The lump of clay
Jeremiah 18 tells us that God is a master Potter, and his people are clay. For God’s people to be made into something useful – versus remaining as just a lump of clay – we each have to allow the Potter to take hold of our lives and shape us.
When a potter takes up some clay to turn it into a useful container – like a pot or a vase – he puts that clay through some rough times. It’s kneaded, mashed, subjected to pressure, moulded, reworked, and then fired in the kiln. All these steps are necessary if the quality and longevity of the end product are not to be comprised. Being transformed into something useful therefore involves exacting and at times painful processes.
A potter is able to do something with the clay that the clay itself cannot do. We, like clay, have no ability to make ourselves and our lives truly useful. For this we have to surrender to the hands of our heavenly Potter, which we will only do if we trust his skill and trust that he will use our clay to make something good. Fortunately we can be sure on both these counts: he can make anything he wants and is utterly capable, and he created each of us with a unique purpose that he’s committed to seeing fulfilled.
Clay also needs a potter if it is to be transformed into a work of art. I want my life to be something beautiful on top of being useful. It’s the dreamer in us all; we want to have a story. Only a masterful potter can take a lump of clay, with nothing intrinsically appealing about it, and give it an important function as well as fashion it into an object of unexpected beauty.
The human clay that despises the pressure will slink off the wheel and end up a messy lump that is good for nothing. But those lumps that can stay the course – understanding that the Potter knows exactly what needs to be done to make the vessel the way it should be – they come out of the process as the thing of great purpose and beauty that they were always meant to be.