Don't Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty
Nothing we can do impresses God. We cannot work our way into heaven. However, for some reason God chooses to use us in his work here on earth. We are created to do good works, to be servants, to care for widows and orphans, to love the unlovable. Sometimes that gets messy. That’s the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Clay's Not Dirt
At least, not just any kind of dirt. It’s a washed, redeemed, sanctified kind of dirt. God formed man from the dust of the earth, and to dust we will return. But dust is dry and lifeless, so he also breathed into us the breath of life and he will wash us in the life-giving water. The scriptures give us the rich analogy – “We are the clay, you are our potter.” Clay is dirt that has been prepared for service. From dry, dirty, lifeless dust to smooth, clean, responsive clay in the Master Potter’s hands!
Don't Be a Clod
We come into this world totally selfish, with hard hearts, spiritually dead. Our very nature is rebellious and self-serving. We can’t change ourselves, but we can be changed. Bathed in the water of the Word and surrendered to the breaking down of our defenses and pride, our hard stone-like hearts are replaced with soft hearts of flesh. We become alive spiritually, regenerated, impressionable. We take the impression of the fingers of God who begins to form us into his image. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.
Life can become dizzying. Being pushed and pulled in different directions, we sometimes lose our way. Things get out of balance and we are overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed or bitter. Our world seems to be spinning out of control. But when we humble ourselves under the mighty hands of God our Potter, he brings our lives back in control – HIS control. Our busy lives don’t suddenly stop, although a little simplifying might be in order, but he gives us peace. Our focus is changed. He guides us each step of the way, as we learn to rely on his strength, his wisdom.
You Were Made for a Purpose
Centrifugal force does not automatically spin clay into vessels. And gravity certainly doesn’t make the clay rise on it’s own. There is a need, a plan, and skilled execution. Bowls, pitchers, vases, planters, mugs – all have specific functions and certain design considerations. The potter knows what he is making even when the finished pot is not yet recognizable. The farmer knows what he will harvest as he plants the seeds. It is no accident. We can’t always see what we will be, but we know we are being formed according to his plan. Don’t try to be something you are not. Life’s greatest contentment comes with being who God made you to be.
Potters Are Not Sculptors
While certainly there are sculptural elements in the potter’s work, there is a major difference. Sculptors carve, chip, forge, or otherwise shape wood, stone, metal or other material into something it is not. A sculptor may carve a piece of wood to look like an eagle, or a block of stone to resemble a man. They shape from the outside, removing all material that isn’t needed.
Potters, on the other hand, work not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. To do that, the potter must have access to the inside – the potter must actually go into the clay. A form can be shaped from the outside only, but it isn’t a vessel because it’s full of clay. A clay form must be filled with air to be a vessel – to be a container. Filling this form with air seemingly breathes life into this lifeless substance. Likewise, if we do not have the Spirit, the “pneuma,” living in us, we are simply filled with ourselves, unable to serve our ultimate purpose. We can’t be filled until we have been emptied.
Life's Fiery Trials Will Make You Stronger
Smooth seas don’t skilful sailors make. No one likes tests and trials. The clay pot assumes he is completed when he hardens into his final form. But untested, unfired clay is pretty useless – unable to withstand life’s storms or to fulfill his created purpose. The fire is not just helpful; it is essential. Clay perceives the fire as destructive – evil – to be avoided. He thinks the fire will consume him, but the Potter knows how much he can stand, what temperature is needed. The result is a transformation into a brand new material, never to be common clay again. This material is strong, like stone - having stood the test – unaffected by heat, water, time, decay or even acid. And even when a mighty blow smashes it to pieces, those pieces will survive almost indefinitely to teach future generations about their ancestors’ lives.
Not Everyone Should Be a Vase
It seems everyone wants to be a star. We want recognition and admiration. We desire significance in our lives, but we sometimes seek it in all the wrong ways. A vase can be made to display the beauty of God’s creation, but they are often created to showcase their own beauty. In our culture, role models are often movie stars, rock stars, and athletes. Vocations are ranked by the salaries they can command. Community leaders and others in public positions can be seen as more important than those they purport to serve. Pride can cause us to think of ourselves more highly than others around us. Our significance is not found in our outward image. The danger of being in a position where others look up to us is when we start looking down on them. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Trust the Potter
Clay is not born in the potter’s shop. Clay doesn’t know how potters work or what is required to create a vessel. We don’t fully know the potter’s plan for us.
The transformation from clod to clay is amazing in itself, but smooth, well-wedged clay is not the goal – it’s just the beginning. Finding oneself on the potter’s wheel can be confusing when the purpose and the process are not known. The pressures, squeezing, and pulling move us in planned directions that we didn’t plan. There are times spent sitting on the shelf, becoming firm in our new stage of growth. And then there’s the fire. What may seem to be senseless torture is the very force that matures us. The potter knows exactly how much heat the clay can stand and he carefully tends and watches the fire to stop it at just the right time. Everything is according to the plan; nothing is left to chance. Not only can we trust the Potter, we must.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6