I'm currently taking a pottery class and this week our objective was wheel throwing. I couldn't wait. All the newbies circled around our instructor for a demonstration, eager to work on our own wet balls of clay. He went through the entire process - from lump of clay to perfectly even, jaw-dropping perfection in a pot - in what must of been less than 5 minutes.
Then it was our turn.
I confidently sat down at my wheel, aligned my elbows and shoulders as I'd been taught, slapped my rounded lump of clay onto the center of the wheel, and pressed the pedal to start the wheel.
I had formed something that looked like a cross between a pot and an asteroid when all of a sudden, the entire top flew off the wheel and onto the floor while the bottom was left spinning on the wheel!
I immediately looked up, hoping my instructor had missed the action. He was standing right there. He came straight over, sat down, and said very seriously, "I don't think you're respecting the clay."
Say what?! Excuse me, Mr. Clay Activist, I didn't mean to hurt the clay's feelings. (Haha I hope he never reads this... he's really a nice guy.) :) He proceeded to explain more about the origins of clay, about "pot culture" (nope, not drugs - pots... I never knew such a thing existed) and actually printed off an article written in 1978 that he hoped would instill more "respect" for making pots. Odd.
All that to say, after his pep talk, I was more careful and my pots began to improve! Mistakes really are the best educators. I even made a bowl and a bud vase. Maybe once they're fired, glazed, and fired again I'll post pictures.
Maybe it seems silly, but I felt that my two hours alone on the wheel allowed me to be still enough for God to speak. He spoke about me, the clay, and about Himself, the Potter God. Little did I know the lessons He sweetly whispered would be so needed this week.
Beginning last Friday, this past week was the most difficult week I've had for a very long time. On Friday, I babysat in a hotel room for 16 consecutive hours (which I do not recommend) and on top of it, got what I thought was food poisoning. My sweet Shawn picked me up and had Gatorade waiting. He tended me to me literally all night long and through to Valentine's Day morning (I'll spare details, but let's just say there was lots of throwing up). Little did I know that I actually had a virus which I so generously gave to my poor husband. Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie! (I felt terrible for him.)
So on top of that, we've been unsure of finances as Shawn has been in unpaid training and I've been on a teacher's salary. Had our Potter God not been paying attention? It felt as if He had let us fall off the wheel and onto the floor even though we knew in our hearts that was impossible.
I saw myself as that lump of clay: formless, messy, and ugly without the skilled hands of the Potter to make me into something exquisite. Looking around the art center, it was quite amazing to see the before and after. Before: a ball of wet dirt. Then scouring scores of shelves, I saw masterpieces: a vase with intricate lattice, a life-size trout, a coffee mug glazed with vibrant paints. Each of these started out as the same thing - a wet piece of mud - but in the hands of someone who cared deeply and patiently poured his heart into it, it became something. It came alive.
But the part that really hit me while I worked with the clay was the part called "wedging." Before you're ever able to form the clay, you must forcefully knead the air bubbles out, slamming it onto the table then putting your full weight on it over and over. If the clay really did feel anything, this would be a painful process. But it is necessary for the clay to be useful. If the air isn't wedged out, the piece is unprepared for the fire - it literally explodes in the kiln. Seeing any parallels?
Psalm 34 has been near to our hearts in these last few weeks and I've decided to memorize it and claim it for our family this year. Friday was particularly hard for both of us and as we were just feeling hopeless, we held onto this verse:
"Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing."
We felt like we were lacking a lot of things and we also felt we were fearing Him, or trusting Him, as much as we possibly could. So on Friday afternoon, Shawn and I sat down and prayed once again and asked God for a miracle.
Potter God, we don't know what You're forming us into but it hurts.
Potter God, we trust You. We want what You want.
Potter God, we need You.
We said a tearful goodbye as Shawn headed out the door and I packed up to go to Nashville for the weekend. He called me five minutes later.
"You're not going to believe this."
"What? Another parking ticket?" I asked (in all seriousness).
"No, almost $1,000 in our mailbox today."
Our God had come through. Miraculously. This is not to say that He is finished molding us. In fact, it's just the opposite. Our baby marriage has gone through the "wedging" this week because without this part - without learning to trust our Father through the most difficult circumstances - we wouldn't be usable. Praise Him in the trials. Praise Him when He provides sweet relief. Praise Him that He uses His own hands to mold us for His purposes.