The Potter

Throwing it back to 2008 today, y’all. This post has been edited for clarity and relevance, but it’s still an oldie-but-goodie that deserves to be shared.

So I’ve been mulling over the principle of the Potter’s wheel lately. The story of the clay and the Potter is a familiar one to most Christians, given to Jeremiah during a troubled time in the children of Israel’s walk with God.

On the surface, it’s a simple concept. We understand that hard times are used by God to shape us into better Christians. We deal with the pain or discomfort of our trials because we know that they’re perfecting our relationship with Him. See? Simple. I mean, what’s not to understand?

Well, as it turns out, there might be a lot of questions that pop up for you when you read this passage, especially if you’re like me and have questions about, well, everything.

God gave Jeremiah this allegory in Jeremiah 19:1-10:

“God told me, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.” So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.”

The story’s pretty clear. I mean – God literally spells it out for Jeremiah there at the end. He’s working on us, kneading and shaping and molding us into better Christians, drawing us closer to Him.

Here is where the church usually says AMEN. We get it. He’s got a plan, He’s shaping us, just trust His process.

But inquiring minds want to know more.

What sets apart one vessel from the other? Why do some people go through trials of incomparable suffering, and others’ greatest sufferings amount to a broken nail?

This quote from Lori Wilke sums it up:

“Proven vessels have been oven-baked and refired again and again in the kiln of commitment until they’ve proven their ability to withstand the pressures and temperature of the fire. Once you cry out, ‘God, I want to be like you,’ then you will probably be broken up, made over into a brand-new vessel, and whisked out of the bright light into a deserted and dark back storage room until the appointed time. Remember, diamonds were just pieces of coal formed in a dark, pressurized environment.” – Lori Wilke

See, potters would take their favorite pieces – the really, really good stuff – and set them in the back room. When picky selective buyers asked for their ‘very best’, they’d retrieve their special pottery pieces from the dark, cold storeroom.

But in the meantime, there was a lot of shelf time for those special vessels. As a human vessel, I can absolutely relate to this. How many times have I endured something and then become frustrated when it feels like nothing good has come of it?

I submitted to the shaping and molding, but now nothing’s happening and I’m just stuck. Was I wrong? Am I not really chosen?

Friend, you are absolutely special and cherished. You may just be sitting on a dark, cold shelf, waiting to be brought forward for the right purpose, at the right time.

What about broken vessels? I mean, it’s cool that all these shiny new pieces are being created by the Potter’s hands. But me? I’m more of the patchwork variety. I’ve got some cracks and bumps and chips, so obviously, I’m not destined for a special calling.

Verse 4 tells us that the potter would use the clay from the malformed vessels to recreate something he was proud of – something completely different than what that clay expected to be.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, right? And in our imperfection, we are made beautiful and whole, shaped by the loving hands of a Father. See, pottery is a deeply tactile process. The potter’s hands are completely immersed in the clay. Every turn of the wheel is controlled by his touch. Every stage of the vessel’s completion happens completely in the hands of the creator.

And so it is with us. Every single part of the process – from breaking, molding, shaping, to pounding, waiting, curing, and firing – takes place in the Potter’s hands.

If you’re going through a period of shaping or breaking or waiting on that dark and lonely shelf, just know that your purpose was preordained. Don’t ever doubt that there is a plan for your life, or that you are destined to do great things for Jesus.

There is a plan. You are called. You are chosen. And you are loved.

Happy Monday, friends!

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