Sunday, April 27, 2008

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD – Part 3: On the Potter's Wheel - April 12, 2008

“For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

Okay, folks, it’s time to get in shape! As a tyke, my daughter, Beth, begged us to wake her up early so she could watch “Mousercize” on the Disney channel. She was so in to exercise, that for Christmas, she requested “Get in Shape, Girl” products—pint-sized, pink exercise paraphernalia like a mat, sweat band, tiny bar bells, etc. But her idea of getting in shape was to get comfy on the sofa and “watch” Minnie and Mickey and their cheerful, colorfully clad, energetic friends sing and sweat. That’s my girl, all right: just like her mama.

However, this is not the kind of getting in shape that I want to talk about today. No exercise videos or leotards required. No running shoes, no sweating. Did I hear a collective sigh of relief? You’re not going to be required to do anything in this step of the process of becoming a clay jar. You can just lay back and let the Master Potter do his thing.

Once the impurities and air bubbles have been pounded out of us (Part 2, March 29) the potter places the purified clay on the wheel. It’s essential that the potter center the clay on the wheel, for if it is even slightly off center, the pot is likely to collapse at some point during the shaping process. Twila Beahm, my artist friend, likens this to real life. If we aren’t centered in God, life spins out of control and splat!

When the clay is centered, the wheel is set in motion, and the potter uses his very skilled hands to force the clay to rise up into a cylinder, and then presses on top of the clay with his thumbs or palms. The potter repeats this process three or four times to increase the clay’s flexibility and strength.

From time to time, the potter will dampen his hands with water to soften the clay and make the texture more smooth and supple. Water symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit moisturizes and softens our hearts. We are supple—responsive to the Potter’s touch, and in his hands, we grow more flexible and open to new situations.

Now pressing his thumbs into the center, the potter “opens up” the clay, gradually hollowing out the vessel. A little pressure with the finger tips evens out the thickness of the cylinder walls. Finally—drum roll, please—the potter shapes the clay into a vessel.

That wasn’t so bad, now was it? All that pressing feels like a massage. Well, maybe not a massage, but a good work out, at least in compared to the beating we took in the preparation session last week. I guess we could say that this phase is our “work out” or “exercise routine.” We do stretches to enhance our flexibility and weight training to build our muscle strength. “No pain, no gain,” as the saying goes.

But wait, what’s this about spinning? I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. Pastor Howard Chang makes this spiritual application: “Often we want to run from or change our circumstances. We may even become embittered toward God because of the situations we find ourselves in. If we do, we will only find that we will face the same circumstances elsewhere. Why? Because we are still the same clay, spinning on the wheel of life’s circumstances.”

As the wheel of life spins, we have a choice: to fight our Master’s shaping, or relax under his touch. If you’re like me, you do some of both. When we want to climb off the potter’s wheel and run away from the trying circumstances in our lives, it helps to remember this:

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I enjoy needlework, and as I stitch, a picture slowly emerges. With mere thread, fabric, and a pattern, I create what will be seen out of what is unseen. God can do likewise. Clay or cloth, it matters not. His touch transforms.

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