This is my favorite painting from the Legion of Honor, the European side of the San Francisco fine arts museum. It’s painted by my favorite artist, William Bouguereau. It’s entitled “The Dropped Pitcher.”
The girl has dropped the pitcher which lies broken at her feet as she stares directly at the painter with a look of what? Frustration? Disbelief? Anger? Is she afraid of going home and explaining the broken pitcher to her mother or to whomever she works for? Is she angry at the painter for catching her at the moment of destruction? We can’t really say and that mystery is part of the joy of the painting.
I think I like it so much because this young, poor (notice her lack of shoes) girl is a metaphor for all of our lives. Haven’t we all dropped this pitcher? Don’t we all have to face going to someone we love or work for and telling them that we failed? Do we like doing it any more than this young lady? Her pitcher doesn’t hold water anymore and she will not be able to accomplish the job for which she was sent to the old water pump. It has been a wasted trip.
All of this makes me happy for grace. Doesn’t the gospel speak directly to her/our situation? She/we are helpless to do what we must do. She must bring water; we were created to glorify God. Her broken pitcher prevents her; our broken lives prevent us from approaching our creator.
The gospel says that Jesus comes and takes the broken pitcher and makes it new; makes it capable somehow (even in its brokenness) of holding water. The gospel says that this frustrated girl can accomplish her mission, in spite of the broken pitcher; well, not her but Christ in her.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.