Topic: Becoming what God wants
Focus: Willing to be shaped
Jeremiah 18:3-4 (NIV) 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.
In the process of becoming what God wants, there is a lot of work involved. The preparation stage usually takes longer than we think it should…because His efforts are painstaking. To help us understand, God uses the example of the potter and the clay as a symbol of our relationship to Him.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to observe a master potter at work—you will agree the sight is amazing. As you watch, you might think you know what he is doing—but then, changes can occur.
Sometimes, after a lot of work–the clay collapses and the potter has to start over. His experienced hands are patient and he is willing to keep working until his efforts bring about exactly what he is looking for.
As we consider the relationship of the potter to the clay, we need to have a good look at everything he does as he gets ready to work.
A true master potter likes to select his own clay and prepare it personally, ‘from scratch’. He travels to a place where the kind of clay he wants can be dug out of the earth. After he has reached his destination, he searches for the exact spot that has the particular raw material he is looking for to make the type of vessel he wants to make.
When the potter finds the clay, he digs out the amount he will need. Upon pulling the clay from the ground, he is fully aware that there is much more work he will have to do before it will be refined and ready to use.
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The first step of preparation is to spread the newly extracted clay out in the sun and let it dry completely. Then, he breaks the dry clay into a fine powder using a hammer. If he sees any rocks—he picks them out. The rocks can’t be left in the clay and just smashed–they have to be removed.
The next step is sifting. This has to be done though a fine sieve. As the powder falls through, he discards pebbles and any other material that would contaminate the fine, pure clay he wants to create. After sifting, he puts the powder in a container and covers it with water. He stirs it all together with his hands. It is a messy process.
The mixture has to ‘sit’ for a while before the potter pours the soaked clay through another screen and into a clean container, making sure there are no lumps. Typically–he waits through the night until the clay has all settled to the bottom.
In the morning, the potter pours off the clear water that has come to the top, being careful not to stir the clay at this point. He pours or scoops the thick material called ‘slip’ into large plaster bowls, or bowls lined with cloth. He allows just the right amount of moisture to be drawn off and then places the clay into other containers for several days.
The potter is always aware that waiting is worthwhile.
When the potter and the clay are both ready, he slices off the amount of clay he wants. He throws it on a table several times and applies a lot of pressure to it–to remove hidden air pockets. He tests his own efforts by slicing through the clay with a wire. Once he is satisfied with what he sees inside it, he can go to work on making a pot.
It’s easy to see the parallels of the preparation of clay by a potter to the life of a person recovering from depression and dependency. If the clay could talk, it would probably say, “Stop with all the hammering, picking, sifting, and slicing!” At times you feel like you are ‘under water’ and ‘in the dark’.
You get sick of the waiting, but all of this is important in the process of getting us ready to be shaped and molded into something useful and beautiful. If the clay isn’t properly prepared, the shaping process is difficult and delayed. Each step is critical and nothing can be skipped for the results to be right.
Declaration: I will find new strength by realizing that my skilled, Master Potter is interested in making me into something that may be different from what I had in mind. The whole thing is going to take time. I will stop trying to be the potter and work harder at being the clay.
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