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.

Stoplights and Country Drivers

If the Cloud stayed above the Tabernacle two days, a month, or a year, that is how long the people of Israel stayed; but as soon as it moved, they moved. –Numbers 9:22 (TLB)

I’ve been driving for almost 50 years, and I confess I’ve turned into a country driver.

I prefer sharing the road with just a few vehicles, preferably not slow pokes or those prone to road rage or who are clueless about using turn signals and turning on their headlights in certain conditions. I tolerate the occasional horse and buggy in my lane and watch for country critters crossing unexpectedly in front of me at night. When I’m driving the interstate, I set my cruise control to 10 miles under the speed limit so all the other traffic will breeze right by me.

I like having the road to myself, and, living in the country a dozen miles from the nearest town, most of the time I do.

I don’t do city driving. One time coming home from the Pittsburgh airport, I drove more than an hour out of my way, taking the long way around rather than drive through the city.

Back when one of my children was young, I had to take him to regular appointments with a doctor whose office was in Oakland. Those were the days before GPS, but I knew my exit, which wasn’t very far into the metropolis, and the doctor’s office was just a few blocks from there. I knew my way out, too.

One time, however, I got lost. Apparently I made a wrong turn and ended up by the University of Pittsburgh campus. When I recognized the Cathedral of Learning, I knew I was in trouble. My son, who heard the quiver in my voice, said, “Mom, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to! Instead I stopped and asked someone on the street for directions. The way back to my regular route wasn’t far, and the directions were thankfully simple. We made it home without me having a meltdown.

At Bible study last week, we were discussing driving in city traffic. Carla, the hostess, told us about a time when she was stopped at a red light in the city, and her Aunt Alice, noticing her angst, said, “When you get to a red light, it’s time to get your bearings.”

What wisdom! And not only for driving in city traffic but also for navigating life’s roads.

There are times the Good Lord puts a red light in front of us so we can get our bearings. But instead of being thankful, we grumble and whine and complain. We don’t like being slowed down or stopped on the way to where we’re going. And we’re always in such a hurry.

God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When it moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped—no matter how long the stop was.

Although He doesn’t use the cloud-and-fire method these days, God still does direct us—if we’re paying attention and if we’re willing to follow His leading. Sometimes the stop is longer than we want—indeed sometimes we don’t even want to stop.

Are you stopped at a red light today? Thank God and remember: He knows the way and He knows when to move forward and when we need time to get our bearings.

Thank you, Father, for the stoplights of life that help me to get my bearings. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Exodus 13:21–22Numbers 9:15–23