All You Have to Be Is Desperate

By midwinter, the empty canning jars on my basement shelves are beginning to overtake the number of full jars.  Clear glass glints beside the jewel-toned beets, briny pickles, and thick spaghetti sauce.  By practicing the dying art of canning, I pay attention to these containers, knowing that a family of six can put away as many as sixty quarts of green beans in the space of those seasons between gardens.  Truly, the container is secondary to the contents.

A recent back injury is making me conscious these days of another container.  Paul the Apostle would have called it a clay pot.

That image suits me well.
Sturdy.  At least, I’ve always thought so.

But, feeling the brittleness of my mortal clay, it’s clear to me that I’m prone to breaking, and the sharp edges leave me bent and moving about with caution.

On one level or another, everyone fights the battle of fragility at some point in life.

So lest I fall into the mistaken notion that New Testament saints were bullet proof, I return to the words of Paul who strains his apostolic thesaurus to come up with metaphors adequate to the description of his own deep need:

 “We are hard pressed.”

Did his time move relentlessly forward as the work piled higher?
Did mounting expenses dwarf his income and suck the air out of his dreams?

“We are perplexed.”

Endless word of widespread persecution and death may have mirrored our present-day newsfeed, blaring a stream of events so unbelievable that emotions struggle to keep pace.

How does one meet all the needs, answer all the objections, filter all the choices?

The perplexity and the pressure are overwhelming to me, but Paul seemed actually to be strengthened by it:

“We are not crushed.”

Across the centuries, I strain my ears for the Uncrushable Wisdom, listening for a raspy voice, ruined from the blatant misuse of vocal cords in outdoor speaking engagements and thick with gravel from having traveled around in a tired body.  In exchange for Paul’s emptiness, God offered treasure: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” (II Co. 4:6 ESV).  He became so full that the sheer force of Jesus’ life offset the pressure and permeated all the empty spaces.

I’d love to make that man a sandwich and sit down with him for just a few minutes – or even to stand at the kitchen counter.  I want to ask him how it all worked for him.

Here’s what I think Paul would say:

“All you have to be is desperate.”


I called the State Prison yesterday. It’s located in my little town but I’ve never set foot on its grounds. There are people living there who need everything that I take for granted.

The polite and expectant voice that answered the phone did not suspect that I’m sort of “That church lady,” and that I have absolutely nothing to offer to people who live behind bars. She might have suspected (from my halting presentation) that I had not prepared a speech to explain why I was calling her, but the words “literacy volunteer” came to my mind and my mouth at the same time. Reading, writing, resume preparation—I could do this. I could use words to build a bridge to people who frighten me with their crushing problems.

Who do I even think I am?

Yeah, I’m desperate.


Paul clutched his own empty canning jar with both hands and lifted it up to the One who fills.

The container is secondary to the contents. “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” was the only thing that could have accounted for Paul’s strength and resiliency—not his brittle clay, but his glorious contents as a Christ-bearer, without which he might have actually collapsed into his own hollow vacuum.

There’s a kind of humility inherent in being just a container. If I should ever be allowed to walk through the door of the State Prison and to help someone hone reading and writing skills; if I should gain their trust sufficiently to share eternal Truth with them, it will not be my prerogative to make the message all about me. In fact, the more “me” there is in the message, the less the message will be about Jesus. Who wants to eat ice cream that has begun to taste like the carton?

As Mary became a chalice into which the life of God was poured, my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017. By filling and indwelling believers, Jesus makes sure that the world will continue to see God in the flesh. As God’s expression of what He is like, we become broken bread and poured out wine.

There is no greater fullness.


This post first appeared at SheLoves Magazine.

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48 thoughts on “All You Have to Be Is Desperate”

  1. Hi Michele – I recently found She Loves Magazine and have been enjoying the blog posts. This one from you today is exquisite – the Lord spoke to me so clearly through it. Thank you so much for your words and faithfulness to write them down and share them! Many blessings to you –


    1. Kristin! So happy to connect with you here, and to know that you are also a friend to the SheLoves community. What an amazing bunch of women.

