For five weeks now, I have been taking a beginner's pottery class. From the first moment I slapped the clay down onto the wheel, I knew it was something special. I had never really enjoyed art class in high school, and my drawing skills are about on par with a kindergartener. But pottery was different. The feeling of the clay in my hands, smoothing it, molding it into the shape that I wanted, mesmerized me.
I enjoy the methodical approach my instructor used to teach us the basics. First, center the clay on the wheel. Then, press it down, thumbs crossed, and poke the hole. Next is the "claw", as my instructor affectionately calls it. Then smoothing the lip, followed by a pull to make the clay rise. Every step has a technique, and only practice makes perfect.
Molding the clay into the shape I want is harder than it looks. I crushed my share of pots before making a decent one. More often than not, I end up surprising myself with the end result, and a bowl appears where I intended a mug. What I lack is knowledge of how to control the clay. I'm learning how it feels, but I still don't understand how to make it do what I want.
Today as I sat at the wheel, trying hard to keep my arms on my legs, I was reminded of the passage in Jeremiah 18 that speaks of the potter. Jeremiah says, "So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him." (It's amazing to think that potters and wheels existed back then, isn't it??) The Lord replied, "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."
Just as my pots sometimes collapse or become deformed and I must either
reshape the clay or start over, God has the authority to mold us as God
chooses. He has given us the gift of free will, and we don't always
follow the paths God has laid out for us. When we stray from God's
intended path, or make a decision that goes against God's desires for
us, God can either mold us into something new, or destroy us.
So, who is really in control? Us or God? Many of us, myself included, tend to be "control freaks". We don't want anyone else ordering us around or barging in to tell us how to live our lives. We have each day planned out, down to the hour. But here's the freaky thing: we're not really in control! God is. As much as we like to be captain of the ship, we need to hand over the wheel to the one who truly knows us. And let God do as the potter does, and shape us into who we are designed to be.