Grey and sticky, the clay is just a block at the beginning. The potter will take a chunk and begin to work it on a flat surface. He kneads and pounds the clay to make it more pliable. When it’s ready, he places it on the wheel, water is added, and the potter begins to “center” the clay on the wheel.
If the clay is not centered the vessel will be hard to keep steady and will not shape right. Centering happens by applying pressure to the top and sides of the mound of clay. Often it takes time to get a piece centered on the wheel. Centering is perhaps the most important aspect of creating a clay pot.
After the potter has worked the clay into the pot he has envisioned it’s set aside to dry. Before the clay completely dries and hardens it’s again placed on the wheel and the potter uses tools to trim and perfect the shape and design. Then comes the first firing in the kiln. Extreme temperatures are reached in order to harden this clay into a usable vessel.
Finally the potter glazes the piece; carefully choosing colors to compliment the shape and purpose of this particular pot. Back in the kiln the pot goes for a final high temperature firing.
What emerges from the kiln is vastly different from the lump of clay it was to begin with. It has been transformed into a coffee mug, a bowl, a plate, or a decorative piece.
A couple of years ago I made a New Year’s goal to try something new each month for that year. Taking a beginning pottery class was one of the things I tried that year. I found a thoroughly enjoyable activity that turned out to have life lessons for me.
My life as a Christian is much like a lump of clay that’s being turned into something beautiful and useful. As I worked with the clay I came to see why the Bible speaks of God being the potter and me being the clay.
This lump of clay has been kneaded and pounded to make it supple enough to begin molding. As I look back on my life I see how God has kneaded and pounded me. I went through my first lay-off five years ago. It was traumatic and hard. I railed and cried and demanded that God do something.
Yet, when I look back I see that the lessons learned during that time served me when I again was going through a lay-off. I had seen God’s provision and plan in the last job loss and I was able to trust that He would be faithful through another. His pounding earlier made me pliable enough to be open to His work at this time. Sometimes our lessons are hard and traumatic. Yet they are so very necessary to our growth.
As I worked at centering my clay on the wheel I began to get a better picture of being centered as a Christian. Without that center, I wobble around the wheel and the vessel I am is misshapen and not suitable for the plan God has for me. Centering takes pressure on the top and sides of the clay. God’s centering requires pressure on me from sources beyond our control.
During the period I was trying to find another job God was applying pressure. I continued to work as a temp during that period. I was doing a job that might have been considered beneath my education and experience. God continued to apply pressure until I began to see that He was providing for me. He was giving me rest in this job that I didn’t have to think too hard to do. And He was teaching me patience and grace.
That same year I was called upon to remember those earlier lessons. God was again providing and giving me rest. He knew what was coming with my dad’s surgery and my mom’s death. He knew that more than anything I would be grateful for the ten months of being there for them and sharing special times with them. Because I was centered in Him, I could rest in His plan for this time.
Heat is a crucial element in the making of a clay pot. The firing is what makes the vessel tough and durable. God uses fire in our lives to shape us. He used fire in my life that year as He has prepared me for my new purpose. For the last several years, my purpose has revolved around being a care giver for my mom. That changed with her death. Still, in the preceding months I began to sense God’s leading me to minister to other care givers. Looking back I see this was God preparing me for my changing purpose.
Yes, without the fire of that year I would not be able to minister to care givers. I would not have the strength or the compassion to support them. God tested me with fire to make me tough and durable.
Finally, the potter glazes his piece to bring out its beauty. God has been glazing me through the experiences of my life to bring out the beauty of my life. He has provided good times amongst the bad times to remind me that He is good. He has worked on patience, strength, compassion, wisdom, forgiveness and love with me so that His beauty shines through me.
Just as the potter takes a lump of clay and turns it into a thing of beauty, so will God take you and turn you into a thing of beauty if you are like clay in His hands. Yield yourself to His work and you will become a beautiful vessel.