"But now, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8 CEB)
Back in high school I was taking an art class that allowed us to dabble in all sorts of mediums. We painted with watercolors, sketched in charcoal, collaged, welded and sculpted. One day, we even got a chance to throw on a potter's wheel. The teacher passed out the individual clay cubes, tightly wrapped in plastic. I held mine in both of my eager hands. The moist, pliable clay could become anything I wanted. I sat, hovered in anxious wonder - what would I make? What would this unique substance become?
I turned on the whirring machine, my mind spinning keeping pace with it. I poured water on the wheel, then the lump of earth, more water. I carefully placed my hands around it and pressed in, feeling exhilaration when it seemed to lean into my plans I had for it. "Yes! This is amazing!" I thought. My face probably exposed the secret thoughts of pride and joy I had in that moment of success. I was doing it!
Then, thrump...one careless move later and my whole creation depleted onto the wheel's awaiting crude surface. It was almost as if it was expecting this outcome and it seemed to enjoy it and be rolling in laughter and going rounds at my expense. As it silently taunted me, I got more annoyed and frustrated at the whole situation.
What had looked like a beautiful vessel forming just a wheel-turn ago now looked like a blob of wasted effort in my fingers. It appeared worse for wear, not even close to the wonderful earthenware I was hoping for. I tried a few more times and after many attempts, I ended up with an oddly shaped boat sort of thing that looked like a cross between a crooked bowl and a coffee cup. I never did quite know what to do with it. It sat on a shelf gathering dust with no distinct purpose to fulfill.
Isn't this just life's most clichéd metaphor? We try to make certain, preconceived things happen and then a shifting occurs and something tilts and down we go, wondering what went wrong and what we are to do now - now that we have a real mess on our hands. We shelf our own life sometimes too when it feels too hard and nothing seems to be going as it should.
I know this has been true in my own life often. It is only when I (actually) let go and allow God to mold me for the plans He has had all along for my life when things seem to breathe and flow - easy and light. When my wheel-grip loosens, His gentleness guides. In perfect tandem, the Giver and receiver dance. Nothing is forced into shape, it just all takes the form it is supposed to inhabit somehow. Relaxed, I take in the words I have read a hundred times, once more:
"I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope." (Jer. 29-11 CEB)
When I stop the pushing, the pressing, the controlled-overtaking - that is when He works effortlessly on my behalf and for my highest good and for His good purpose. I have seen Him do this over and over again. The song of His perfect delight lifts me up and life takes sublime shape once again.
As we let go and allow the Potter to take hold, we soften into His hands and just become what we were meant to be. Such freedom, such peace, such adoring care for each of us. The Potter is singing over you as He works - do you hear it? Can you rest and allow, and, yes, even sing along? The Divine duet in harmony is the loveliest of all refrains.
Question: Have you ever felt like you were pushing your own life up a steep hill, forced and weighted? What would it feel like to allow God to pick you up and carry you? Can you imagine releasing your life into The Potter's hands?