      Thanks for letting me know that you’ve been reading. It’s so good to hear from you!


  2. This was such a beautiful post! I am sorry about your back injury–I am beginning to understand more about those things that bring us to that place of desperation. Thank you for the encouragement to be willing to be that “clay pot” just as Paul described. May the Lord guide you and bless your prison ministry for His purposes!


    1. Bettie, thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts here. Paul’s words of wisdom ground us in reality and provide much-needed perspective. Not sure where the volunteer work at the prison will lead, but open to whatever.


  3. Michele, I love your words. The fact that we are frail is all the more reason to be desperate for Jesus. It’s only as we are leaning into Him with all that we are (and aren’t) that He can use us fully. Self-sufficiency does little to help us when our bodies begin to show more of their clay pot tendencies. You’ve got me thinking. Thank you for that!


    1. Jen Wilkin has written about the incommunicable attributes of God, and your words remind me of the truth that ONLY God is self-sufficient, and we are not invited to share in that trait with Him. When we embrace that truth, we magnify Him!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Who wants to eat ice cream that has begun to taste like the carton?” That’s a great question, Michele. I know I don’t. When desperation forces us to rely on the One who is our strength instead of on our own skills and power, it might just start looking like a gift from God, rather than some kind of curse. I hope the prison ministry works out for you … what a wonderful way to use your skills to bless others.


  5. I love this because I am drawn to Paul’s life quite a bit. Drawn to Jesus mainly of course lol, but to Paul’s in that he loved Christ and was obviously just a human like us. Shared some quotes from here that stood out to me. I love how you break it down. I too can’t wait to talk to him (them…). I get excited just thinking about it!


  6. How this spoke to me today. I am dealing with a fracture in my foot that had left me non weight bearing for 5 weeks with two littles. I think I prayed more in those 5 weeks than I had in a really long time. You know as fragile as our body is, it’s amazing how quickly it can recover. It’s also amazing how much I needed Christ during a struggle. I think to myself now that I need to pray just as much now as I did then. Have a wonderful week!


    1. So hard. I know where you are in this because when my children were small I had a number of “blow outs” with my back, and it’s such a helpless feeling. Praying for you right now: patience, strength, healing, and daily joy for you and your littles.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such feeling in your words- how true that all you have to be is desperate! A wise Christian woman once
    Told me that God delights to reveal
    Himself to desperate people. I think of that often when I feel empty and in desperate need of being filled!


  8. Wow Michele! I really, really, really enjoyed your post. All the analogies, the cans, the cartons and the clay. We need to filled up so we can pour out. May God bless your volunteer ministry at the state prison and give you the courage and wisdom that is required. You continue to bless us with your words 🙂


    1. You said a mouthful in this sentence: We need to be filled up so we can pour out. So true, and it’s sad when both ends of that equation get thwarted: either we try to pour grace out of an empty bucket, or else we take grace and then hoard all the blessings without sharing. Thanks, Alice, for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “All we need to be is desperate.” When we have to where else to turn, Jesus is always there waiting for us. He definitely fills us up with His mercy and love and faithfulness even when we think we can’t take the next step. Blessings to you, Michele!


  10. My mother did quite a bit of canning from her large garden, but to many today it is a lost art. As time catches up with us we discover that our body is not the same as it once was. For my age, I am in reasonably good health, but my husband is suffering from the many hours of hard work where he pushed himself to do more. Every day we have together is a blessings for which I am thankful. May we ever be desperate for more of God and all that He has for us. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.


  11. Oh, my goodness… Michele. One of my favorite things you have shared here. Just the use of words and the transparent real glimpse right into your world. I love that. And a reminder, all we have to be is desperate… yes, ma’am. I need that reminder. Desperate for God, for grace, for the love of His goodness to be a light through me…for mercy and forgiveness and for somehow the loves of my life to see that in my imperfections I wanted to be desperate for God. I love this.
    Thank you!


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