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“I went Down to the Potter’s House”

September 19, 2012

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.”                                                                                           Jeremiah 18:1-2, KJV

I have gone down to a potter house, too, but not when he was throwing pots. Mike is considered one of America’s greatest potters and some of his pieces command princely sums. Some of the works of his hands, that I saw were wonders. Yet he kept a special shelf where he kept his marred vessels, the ones that didn’t work out. He cherished them, though, at the time I couldn’t see why. But, now, I see that they were important reminders: our errors, our blunders keep us from arrogance and pretension and give integrity to the work of our hands, our hearts, our minds.

But I have seen a potter do his work years ago. Each fall, in Freedom Park, in Charlotte, North Carolina, they have something called Festival in the Park, which runs for about a week, if my memory serves. The lake is surrounded by  displays, music, art, dance and many other things from local organizations. My wife, Alice, were there to lend some moral support to a church called The Lamb’s Chapel, which was putting on a skit there for the purpose of evangelization.

Not thirty feet away from there, a potter set up his equipment and since we had often sung, “Have thy own way, Lord, have thy own way. Though art the potter, I am the clay,” and had often been told that we were clay in the Potter’s hands, I thought it might be instructional to see how a real potter worked.

When I arrived, he was talking to a young couple (we were young back then,too) and as he spoke to them I listened in and learned all sorts of things about the potter and his business. Then, he asked them if they would like to see him work. Of course, they said yes.

He then went over to a tub filled with muddy gray water and pulled out some clay and fashioned it into a ball of around seven inches. He gently ran his hand around the ball and I thought, “isn’t that just like you Lord” and I reveled in the gentleness of His hand.

He continued to speak to them, then, suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, he lifted the ball over his head and he slammed it down hard on the table. There was a WHAM followed  by a BLAT!  We all three jumped.

He explained that he needed to get the air pockets out of the clay or it would fracture in the kiln. He then went about making the clay into a ball again. Gently smoothing it again, for a while, he then slammed it down on the table again. There was another WHAM followed by a softer “blit.” He repeated the process until he heard no noise  of escaping air, then he rolled it into the shape of a cylinder.

Finally, he took a thong made of string and cut away the ends so as to make a flat surface on either end. Now he was ready to put it on the wheel.

I had never really seen a potter at work, except in a short film clip on television. It seemed then that all you needed to do was apply light pressure and the clay would yield to your touch. Not so. A lot of pressure needed to be applied so that He could get it to the form he desired.

Then the vessel would have to be fired. Then glazes would have to be applied and the vessel re-fired, perhaps several times, before the desired result appears.

Some of you may remember that old hymn that goes:

Have Thine own way, Lord, have thine own way,

Thou art the Potter, I am the clay,

Mold me and make me after Thy will

While I am waiting yielded and still.

It all sounds nice, but molding requires pressure, it requires cutting away, it requires removing the void places within, it requires fire over and over again. And the awful truth is that we don’t want that. We don’t even want the potter to make us after His own design. We want to give Him ours and often we will settle for nothing more, nothing less.

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us,” so Paul tells us. Also, that eye has not seen the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. We lack the imagination to become what God has wanted to make us and give us, so we tell ourselves that it is all for the sweet by and by and go on doing it our way. We worship the Great I Was and the Great I Will Be while He asks us to call Him “I Am.”

We don’t want the pressure, we certainly don’t like the what must happen to get the voids out of our lives and we run from the kiln fire. Isn’t it time we all reconsidered?

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