I looked at the cardboard box with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I was about to view the final results of my first pottery lesson. When I last saw the items, they were a homely collection of misshapen cylinders, bowls and cups, still wet, smelling like a freshly plowed field on a rainy day.
My Aunt Liz is a wonderful potter. I’m always amazed when I visit her workshop and see the treasures she’s made from lumps of nondescript gray clay. She graciously offered to give me a pottery lesson and I jumped at the chance. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
If you’ve ever seen potters at work, they make it look easy. They throw the clay onto the wheel with abandon, put their hands around it, and the next thing you know, they have a beautifully shaped bowl, vase, or urn. For me, just getting the clay onto the bat correctly was a challenge. My pieces would definitely not be considered beautiful or shapely. They were mere approximations of what a bowl, cup, or cylinder should be.
I knew a little secret though. A good potter can make even an imperfect vessel look nice by using colorful glazes and special firing techniques. I knew my Aunt Liz could work miracles when she fired my pieces and I was excited to see how she had transformed them. As I lifted each one from its nest of crumpled newspaper I was amazed at the difference in them. What started out as pitiful little lumps of gray clay were now, if not gorgeous, at least presentable and usable. As I marveled over the change, I realized that my pottery lesson gave me a glimpse into the way God works in our lives.
Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” When I think of myself as that shapeless, icky lump of clay, I gain a new appreciation for the care that God has taken to shape me into the person I am today.
I would say I’m still sitting on His potter’s wheel — a work in progress — and I’m sure I will be until I go to my heavenly home. But rather than that sad glob of clay, maybe I at least resemble some sort of useful vessel. As we talked about in Lord, Make Me Like the Olive Tree, I want to be useful to the Lord throughout the seasons of my life.
Although God is faithful in doing His work in us, we may not always cooperate with His plan. If we think about my pottery lessons, there are a couple of things we can learn about how God as Master Potter works in our lives.
He gives us free will.
He is ultimately the potter, but because He gives us free will, He allows us to shape our lives through the choices we make.
During my lesson, I had choices to make: Where do I slam the clay down onto the bat? Where do I put my thumbs to start the hole? How quickly do I pull up? One wrong decision, and my soon-to-be-masterpiece would be a useless lump of clay.
As we started, Aunt Liz gave me the information I needed to make my decisions and guidelines to follow when throwing my pieces. She then stepped back and let me take over. She stayed right beside me and if I got into trouble and called her, she was quick to assist me. Aunt Liz never tried to wrest control from me, but she did take it when I willingly gave it to her. That way, she could help me repair whatever mistake I had made.
God does that too. He allows us to make our choices, even when they cause our lives to go awry.
God is always there to help if we just call on Him.
God gives us guidance in His Word about any issues we encounter in life, and He is always there for us. There are times when I get in over my head. I may have overcommitted, or I may have made the wrong choice about something — any number of things, really — but I always know I can cry out to God and He’ll answer me.
If we call on Him, He will drop everything and come to our aid. And the most amazing thing is that even if we have completely ignored His guidance, chosen the wrong paths, and made a complete mess of our lives, if we call on Him, the Master Potter will come in, clean us up, strengthen us, and make us into beautiful vessels for His use.
I am so grateful that we are never too broken for Him to redeem, restore and repurpose!