We seemed to have slipped into the rainy season in Haiti, but the day had come for the students to fire their clay creations in the kiln. While we waited for the skies to clear, we sat under a tent and read through Jeremiah 18 once more. In the account the master potter, seeing the impurity in the clay, pushed it all in and started over... but why? That's what we were all waiting to see.
Where I used to live, there was a big, beautiful tree that stretched forth from the ground. It had massive branches that seemed to me a thousand years old, arched out over the grasses, and it's leafy covering was so thick that it always gave the appearance of a shelter, this kind of organic umbrella, where a man could lie down in safe haven, read a book or even ponder his existence in quiet refuge. But then one day as I came upon the tree, one whole side had cracked and fallen down in disgrace. Its most powerful branch had given way and was piled hopelessly on the ground, so out of place, cut off from its purpose. On the outside it was a thing of beauty, an object of might, but on the inside, it was nearly hollow. This icon of strength was actually a weak shell of something that only once was grand.
The same can happen with clay. If the potter works too fast or doesn't wait for the clay to properly dry, even if he fires the clay too much too soon, then the tool of impatience will raise it's ugly head. In the heat of the kiln, any water or air or impurity that was trapped inside becomes explosive as dynamite. The result can be catastrophic to hours of tedious preparation. I picked up one piece, a beautiful, heart shaped jewelry box that one of the boys had made. It was truly a creative work, and very strong. The walls were thick and it had the most sturdy looking form of the entire bunch. I complimented the boy, and even remarked that the teacher had also admired his work, but I told the boy that even as strong and beautiful as it was on the outside, it wouldn't matter when tested against the heat of the flame, if there were anything impure inside. Sin is illustrated this way, and in my own fiery furnace, has regretfully been forged into my own experience.
The rains passed and we began to fire the kiln. 300. 400. 500 Celsius. It took hours of work, and watching my Haitian brother slowly break apart the wood with his machete, it was apparent that time really didn't play into his craft. He'd been here more times than he could count. I asked him how long it would take to reach 1100 Celsuis, and he just smiled. I asked if he had enough old chairs and pallets to cut up to reach the heat he needed, and he just smiled again with a confident yes.
When the time finally came to pull out the clay, we were all amazed. The boy's jewelry box that I'd used as an illustration....had exploded. Like the mighty tree, it was broken and shattered. The lesson came home to rest in his heart. But what taught me the most was what I saw beyond his own failed piece. Other pieces, even the master potter's piece, had been cracked and destroyed. When the boy's box exploded inside the kiln, pieces of flying, superheated clay had ricocheted off of the other pieces, and there was great collateral damage. There'd been a chain reaction, a domino effect of sorts, and works that were actually sound and well made had fallen victim.
'Such is sin.' I hear my heart cry. Big sin, little sin, it doesn't matter what rank and file we give it. God sees it as the same, a black rock thrown into the perfect serenity of a glassy, calm lake. See the ripples.....reaching, stretching, consuming? We think we will suffer our own consequences, and yet everyone around us carries the same burden. Even after that sin has passed, it hits others afresh as it reaches new heartstrings and tugs upon the courage of so many.
Have any of you ever experienced this? I have. Maybe you'll learn from me? Maybe none of us really can learn until The Lord carries us through the intimate, personal trials, and then we can truly speak about that of which we've so masterfully failed?
How sorry that boy must be, yet still I know his experience better than he. His illustration is my reality. He will pick up the broken pieces and begin to glue them together, but I cannot. He will move on to a new work, a new idea, a new creation, but I won't. His heart is already healed. My heart still cries. I hurt. I feel as if I am that exploding piece of work, once part of a masterpiece, now just hot shrapnel. And I understand as did Jeremiah, I must be reformed by my God in Heaven or surely I will die in this bog. It will either be my Lord's remodeling of my heart into something new, or I will live the rest of my years in misery, in this failed state of the soul.
I hear the whisper of something once remembered...'Why are you so downcast, oh my soul? So disturbed? Hope in your God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God....'Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.'