Monday, April 21, 2008

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD – Part 2: Preparing the Clay - April 5, 2008

“As the clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:6

This very day, I am winging my way to Guatemala to take part in a Christian medical mission. One of my favorite things to do at the mission site is to play with the children. A very popular activity involves my painting their hands bright colors (rojo, verde, azul, amarilla, y naranja) and letting the kids place their handprints on a piece of paper. On each piece of paper is printed, “Usare mis manos para ayudar no para lastimar,” which in Gringoese means, “I will use my hands to help, not to hurt.” Domestic abuse, child abuse, gang violence, and similar crimes scar every society and the best way to fight it is by educating the children.
Hands are an essential—and the most important—tool for the potter. Our Heavenly Potter has provided the metaphor of clay and potter to help us understand how God shapes our lives. While his hands are loving, his touch is not always gentle. As we begin to look at his process of forming us, we need to keep the following points in mind:
  • God’s touch is purposeful. He knows our true potential and how we fit into his purposes. He has a master plan, and a plan for each and every one of us, and he has the power to create and bring his plan to fruition.

  • God’s hands are steadfast. He does not give up on his project.

  • His touch, whether gentle or firm, is always that of a caring and loving God. The hands of the Master Artist are sensitive, listening hands. Twila Beahm, local potter, says she listens to the clay and it speaks to her. Given that we are all so unique—right down to our handprints—I believe that our Potter began his relationship with us well before we were formed. God is all about relationship—relationship with his creation—and relationship involves listening.

  • Our Heavenly Potter is well pleased with his handiwork. (“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31)

With this in mind, let’s peek in on the Potter and observe him at work. After carefully selecting the clay, the potter must remove all the impurities, such as gravel, stones, and small tree roots. Laying the clay out, he picks out the foreign matter. Over and over again he kneads the clay and smashes it down. Using a technique called “wedging,” he slices the clay in half and slams the halves together, forcing out the air bubbles.

“Ouch!” Sounds painful, doesn’t it? But this process is extremely important. If the impurities and air bubbles are not removed, once on the wheel, the pot may collapse due to these flaws. This reminds me of childhood piano practices in which I would practice a song over and over and over, working to eliminate my flawed key strokes. A song can be ruined by the strike of a wrong key and EVERYONE at the recital will remember THIS note—not the fact that you’ve played a million other notes perfectly. (I refused to participate in recitals for this reason.)

My piano practicing was grueling. I would get so frustrated with myself that I would pound the keys and bang my head on the keyboard. When my kids were young and loved to watch Sesame Street, I recognized myself in that muppet character who was a piano head banger. I wonder if our Heavenly Potter gets frustrated with us as we collapse on his wheel, yet again—and again. It’s a painful process—for both pot and potter.

I’m relieved to know that God does not settle with seconds and keeps his hands to the wheel on which we spin.

Next week, the fun begins, as our Potter places us on the wheel and gives us shape.

“O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8

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