“But now, O Lord,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NKJV
I’m an author, not a potter, but I’ve watched a potter at work, and I’ve admired the finished creations. I have a faint memory of using a potter’s wheel once in elementary school art many years ago. As a child, I enjoyed squeezing and shaping modeling clay in my hands to make animals, dishes, or whatever my heart desired.
The creation of a novel begins in an author’s mind. I envision the characters and plot of the story, and I have an idea how I want it to end. Crafting the story to make the elements fit together just right is a time-consuming and sometimes messy job. I have to edit and cut, and there are times when I have to start over.
The potter envisions his creation as he looks at the lump of clay.
“When a potter begins to make a pot, he starts with raw, unassisted clay. His creative eyes envision a finished form in this exposed, unadorned, organic material.” (Stephen W. Smith in Soul Shaping, p.89)
Creating pottery is messy, time-consuming work. As the wheel spins, the potter has to place his hands just so to form a balanced design, adding just the right amount of water to keep the clay pliable but not so soft it won’t hold its shape. And he has to have steady and strong hands to control the clay as it spins.
“With gifted, strong, and loving hands, the Potter collaborates with His whirling wheel to shape an image that previously existed only in His mind.” (p.89)
The imagery of the potter molding clay is used to describe our creation and spiritual transformation in the Old and New Testaments. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and beathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Our Creator is the Master Potter, and we are the pliable clay in His hand. As we submit to His creative power, He makes us into vessels useful and valuable to Him.
The process is sometimes painful. It’s not always easy to remain on the potter’s wheel when facing temptations or trials. Eve had everything she needed in the garden of Eden but still let the serpent convince her there was something better than obeying God. John admonishes the believer, “Do not love the world or the things in the world,” in 1 John 2:15. A high-paying job, a beautiful house, an expensive vacation become idols when they replace God and stand in the way of the work of the Master Potter. We often have to come to the end of ourselves before we humble ourselves, see ourselves as clay, and submit to God’s creative hands.
In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger son is attracted by the lure of the fun and excitement of the world, leaves home, wastes his living, and returns home starving and in rags, humbler and wiser, welcomed with open arms by his father.
“In the journey of spiritual transformation, we are like clay in God’s hands. He’s familiar with the elements of our earthly composition, the positives and negatives that infiltrate the soul. He knows how to turn our imperfect clay into an enduring vessel. At the same time, it’s difficult to yield to the Potters work if we don’t understand the components of our clay. As we enter the Potter’s house, we bring along the influences of heritage, abilities, personality, and environment—all the things beloved by the Potter, all the things that could help or hinder His creative hands.” (p.89)
My daughter made this vase for me when she took a pottery course in college. She took the course because she wanted the experience described in God’s Word. I keep the vase in my china cabinet.
In Meadow Song, when Kate Greenway reflects on the death of her fiancé, she uses the image of the potter and clay:
“You know, Jack, Tim isn’t broken pottery. He’s whole in heaven with Jesus. I think those of us left behind, Tim’s family, me, are the broken ones who are being made over into something more useful to God.” (p. 34)
God works to shape us throughout our spiritual journey as we desire a closer walk with Him and a deeper understanding of His ways. Even after 60+ years, He’s still working on me.
(Smith, Stephen W., Soul Shaping. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011)