Desiree Weaver-Spidel here! Glad to be here with all of you.
After reading today's entry, I was reminded of and reflected on my own experiences with pottery. A few years ago, I was gifted an introductory pottery class for my birthday. I have always loved pottery, and I was excited for the opportunity to experiment with clay. Having observed others make pottery before, I was quite surprised to discover just how challenging it is to work with clay when I finally sat down at the wheel to try it myself. Clay is unpredictable. Depending on many factors, such as placement on the wheel, water content and weather, clay may or may not respond to the potter's hands and intentions. Under the best conditions, and when in the hands of an experienced artist with a clear vision, clay can be shaped into something beautiful and useful. Sometimes clay is too hard and dry to respond to the pressure of the potter's hands and resists being shaped. Clay that is too wet, however, is also problematic; it can't maintain any shape it is given when it is too supple, collapsing into a gloppy mess in the potter's hands. Perhaps the most important thing I learned in my class, which is forever seared into my memory, is that clay can also be especially temperamental if it is not centered properly on the spinning wheel (and, in my case, flew off the wheel into an unsuspecting classmate nearby).
Thankfully, we are not the potters of our lives. As Isaiah reminded the Israelites and reminds us now in today's passage, we are the raw material. We are mere lumps of ordinary clay, brimming with potential for transformation and great beauty. We are sometimes the temperamental clay, too hard or too soft, and resist the gentle pressure of our Potter God who, with endless patience and attention, longs to lovingly shape us into the beautiful vessels we are created to be. I interpret Isaiah to mean here that we sometimes think we know best, but our knowing is always short-sighted and small in scope. Sometimes we fail to fully appreciate that God not only shapes the raw material of our lives and very selves, but also creates it with care. “I made the earth, and created humankind upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens...” We are God's creations; God is the Uncreated One who knows and loves us beyond our limited comprehension. Remembering who we are – and Whose we are – can lay the foundation for the humility and gratitude necessary for becoming receptive to God's shaping presence in our lives and communities.
While not all shaping is welcome, and there are many perspectives on how God is involved in the formative experiences of our lives, we can acknowledge that we don't get to decide how we will be formed by God or choose the shaping events in our lives – at personal or communal levels. We do, though, have the ability to choose our responses to the pressures around and within us. Just as clay offers counter-pressure and either resists its formation or becomes flexible and changes shape, we can grow from our experiences and yield to the Potter's trustworthy, guiding, loving hands.
During this season of Lent during which we are collectively invited to reflect on what God is doing in our lives, how are you sensing God's shaping in your life (or in the life of the communities to which you belong)? How are you responding to it?