The song, Abba! Father has been on my mind this week.
It references God as the potter and we the people as the clay. As I think back to the great high school days, when I took ceramics, and doing a little research to touch up, I understand more fully what this song really means.
Clay: a clump of earth (Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.)
Potter: the master of the clay
Clay is a sculpting material that responds easily to touch and retains the most minute detail, even a fingerprint. The potter can change each detail as much as He likes until He is satisfied and completes the vessel. (FYI, a vessel is a hollow container.) We, too should be sculpting material, bearing the Father's imprint. We are made in His image and likeness! We are made to be filled with God’s Love; so that His Perfect Love can be poured out into the world! That is holiness.
So, let's look at the process:
In the beginning, the clay is a clump of somewhat unresponsive material. It needs 3 main things to be formed into a work of art.
Water! Water brings life to the clay - just as baptismal waters bring true life to an individual.
Kneading! Kneading eliminates the air pockets and makes the clay more pliable. Back in the day, kneading was also done by stomping over it. During the kneading process, the potter will also notice impurities, pebbles and other debris that need to be removed. These active, sometimes aggressive kneadings can be related to stresses in our life and disappointments. Sometimes we will feel stomped on, beat up, but it purifies us and teaches us to rely on our potter, God. Kneading is always for a greater good! (Look at the cross-Jesus went through the “beat up” process for our sake, not His, so that we can get to heaven! What a lesson in sacrifice.) However, purification is not always passive on our part. We as the clay must show our impurities to God so they can be removed. In relating to our faith, repentance, confessing our sins, so that the Father can remove them from us!
The Wheel! Once the clay is pliable and free from debris, the potter sets the clay on the wheel. The potter confidently presses the clay down and brings it up until it is centered on the outside and inside, at the core. Sometimes it may look center and act center on the outside, but if the core (our heart) is not centered, the clay will not respond to the direction of the potter - and in turn, it will never be made into a vessel of honor. If it is not centered, it will shift to the left or right and eventually fold on itself. It can not stand alone!
I can only imagine how many times I fold on myself and hear God saying to me, “Come on, Maria, work with Me here!” As I help my kiddos get dressed, I catch myself saying the same thing, “Work with me here! It would be so much easier if you would just work with me and not try to go your own way!” If we are centered, all the way to our core, and give up our will, we have no need to fear - God will protect us and shape us into what He desires us to be and to do for Him! He will keep us standing.
Now that we know what it takes to make a work of art; the water, kneading and being centered on the wheel, the potter must focus on the inner space. The inner chamber determines the appearance of the outer. When the pressure of the potter is successful in molding the clay the way He wishes, pressure is relieved. However, if the clay resists, the potter will take the crumpled clump of clay, and try again to mold it into the vessel He has planned.
This is true in our own lives! Challenges present themselves: maybe one is there right now, maybe you have just endured one, or maybe one is about to come - the challenge is the wheel of God, to bring us against the pressure of the Potter's hand. If we don't resist, if our will doesn't spoil the work by disobeying His laws, complaining, fearing, gossiping or feeling anger and bitterness then the pressure is relieved. He is in control, "He is the Potter, we are the clay, the work of His hands." Isaiah 64:8
The potter is in complete control of the clay! He knows what He wants it to be and look like. (Romans 9:21) We, the clay, must yield to the potters hand if we want to become something useful. We must surrender our will to His. The Potter has choices to make while molding a piece of clay. He can finish the piece if He thinks it is responding to his lead. He can reshape the piece if He goes along and feels it would be better as something else. (Jeremiah 18:4) Or, he can throw away an unresponsive piece of clay if He feels it is not going to come out the way He planned. (Isaiah 45:9) I pray that we will all respond!
The potter, once satisfied with his piece, leaves it alone for a while and lets it dry out.
The final stage involves sanding and decorating. The paint and glaze make us beautiful. They differentiate us one vessel from another. Its what makes us who we truly are.
In the end, the piece is put into the kiln to be fired. Another purification. To withstand the heat and be made shiny and beautiful (purgatory). Once complete, it is protected from any possibility of being marred or hurt (Heaven).
When we surrender our will to His, we are molded into His image and likeness, one with Him, for His imprint is upon us. When we are one with Him who created us, we too contain Love. The Father is and knows only love. He fills us, his vessels, with that Love so we can share it with others.
Where are we stuck in this cycle of clay?
Do you have the water?
Are you being kneaded?
Are you being called to surrender a piece of debris out of your life?
Are you resisting the center of the wheel with something?
Have you been set aside to dry out for a while?
Are you being sanded down?
Is He painting you to be made more beautiful?
Where ever you are, know that God continues to pick you up (literally and figuratively) and work with you. He loves you and will never abandon His work!
Today's psalm 31:5-6,14-16 reinforces this message.
"Save me Lord in your kindness."
"Into your hands I commend my spirit...Into your hands is my destiny."