The Potter and Me

Photo in public domain

But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay?—Romans 9:20-21(RSV)

I once saw a pottery-making demonstration. I watched, fascinated, while the potter’s deft fingers formed a pitcher from a lump of ugly brown clay.

“Have you ever encountered stubborn clay?” I asked her afterwards. “You know, when the clay won’t let you do what you want to do with it?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, nodding vigorously. “When the clay is too wet or when it’s too dry.”

When the clay is too wet, she explained, it just flops around. The solution is to place it on a porous surface, such as concrete, and let the excess water drain out. Clay that’s too dry, she went on, is too stiff and cracks. Adding water and letting it permeate the clay should solve the problem.

Either way, the potter has to wait until the clay is ready and the texture is just right before she can begin to fashion it into the vessel she envisions.

“Have you ever had clay so stubborn that, no matter what you did, it still did what it wanted to do?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said, selecting a rectangular, concave dish, greenish gray in color, from the display and holding it out for me to see. Raised designs in the shallow bowl adorned the center.

She had intended to make a vase, but the clay wouldn’t rise up into the walls. So, not wanting to waste the clay, she fashioned the stubborn lump into the dish she now held before me.

I bought it. To remind me of my own stubborn self. To remind me that God has to knead me into the right texture before He can begin to fashion me into the vessel He has planned.

I am clay that is too wet when I feel defeated and discouraged. When I’m tired of fighting to move forward and I just don’t want to take another step. When I feel dwarfed by someone else’s accomplishments. When I think all my effort is for nothing. Or when I feel unappreciated and used and taken for granted and invisible. So I kind of flop down and don’t do anything.

I’m clay that’s too dry when I’m stiff-necked and refuse to obey, even when God’s will is clear. After all, His way may not lead to Blessings Highway, Happiness Lane, or Prosperity Road. So I resist. But the pain, disappointment, and heartbreak will mold me into what He wants me to be. But I don’t want any more pain, disappointment, and heartbreak. I’ve taken all I can stand.

“What disturbs us in this world,” Alexander Maclaren wrote more than one hundred years ago, “is not ‘trouble,’ but our opposition to trouble. The true source of all that frets and irritates, and wears away our lives, is not in external things, but in the resistance of our wills to the will of God expressed in external things.” (Joy and Strength, compiled by Mary Wilder Tileston © 1929)

If I continue in my stubbornness, God will still find a use for me, although it will not be what He originally intended. I don’t want that. I want His number one plan for me – because that’s His best.

So I’ll keep my clay dish in a place where I’ll see it everyday – so it can remind me that, as I am kneaded into the right texture and thrown onto the wheel of life, the hand of the Potter is shaping me into the vessel He has planned.

When I get impatient or discouraged, Lord, remind me that making a vessel is a multi-step process that requires time – and my cooperation. Amen.

Read and meditate on Jeremiah 18:1–6

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

The Measure of a Life

Image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4 NIV

Every spring they amaze me—these plants that come up in our garden on their own. They sprout from seeds left over from last year’s discarded tomatoes, squash or pumpkin, or a missed spud. One spring a nice, straight row of onions pushed through the yet untilled ground. The garden isn’t the only place surprise plants appear. They nudge their way through the hardened soil of my flower pots, too.

These self-sprouting plants are called “volunteers,” and gardeners know they can be hardier and produce better crops than plants intentionally seeded and cultivated.

I’d always thought of volunteers as people who donate their time to a cause they believe in, folks who step to the plate and fill a need and don’t ask for anything in return.

I thought of volunteers one Sunday on the way to church. Every week I’d bemoan the litter alongside the road, and grumble about the thoughtless people who tossed their garbage out the window. I was often tempted to take a day and pick up the trash myself. But I never did. 

Then one Sunday bags filled with litter lined the road, thanks to the volunteers who adopted this section of highway to keep it clean. I felt ashamed. Why don’t I join a group? I chided myself. Or grab a trash bag and a pair of disposable gloves, pick a section of road, and just go do it? 

It reminded me of the time my former pastor happened upon a man cleaning up a local walking trail on his own. When my pastor commended him for his unselfish spirit, the man said, “Thanks, but I sure could use some help!” So my pastor organized a group from our church and set up a couple of work days to maintain the trail. 

Volunteers. I think of the folks who donate their time to hospitals, personal care homes, local historical societies and libraries . . . (I’m sure you can think of many more.) 

I think of the local fire companies and the men and women who volunteer their time and energy to keep them running. They not only drop what they’re doing at any time of the day or night to fight a fire or respond to an accident, but they also must maintain and update equipment and raise funds. I am in awe of the dedication and commitment of these courageous men and women. 

Volunteers spend their time and talents to make a difference in the community, to better the world around them, without expecting anything in return.

“We seem to think our reward is fame or money,” says a quotation on my bulletin board. “But the true reward is the one you feel inside when somebody touches your heart.”

It’s time for me to put aside the excuses and find some place to volunteer. I don’t have to do it all, just pick one tiny corner of the world where my efforts, even an hour a week, can make someone else’s life a little bit better. 

Like Holocaust survivor and author Corrie ten Boom once said, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

Remind me, Lord, when I serve others, I serve You. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 25:34–40.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.