I’ve been journaling my way through the book of Jeremiah lately. As I sat soaking in chapter 18, the following story-form devotional took shape in my mind. If you should decide to spend some time with it, know that it will require imagination and creativity on your part. Don’t let the details trip you up; simply move through the story seeing yourself as the main character.
Before you get started, take a minute or two to sit quietly at Jesus’ feet. Be sure to have a journal and pencil to jot down anything that the Holy Spirit may stir in you throughout this meditation. Ask Him to whisper His heart and His desires for you as you journey together to...the Art Class.
In a wealthy home some vessels are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive vessels are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a vessel for honorable use...ready for the Master to use for every good work.
2nd Timothy 2:20-21
A friend of yours has been taking classes down at the local Arts Center in town. This morning when you met at a nearby coffee shop she brought along a few of the watercolor canvases that she had just completed to show you.
One painting in particular touched something raw inside of you...as if whispering right off the canvas to your inmost being. It wasn’t the one with a vase of bright purple irises or the stark woodland landscape with sparse autumn-colored leaves whispering to the ground to form yellow and red circular patterns beneath each tree...as beautiful as those were. Oddly, the one that spoke to you was a rather muted canvas of muddied brown and gray tones. It was a painting of a potter’s wheel with a pair of rough, stained hands shaping a lump of clay.
Take a moment now and imagine yourself looking at this painting.
What is it about that painting that draws you in? "Perhaps it’s the colors," you think to yourself. "I’ve been feeling a bit drab and gray lately." Or maybe it's the feeling that has been haunting you of late. A feeling that your life isn't quite what it ought to be. Whatever it is, it stirred something in you, there’s no doubt about it.
You’ve often thought about taking an art class over the years. “Maybe that’s what I need,” you tell yourself. As you continue to look at this painting, the nudging you feel tugs words out of your mouth before you can give thought to them. “You wouldn’t happen to have a brochure with you that I might take a peek at, would you?”
Back home you pull the brochure out of your coat pocket, pour yourself something warm to drink and settle into your favorite chair. Flipping through the pages, you decide the best place to start is at the beginning. But, looking at the course offerings almost overwhelms you. How in the world are you supposed to choose? As you read down the list... Acrylics, Calligraphy, Clay, Drawing, Fiber, Oil, Pastel, Photography, Sculpture, and Watercolor you find yourself praying. “Jesus, I know this probably seems crazy, but, I feel this odd nudging inside of me that I’m supposed to pursue an art class. I can’t explain it, but, it feels like it’s coming from You. If that’s the case, God, please help me sense which way to go.”
There are so many other pursuits that seem more spiritual...so many great causes to give yourself to...would God really nudge you to do something like this?
Slowly going back through the list again, one class stands out among all the rest. One class that immediately brings to mind the painting that started you on this adventure in the first place. Clay. The muddied brown and gray tones of the potter’s wheel, the hands and the clay...that is it, you just know it.
Turning to the section that lists all of the classes offered in Clay, your eyes land on a beginner’s option. With a deep breath, you pick up your phone and register for the next opening.
What feelings, questions or thoughts come over you at this point?
Grabbing an old apron from the closet, you walk out the door the following week in a pair of holey-kneed jeans, a sweatshirt and a pair of grubby tennies, prepared, at least in attire, for whatever this day may hold.
Pulling into the parking lot at the Arts Center, you turn off the car, take a deep breath and whisper a prayer...”Jesus, I still don’t know exactly why I’m here, but, I believe you have something precious in mind. Keep my spirit open to Your still small voice today.”
You make your way into the building, stopping in the front entrance to look at a map of the building. You find that your class is tucked back in the far corner of the building, and you make your way there. You pause now-and-again to peek into classrooms full of students quietly painting at their easels or practicing their Calligraphy strokes.
Imagine yourself walking and stopping in the halls. What goes through your mind?
You arrive at the far end of the building and cross the threshold of the Pottery classroom. You see two potter’s wheels sitting side-by-side. One is occupied. The man at the one wheel looks up and with a gentle smile welcomes you forward. You discover that you are his only student, which is a bit of a relief. Now you’ll feel less inhibited to ask questions if you have them.
He gets up and extends his rough, stained hand to shake yours. “So glad that you are here,” he says, “Let’s get going, shall we?”
After a few instructions about how to work the potter’s wheel, he guides you over to a workbench and shows you a bucket full of clay. He explains, “Before we can begin shaping the clay on the potter’s wheel, there are a couple of things we must do to it first to prepare it. First, we must knead it, to ensure that the moisture content is even throughout the entire lump. Then, we must de-air it using a process called wedging. That simply means throwing the lump of clay down again and again on the workbench until all the air bubbles have been worked out. Only when these two actions are done is the clay ready to be shaped on the wheel.”
Imagine your hands reaching into the bucket of clay. What does it feel like as you knead it? What sound does it make as you throw it against the workbench?
