Lessons From the Potter's Wheel

by Leah Richardson 10. April 2019 12:51

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 ESV

The beauty of hand-crafted pottery inspires me. I greatly appreciate something made by willing hands. And I know how the art began--a pile of dense, unattractive clay. In a world of technology, something that was also made in ancient times, that has survived through changes in culture and taste, calls to me.

Two years ago, I signed up for a pottery class at the Ankeny Art Center. I attended each week, eager to learn the next step in the process of making pottery. I knew I’d learn about working with clay, the wheel, technique and artistic approach, but as I sat at the potter’s wheel, the greatest lessons were not about the process. Isaiah 64:8 would form a deeper meaning in my heart.

Before you put clay on the wheel, you must prepare it. Each type of clay has a different consistency and character, making each piece of pottery unique. It also means the way the clay is handled varies. You begin by wedging the clay, a process of mixing and rolling to ensure the product is free of air bubbles. You knead the clay over and over to remove the air. Air bubbles can cause issues when throwing the clay and can cause the clay to break, even explode, when fired in the kiln.

Once the clay has been prepared, you sit at the potter’s wheel to center the clay. It takes constant pressure from both hands, using your entire body to sustain the force. The process can be messy. Arms begin to grow weary, but you cannot stop. About the point you want to quit, you begin to feel the clay change beneath your hands; it becomes pliable… moldable… useable. The metamorphosis from clay to art begins.

Many, many times, I have felt the pressure of my Father’s hands working to mold and change me as His unique creation for His unique purposes. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes I wonder if His hands are growing weary. Scripture encourages me: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28). Clay jars are weak; what an encouragement that our Creator never is.

Sitting at the wheel staring at the formless clay, I’d think: “What can the clay say to the potter?” Can it say, “I know how life in this vessel should look”? No. The clay is weak. It’s powerless. The raw unshaped clay waits, totally reliant on the potter’s hands. The reality of the clay on the wheel in front of me magnifies God’s love for me. I am formed by His hand and saved by His grace, not because of anything I offer but because of His great love for me. What gracious, undeserved love He lavishes on us!

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). When I’m struggling with my human frailty, my weakness and my imperfections, I’m encouraged to know there is incredible purpose in being a jar of clay! Nothing will disqualify me or you from being used for God’s purposes. He assures us of this when we are told that the power belongs to Him. The glory of God is displayed in our human weakness. We are weak and fragile, and yet by grace through faith in Christ Jesus we are chosen, we are loved, we are His, we are forgiven, we have purpose, and we are used to magnify Him!

We are enough because Christ is enough. The world may tell us that we must be mighty to be mightily used, but God says, “… If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). As we serve humbly, relying on the Spirit at work in us, we are used to demonstrate His great power. Oh, what a beautiful thing to be the work of His hands, used to glorify Him, the Creator and Sustainer of all!

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