Clay in the Hands of the Master

Our adult Sunday school is watching Greg Groeschel’s Alter Ego series, which focuses on becoming the people God created us to be instead of the people we are who have been shaped by the world. It certainly is not an easy transformation but one that is vital if we are to find healing and purpose in our lives.  Last week Craig made an illustration using Jeremiah 18 which I want to expand on today.

Jeremiah was one of God’s prophets to Israel and is considered a “Major Prophet” along with Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. In chapter 18 God tells Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house for his next message. Let’s pick up the text there:

“So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

God then tells Jeremiah that He can do the same with Israel, which has been marred by sin and disobedience. But in this image God also is talking about us both individually and as a whole.  When I read it here’s where the imagery brings me.

Obviously I am the clay and the potter is my creator, God almighty. And like the pot above I am marred and the potter has to reshape me into the object He had planned. But here’s what I’ve learned through my life’s experiences. There are lots of ways the potter can reshape the clay!  Let me share just a few images that come to mind.

I’ve seen potters working a project and it’s just not getting there. Sometimes they add more clay to the project and use their hands and fingers to manipulate the clay more aggressively. This image for me reminds me of times when I was not getting there and God added people to my life who worked me over a bit to get me back in line. Whether it was a soft word, a rebuke, a call for discipline, or someone just showing me the errors of my ways God adding “more clay” to the mix helped shape me into His vision for me. The key is being open to God using other people in your life to reshape you and not being defensive when they come to you.

Here’s another: Imagine a potter on the wheel shaping a bowl, but it’s just not looking right. The potter then folds in the sides of the bowl into the bowl itself and starts over. I liken this image to my life not quite being what God wants from me and due to my own actions the walls start to cave in on me – the pressures of the life I have created start to get  to be too much for me and I fold. Isn’t that when we call on God’s help?  Perhaps when this happens it actually is God reshaping you in an attempt to get you to conform to the thing He is trying to create you to be. Should this happen in your life pay attention to what God is trying to do with you. He’s not abandoning you or crushing you – He’s teaching you that your ways will fall in on themselves and His reshaping of you will build you up!

Another way the potter reshapes a piece of clay is to pick up the whole thing, mash it between their hands, and slam it back on the pedestal as a new formless piece that gets worked again from the start. I’ve had God do this to me as well! There could be times in your life where you are so off track that God just rocks your world and makes you start over. There is no way for him to work with the clay in the way you’ve formed it so He just goes back to the drawing board. This is a very painful way to be reshaped and the key to surviving it is understanding what God is trying to do – He has a purpose for you and He is going to shape you into that purpose. The more you fight it the worse it’s going to be for you. Again God doesn’t hate the clay He just wants it to do what He wants it to do.

I actually don’t know anything about pottery so I’m sure there are lots more ways clay is used, but you get the idea. The potter has a vision and knows what He wants to make. But sometimes the clay doesn’t cooperate and then the potter has to rework the clay in ways that will get the clay to do what He wants.  Sometimes it’s simply adding a few new pieces here or there; sometimes the walls have to be folded in and reworked; and sometimes you just have to start over.

I know you see what I’m driving at. God has incredible plans for us – spiritual gifts to give, ministries for us to lead, spiritual fruit for us to enjoy; blessing beyond measure – but our sin life mars the clay and keeps the potter from being able to make what He’s envisioning. But instead of giving up on the clay and just leaving us in a clump on the floor, God patiently keeps working us over, evening us out, smoothing our rough edges, making us useful for His purpose.

When I was in middle school I had to take a class where we worked with clay. I decided to make an ash tray for my mother – it was hideous! You could see my fist marks in the bottom part that was supposed to be flat and even; the sides were uneven in height and ragged on top instead of smooth. I used a blue and yellow color scheme that made all the imperfection really stand out! And compared to all the other kids’ project mine was the absolute worst. And my mother loved it, because it came from me regardless of how it actually looked.

As I think back on that little project a handful of lessons hit me. First I have no talent for that kind of thing. Second I am that ash tray and God loves me anyway. Third when I imagine myself as that ash tray I really do want God to fix it, because I see it as terribly flawed. And lastly the only way God can fix that ash tray is if I let Him and I know that it’s going to be painful because it needs so much work. But in the end I know that ash tray will be beautiful in His hands which is what I want.

So where are you at in your life? Do you see your imperfections – anger, addiction, lust, depression, pride, fear, lack of trust, etc… – and want God to do something about it? All I can say is you need to go to the potter and ask Him to start reshaping you. I guarantee reshaping will be difficult and even painful. But I also guarantee that God has something better for you than what you have right now and when God finishes His work you will be a beautiful and precious creation, useful to God in every way.

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