With your clay ready to go, the instructor tells you to go ahead and take a seat at the wheel. After you are both seated, he begins to demonstrate the next step in the process called throwing. Tossing his ball of clay in the center of the wheel, he then wet his hands, and gently begins pressing the clay down flat with the side of his hand. He then wets his hands again, and carefully cups the clay, squeezing it back up into a taller shape. As you watch his hands glide effortlessly over the clay again-and-again...something begins to stir inside you. Those hands...they look so familiar.
Just then he turns to you and says, “Give it a go.” Recovering from your thoughts, you toss your clay on the wheel...and yikes! It’s a lot harder than you think! “It seems clay has a mind of its own,” you tell him. And he quietly chuckles.
Then you watch in awe as he begins the next step, the opening process. Forming a hollow center in the clay with his thumbs, the vessel takes shape on his wheel. You feel as if something deep inside of you is opening and taking shape, as well. You are sure that you hear the words God spoke to Jeremiah whispering in the whirling potter’s wheel saying...”Meet me at the potter’s house and I will speak to you there.”
You close your eyes and pray silently..."Lord, here I am...at the potter’s ‘house’. I can hardly believe it myself, but, I do so long to have you speak your heart to me.”
Opening your eyes, you watch with alarm as the clay vessel that your teacher is working on begins to collapse in on itself. Without hesitation, he calmly brings the wheel to a stop, turns to you and says, “Sometimes the clay doesn’t always do what you hope it will. When that happens, you need to re-form it into a lump again and start over.”
Turning to his wheel once more, he wets his hands and begins to re-mold the clay into the vessel that he intended it to be all along. As he shapes it with tender-loving care, he whispers without looking up, “My precious child, can I not do to you as I have done with this clay?”
Startled you look up at the Potter as he works quietly beside you. You shake your head and squeeze your eyes closed for a second.
What thoughts stir in you? What sensations do you feel?
He speaks your name and continues quietly, “I have such plans for you--plans to prosper you, not to harm you--plans to give you a future and a hope. It is I who began a good work in you. Will you trust me now with its completion, even if the shape your life takes doesn’t look quite the way you had hoped? I long to mold and shape you for the purposes I have planned. Will you allow me the freedom to form you as I intend you to be?"
His words touch that raw place inside you once more.
Are there areas in your life that are you are struggling to let go into the Potter's hands? What might they be?
What is your response?
Without speaking he hands you a little tool. "Your pot isn't quite finished yet. You must trim it. This sharp instrument is used to clean all of the excess clay off your vessel." He turns to his wheel and demonstrates, sheering ribbon after ribbon of clay off the top and until it suits him. With a flat-edged scraper he wets both the instrument and his hands and smoothed the vessel seamless. It was beautiful. Perfectly formed.
As his wheel comes to a stop once more, he looks deep into your eyes and whispers, "My child, know that there will be times when I must also use the trimming knife to clean away the excess in your life. Excess baggage and hurts from years past. Sins like lust or greed. Anything that deforms and marrs the you I am trying to shape. It will be painful sometimes; will you trust me even in this?"
What excess baggage have you been dragging around with you? What sin issues in your life have had a marring effect on your attitudes, perspective, relationships, even your countenance lately? Talk to the Savior about these.
The Potter leans over to grab a thin wire off the bench. Sliding it under his finished piece, he nods for you to do the same to yours. Gently twisting and lifting his piece off the wheel, he places it on clean board to await the firing process. You tenatively follow suit.
Walking back to the kiln with your pot in your hands, he motions for you to step back as he opens the door. He then takes your pot and places it carefully into the kiln alongside of his. Once the door is closed the heat is turned up. You stand there together for a moment as the heat deepens. In the silence, you know intuitively that he has one more lesson for you to learn here at the kiln.
"The kiln is the refining process," he says. "It is in the kiln that the clay, shaped on the wheel, is transformed into a vessel that can be used. If the clay isn't kiln-dried, it will not be of much value. It is only when the pot is put through searing temperatures that it is strengthened. And, I'm afraid that the same holds true in life, as well, dear one. It is often in the hot flame of trials that a person's spiritual life is proved and tested. When the kiln of life grows oppressively hot and you feel abandoned by me...know that I am there keeping close watch. I will not allow you to endure more than you can bear. I am preparing you to be a vessel of noble use."
As you stand there taking all of this in, what thoughts and emotions come over you?
Turning from the kiln you look around the room and realize that you are alone. You swing in a 360° circle--eyes darting into every nook and cranny. The work bench is there. Both potters wheel's stand idle. But, not so the beat of your heart. You can feel it pounding in your chest.
You stand frozen in place. In the stillness of that moment you hear those words repeating in your heart once more, "Meet me at the potter's house and I will speak to you there...meet me at the potter's house and I will speak to you there."
Tears well up in your eyes as your wobbly legs collapse once more at the potter's wheel. You can barely get the words out as you weep your gratitude heavenward. As unimaginable as it seems, God himself met you here today.
Take a moment to sit in God's presence.
You slowly get up, remove your apron and walk over to the door to turn the lights off. Looking back into the room you hear...
You are my handiwork, dear one. I've created you purposefully. You have a work to do...a work that has been in my heart since I knit you together in your mother's womb.