Sometime during the 1968-69 school year at Ridgecrest Elementary School, my fifth grade art teacher told us that she was going to teach us how to make pottery. I conjured up visions of a wheel with a lump of clay rapidly spinning around through my hands. I was going to apply my hands and shape a lovely piece of pottery.
Instead of using a wheel, she taught us how to make “snakes.” We took the first one, laid it out, and fashioned it into a coil. Then we made more snakes and looped them around the edge of the coil. One by one we shaped a “pot.” Where was the smooth vessel I had envisioned? This looked like a pile of skinny clay donuts, not to mention that they were not uniform. “I can fix this,” I thought. We learned a new word, “slip” I think it was, to describe a runny clay-like substance used to glue the levels together. In vain I tried to fill in the gaps between the differing levels with “slip,” but it was too runny. I did the best I could. I tried to smooth it and make it uniform.
Next it went into the kiln to be fired. Now the solid shape was fixed unless I accidently dropped it on the linoleum floor. Paint would make it look better. The yellow “glaze” went on. At least that made it look better, I thought to myself. How it disappointed me when the “pot” came out of the fire. Most of the color had disappeared even though it now had a shiny glaze to it. “It needs another coat” the teacher said. So another layer of glaze and back into the fire it went.
It was a pot only a mother could love, a mother who loved her son more than any pot he could make. It disappeared for many years, and I forgot about it. Somewhere it appeared again and now it holds pens and flash drives on my computer desk at home.
Was I a poor craftsman? Were the materials defective? No, I just did not have the proper tools, equipment, and processes to shape it properly.
In Jeremiah 18, God sent Jeremiah down to a potter’s house to watch the artisan at work. Jeremiah watched the potter shape a lump of clay in his hands. Jeremiah watched only to see the vessel become ruined in the potter’s hands. The potter reshaped to clay into a different kind of vessel as he saw fit to fashion it.
What shapes the clay? The potter’s hands apply the right amount of pressure as the vessel spins on the wheel. He or she takes the clay and gently pushes it where the clay needs to go. At times the potter takes a knife and cuts away unnecessary clay. Little by little the vessel begins to take shape. The potter applies water to his or her hands to keep the clay from becoming too dry, marred, or misshapen. Finally the vessel achieves its shape. It simply submits to the potter’s shaping hands.
After a period of drying, the potter fires the clay. It passes through a fire hot enough to melt the colored glaze into a glass-like surface. The vessel goes in dull and comes out shiny depending on the type of glaze applied.
God often works in our lives the same way. We are born as lumps of moldable clay. God kneads us then begins to shape and fashion our lives. He wants to make us into an object of beauty. He begins to apply pressure to our lives at various times, pushing us in certain directions so we take on shape. He applies only enough pressure so as to build up rather than to crush us down.
Then we go through times of firing where the final touches are made on our lives. He makes us objects of beauty in his eyes. We are vessels for the service he chooses for us. Not all vessels serve the same purpose, but all are necessary for God’s plan. We are at various stages of development, but eventually God will finish with us.
Yes, he can take even the vessels that break and put them back together again. He picks them up and brushes them off. He then reassembles the pieces and puts the vessel back into service. All we must do is submit ourselves to the Potter’s hands. Even though it may not seem like it now, he will make something beautiful of your life.
“Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life” –Bill Gaither
God can make something beautiful of your life if you will let him.