautiful examples of kiln-fired pottery with beautiful designs and creative glazing. But there was one particular little bowl that stood out for it’s imperfections, and this was the one that caught Sharon’s eye. This poor bowl had no symmetry but only a suggestion of being a bowl at all, with incomplete glazing, rough edges and a rim that reminded me of ocean waves. It had a beautifully crafted flower patterns on the side, and seem to carry these with a modicum of pride. Needless to say, this was the bowl Sharon decided to buy from the artist.

The rest of the family, me included, were quite taken aback since there were other, more obvious choices of exquisite pottery pieces. Why choose the “ugly duckling” when the others seem to be better options? It was at this point that Sharon got all philosophical on us and explained her reasons to us. This particular bowl reminded her of so many people we meet on a daily basis, that somehow don’t seem to ‘make the grade’ or ‘fit the mold’ of other seemingly perfect and beautiful people all around. Yet by itself the bowl had a perculiar beauty all its own. And out of all the perfect choices that were available, it was the crooked, out-of-place bowl that was chosen to fulfill a vital task in Sharon’s house. This bowl eventually became (and still is) the essential object next to the kettle, and is there year-in and year-out to received used teaspoons. The bowl, as misshapen as it is, has become an essential part in the coffee-tea-making process in Sharon’s house. And because of that the bowl is beautiful. Sharon mentioned that this is a metaphor to her of how the Lord comes, takes the less-than-perfect, and places them in a position of significance and usefulness. To the rest of the world may perceive certain people to be useless, ugly and generally a misfit, but that the Lord sees the potential and focuses rather on that.

I was deeply touched by this. I also realized that no matter how ‘perfect’ an object of pottery may appear, there will always be some ‘flaw’ or ‘imperfection’ in reality. Yet the Lord doesn’t focus on that seeming imperfection, but focuses on the potential, the significance, the usefulness, and the simple pleasure He derives from calling that a work of art. Sharon’s story (and Sharon’s bowl) caused me to pause a while next to the road of my own journey and take stock of how I see myself, of how I think others see me, but more importantly, knowing that at the end of the day all that matters is how the Lord sees me.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to pack my bags again and travel to yet another flea market to see what treasure I can discover there…