I have waited a long time for this opportunity. I enter the class, excited by the venue, the well organized shelves stocked with beautiful ware, the clean floor, the good lighting, the ten wheels set out for this week of teaching from a master potter. What a privilege. I have the time and money to do this, to finally learn if I can make pots on a wheel. I choose one that is a little higher, for my back, and a little slower, to help me build my confidence slowly.
The master potter and his wife are gracious and firm, gentle and wise. They say just enough, but the right thing. They demonstrate and they correct, they encourage and they instruct. They smile and laugh, they are humble and confident, they make tea at just the right moment, in one of the beautiful huge teapots that sells for well over a hundred dollars. It seems like they are perfect.
I take my time, intent on not letting the clay fly off the wheel when I try to centre it. The woman next to me tells me not to worry if it does - that's what happened to her the first time. Somehow, at this season in my life, I take it slowly. Maybe I wouldn't have done that before. But life's hard lessons have chastened and humbled my hands. I welcome the opportunity to take my time, to take all the time I need to make this work.
I am rewarded for my patience. I produce some reasonable pots for my first lesson. I am encouraged by the teachers that there is potential for big pots because my pots have "lots of air" in them. I learn that I have a tendency to make them a little dry. I know there are many lessons to come. But I am excited.
The second night I feel more discouraged. Most of my pots are marred in one way or another in my hands. I have trouble centering, and need lots more guidance and input. "Keep your hands steady and true", they say. "Slow down the wheel when your pot is getting bigger." So much to remember. So many delicate manouvers. The tiniest abrupt lift of my hands throws the pot off centre, and it's a throwaway.
I get to feel a little of how God works in our lives. I realize the incredible pressure against my hand as I try to centre the wobbly lump as the wheel whirls. I have to press steadily at the right moment to bring it into position. My respect for God's work in my life grows hugely. No wonder He has had to take His time. There are so many forces to work together, there is so much at stake to fulfill His plans for me, to make me into the kind of pot He truly wants me to be. I honour the times He has set me aside, allowed the pot that is me to be broken again, so He can reshape me. I rejoice that He has not made me less than He wants me to be, less than He knows I can be.
I remember the song I sang in children's ministry:
"In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time."
Like my reaction to so many spiritual songs, I question how much trust I have in His capacity and faithfulness. I love to sing them, but can I live their truth? Unbelief was the besetting sin in my early adult years. I resisted His hand many times, did things my own way. Some of the choices I made then have affected me for many years. How many times did He see me as a marred pot? No doubt a greater number than I will ever know, this side of Heaven.
For what seems countless years I have been trying to be a willing vessel. And I have often become discouraged. When will the shape of my life really look and feel like the me He truly wants me to be and I truly want to be?
Now I understand just a little more of His craft, His excellence, His intention, His vision, His patience. Unmolded clay in my own hands teaches me so much.
And there is so much more to come. The lessons of glazing, and the lessons of the kiln. Aw, I think I know a little of its heat. I am sure I have no idea. But I know I am in His hands, and on His timetable. If I am willing, He will make it work, and all will be beautiful, in His time.
Jeremiah 18: 1-6
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you a message. " 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. Then the word of the Lord came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."