In my four years of university education, no class has taught me more valuable lessons than Wheel-throwing Ceramics this semester. Through working with clay, making wobbly coffee mugs and uneven cookie jars, I have learned more about myself and more about God than I ever imagined I could from a senior-year “just for fun” class.
Those closest to me were skeptical, and I’ll admit, I had my doubts as well. Impatient, easily frustrated and clumsy with perfectionist tendencies doesn’t exactly fit the persona of a skilled potter. But I like a challenge and despite the aforementioned qualities, my soul has always been drawn to creative pursuits, and I wanted the chance to see what my hands could do in a new medium.
The very first time I handled the clay, it felt right somehow. I was no prodigy by any means, but I wasn’t terrible, either, and that gave me enough confidence to keep practicing until I got the hang of it. Wheel throwing is time-consuming, and while other students gripe about the commitment, I shamelessly spend hours in the studio refining my skills. My time spent in the studio always serves as a “reset” for my restless spirit. Unlike the chaos and confusion of life around me, the clay is something I can control. Throwing sessions are my chance to press pause on the spinning world outside and my own spinning thoughts until the only thing spinning is the wheel.
I think a lot about God when I throw.
I think enough about Him and the ways this art form so closely mirrors His work in us that I can’t even limit myself to just one blog post to cover this topic. I have decided to create a mini series of posts devoted to the lessons I’ve learned on the wheel, because He has too much on my heart these past few months to contain my musings to a single lesson. Ceramics is a process, so this series will be too.
I’ll say it right now, the clay isn’t pretty. It’s a dark, earthy brown piled high in heaps that look like mud (if we’re putting it nicely). No one would ever imagine that from this gross pile, something beautiful could arise.
We’re a lot the same. On our own, we are like the clay– ugly, messy, a little gross. We’re sin-infested and rebellious. But God looks at us the way the potter does the clay. He sees through the mess and the ugliness to the thing of beauty that is hiding somewhere underneath. Like the clay, our souls are brimming with potential, calling out to be molded into something beautiful.
Viewing the clay from the potter’s perspective has changed my perspective on my own identity as a Christian. I’ve long since wondered how I can be this sinful creature born into rebellion and, at the very same time, be called holy and blameless, chosen and loved [Ephesians 1:4]. But I am beginning to see that it is the same way the clay can be both a messy hunk of mud and a flawless work of art. The Potter has chosen me to be an expression of Himself, the work of His hands and the material through which He will reflect His glory.
The clay, on its own, will never become beautiful. It will spin and spin and spin away on the wheel forever, but it will never be something of worth. The clay cannot mold itself into a vase or spin its way into a bowl. And neither can we. All our striving for greatness and esteem, purpose and success are like spinning endlessly to no avail.
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind. [Ecclesiastes 1:14]
But not all hope is lost. Under the right hands, slabs of mud become masterpieces. God may view us as messy hunks of potential beauty, but His work in us has only just begun…
Stay tuned for the next post in the series!