Broken Pot, Spilt Milk

A few weeks ago I visited an archaeological excavation and lent a hand. The organisers tend to be discreet about locations, and that I respect. Suffice to say, we were looking for a medieval structure and what appeared to be a cobbled surface was found, along with some pottery. Some Roman shards had been excavated the days before, but the piece I dug up evidently belonged to a milking bowl, as it was glazed within but not without. Pottery is always useful at a site; because its broken pieces cannot be melted down to start again, it tends to be discarded and ignored. I suspect it was Early Modern, but pottery experts will be able to date it with a greater confidence.

When it was dropped and discarded we shall never know. The girl doing the milking (and it was considered to be a dairymaid’s, rather than dairyman’s, job) doubtless received a good telling off for breaking it, a replacement for which would have to be procured, and hopefully not from her modest wages. I also hope that there was no milk in it at the time, the crying over which has been traditionally advised against. The idiom ‘no weeping for shed milk’ first appeared in James Howell’s Paramoigraphy published in 1659, and is likely the origin of the modern phrase. Once the milk is spilt, it is worthless. Although the loss might inspire the spiller to have a greater care over the hard-won liquid, the lost milk is now gone and spent, and will not be recovered, no matter how many, and great, the tears.

Someone once told me that their life was one of continual repentance. Although I sympathise with anyone who daily mourns their sin, it is better to look up and continually behold Christ’s bloodied cross and emptied tomb. Our lives outside of Christ were vain and wasted, but our lives with Him are meaningful and precious. The old me is dead and buried, and for him I shed no more tears. The new me keeps growing in grace and drawing closer to the Saviour, for which there is rejoicing evermore. Whatever the story behind that potsherd, there are many more broken lives atop the soil than broken pots within it. That they would grieve for their sins is the gospel’s first call; that they might cry out for mercy and grace, its second. That they might rejoice evermore in Christ their Saviour, its third. 

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9