I climbed narrow and steep iron grid steps to a second story potter's shed. Sunlight filtered through patterned wood. The sound of water trickled over broken bits of colored tiles.
Twice in six weeks, I have taken a tile making class on a remote island where the story of history is told. She takes a bit of simple clay in her hands to roll a ball. Feeling the residue of earth between her palms, she makes a log shape coil and bends it into an upside-down u shape and says the word, memory.
This bit of clay, she said, will automatically re-coil into the same shape (almost as a memory) unless we manipulate the substance.
"We need to stop trying to fit God into our mold" is an idea that keeps resonating with me. Imagine a busy doctor's office or a deli where a million things is happening and you need to WAIT and wait and wait until your number is called. I work in such a place as that, where the second I hit the building, I'm going a hundred miles an hour... behind the scenes and in front too. Now, add that to a good many folks I care about that live out of town which causes me to travel a lot. Add that to ministry - you know, where the dependency on Christ leads you to invest in people's stories. Add that to several pod-casts, a conference and some classes and well, I crumble - a bit ... like dry, cracked clay.
I pause. My lens narrows to the sunlight stretching in through slivered windows. The mold stamped as if with a cross, the clay - soft, moldable; broken pieces of colored pottery washed up upon the shore. All of these ingredients draw me into a story, this story. I pause in order to stop the internal noise and the external schedule. I pause in order to be fully present in a fleeting moment passing quickly through my fingers.
I pause. The bible is filled with scripture about the potter's clay. And, as I received careful instructions to make a simple tile, I could not help but reflect on God deconstructing me. Not only is my image of him being re-shaped but everything about me is upside down. I WAIT for the potter to mold.
Prayer - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. NIV Philippians 4:6
To be honest, I was completely exhausted before I got to this potter's shed. Work and ministry had me tired and yet, I needed this weekend with family to be memorable. I had to pray my way through the details and trust the potter's hands for a story worth re-telling.
There are plenty of viable options for your time. There are for mine too and yet, I pray and ask God for just a bit more strength to reach out to others or to find a pool of reserve energy to write. I do these things not because I am a nice person, not because I am earning my way to heaven but in my willingness to be moldable clay in the father's hands, I trust His plans. I invest in the story of other people as a tangible reflection of my faith; it is the only way I know to spread the good news of the gospel.
The potter's hand. The next step is color.
A map with my name and a diagram with color swatches sits beside my indented clay. It is ready for the parts that give it vibrancy. In us, it is the people and experiences that scatter color like streaks of sunsets across ocean shores. I wait. I wait for the tile to be fired. I wait for a series of steps I do not see. I wait for the tile to be finished and mailed in a box to my doorstep.
I wait for the potter's hands.
I am simply ONE person. How could the father use this broken clay?
Do not give up hope.
The first thing you see when you enter this potter's shed, is a large ocean shell filled with broken pieces of colored clay. These fragments were found along the shore of the Pacific ocean this past summer. Literally, at high tide, bits of broken pottery are churned up and scattered along the beach. The potter's hand gathers them up.
Memory - is the title for this post. Memory - clay rolled into a u-shape will eventually return to that position without the work of molding, shaping and breathing. Will we be made new? If we are called to a growing, vibrant faith, then we are called to trust the potter's hands; he will use our experiences to create something valuable in us. How many times in our lives, have we come to believe what isn't true about our worth? about our ability to live small lives? In order for God to re-shape memory into His constant presence and goodness, we have to be willing to bend freely and rest in the warmth of His hands.
This world is vying for survival one failure at a time. God enters your story and mine to create something beautiful. We are both the broken and colored bits of pottery scooped up from the shores as well as the hands to scoop up other broken pieces. Your story intertwined with my story for the sake of a greater story.
My daughter's friend posted a picture on social media of a pastor I remember from years ago whose teaching was scholarly and biblical. I stumbled upon that same pastor who was now hosting a pod-cast. That led me to a conference out of town. That led me to a random table under a tree; I sat alone with a plate of food and my own internal thoughts. That led to my being available to another woman who had gathered two other women at the conference and wondered if they could sit with me for a meal. That led to a conversation about faith. That led to me being transparent. That led to an invitation to join other women on social media. 1500+ women who feel betrayed by the church.
A hidden community where the broken colored pieces of clay are scattered upon the shores; I count myself as one of them and yet Jesus is even more present; the church more vibrant. I scatter words across a computer screen; ones that express my doubt and vulnerability and ones where I encourage other mother's to be the hands and feet of Christ. The potter's hands working in every place I see. Encouraged by other people through social media, I continue to trust His plan.
As I stepped away from this potter's shed for a bit of lunch in town, I opened up social media to see a picture.
It was a simple picture captured of a young person broken, tired and disappointed with life. The picture was taken in secret by a mother; it will never make the news or be flashed across social media ... and yet, I was trusted with the story. The tender, vulnerable, transparency of one person pounded by the struggles of this life. I reached out with a few simple words in a new community.
God's ways are not ours. He doesn't grant wishes, although He does hear our prayers, He invites us to see the broken lives of people; he invites us into a story. When we stop putting God into a mold, we are available to be molded.
Our joy is seeing the joy in others; we rejoice. We share in the sadness too; we cry. We hope; we pray; we worship. It is a community of broken bits that when put together create something new. With the loving hands of a caring artisan, the story unfolds. That is the invitation. That is the community. That is where we find God.
What if ... you could only do ONE thing for God?
One thing, one word - Hope.
Too many people today are robbed of hope. Hope.
You might be the ONLY person the potter can use to reach ONE person nobody else could reach and likewise so next time you gather clay into YOUR hands, pause.
These pictures and stories are my own; the video found on Utube.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.