When I was a little girl, my best friend was Hal, a neighbor boy that lived in a house directly behind mine. Our backyards bordered one another. We played together so frequently that my father placed a piece of insulated padding over the top of the chain-link fence and arranged a piece of railroad tie at the base as a step to make it easier for us to climb over.
In Hal’s yard near our fence-hopping spot was a tree and underneath that tree the earth was barren, with little grass. The soil there, when mixed with water, made excellent mud pies. If Hal was not around, his younger brother Eric and I would often play in the “dirt” making sludgy desserts.
These were the memories that crossed my mind as I attended a pottery class for the first time.
Our instructor whizzed through the directions and demonstration in what seemed like five minutes. So quickly, in fact, that my first question was, “OK, what am I supposed to do?”
When asked what was the most difficult part of the process, my answer was “all of it.”
The first step is “wedging” the clay to remove any air bubbles. Our instructor, when performing this, slapped and pounded her piece of clay quite forcefully.
The next step is centering—getting the clay on the wheel correctly, solidly in the middle, so it does not wobble or slide around. This action requires quite a bit of pressure as well.
This is followed by “opening the dome” where you insert your thumb in the center just beyond the knuckle. After checking the depth, you gently pull the clay towards you until the piece is the size you want it to be. Using both hands, one on the inside and one on the outside, you “raise the walls.” Both of these undertakings require different amounts of steady force.
In the meantime, adding water as needed and maintaining an accurate speed for the spinning pottery wheel.
All sorts of hilariously frustrating results occur when any one of these undertakings is slightly off.
Of my three attempts, two looked like toilet bowls and one looked like a cross between a flower vase and a flower pot. I scratched the commodes and kept the vase-pot.
Afterwards the following verse came to mind.
But now, ADONAI, you are our father; we are the clay, you are our potter; and we are all the work of your hands. Isaiah 64:8
Taken at face value, this verse could imply that God is like a master puppeteer pulling our strings so we can do His bidding.
However, after further meditation on my pottery experience, I think it is more like when I surrender myself to God, She takes all my “sins”—my mistakes, my missing-the-marks—and, in an ongoing process, with varying amounts of pressure, molds me into a breathtakingly beautiful vessel.
The writer of the book of Romans says it this way:
Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose . . . 8:28
The song “Something Beautiful” by Bill Gaither fits nicely too.
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
If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross.
Surrender . . . listen . . . you’re beautiful.