I have often joked I am not a very pliable “clay pot” in the Master’s hand, so when I had a chance to take a pottery class to learn some basic techniques, I took advantage of the opportunity.
During class, I couldn’t help but observe parallels between shaping clay and spiritual life. First, the process cannot be rushed for it is crucial to the outcome. Don’t try to take short cuts or expect great things right away. As a beginning student, I forgot some of the of steps, and things went wrong quickly. It is essential that the lump of clay be centered on the wheel, just as it is vital for our lives to be centered on Jesus. Without centering, all else fails. Not surprisingly, a key quality is patience. Being in a hurry causes unevenness in any step, but when I was impatient in the stretching, the higher the clay was stretched, the more off center the sides became, and the piece eventually collapsed. That meant starting over from step one. Learning to have the attitude of Christ and become the vessel He purposed takes time. The Lord may open our minds to understand things in our head long before He stretches those truths into our hearts.
Although trimming sounds like a minor detail, the shape and character of the mug, vase, or bowl are dramatically altered by these details. The Lord uniquely shapes each of us to display His glory. Next, vessel is heated to over 600 degrees Celsius in a kiln for firing. No one seeks out the heat of trials, but difficulties have the potential to either strengthen us or shatter us. It all depends whether the vessel has been properly prepared. But one fiery, hot furnace is not enough. To finish the design, a glaze is added and the vessel is again placed into the heat where the second firing allows for the unique beauty of each creation to surface. There is a mystery involved in this step as browns become blue and whites become vibrant greens. In this world we will experience tribulation, but we can rejoice because Jesus has overcome. What appears to crush and destroy, God will redeem to bring forth purpose and beauty. Finally, I learned clay can be recycled. A mess up is never final, but with time and work, the vessel can be reshaped. There will be more pounding, trimming, and heat but God will complete the work He began in each of us.
When I read that the Lord told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house, I now realize some of the lessons that could have been learned there. The potter always kept both hands on the clay or one hand on a tool and the second hand on the clay. It is almost as if the vessel is an extension of Himself. “Behold, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” We are His masterpieces, yet each one of us uniquely showcases of His glory through jars of clay. How amazing is our Master potter!