My friend taught a class about the story of clay in our village.
As everyone arrived and took their seat, he placed an old chalkboard before them. The slate was worn and pitted from a thousand words that had come and gone, a thousand ideas that had been carved and whittled from the chalk, then brushed and washed away into the wind.
He thought clearly about what he wanted to say, and then he lifted the white chalk to the black board, and in French, words began to flow. He etched out an idea. That everything must begin...with form.
Before his students could understand clay and the fine details of a master’s stroke, they must grasp this one thought first. There must first be form.
The form distinguishes us, sets us apart, gives us our characteristic. Just as when you draw a face or make an elaborate piece of pottery, you don’t begin with the details. You start with nothing, and you bring into form the idea in your mind. The details will follow.
He then began to read to them from the first chapter of Genesis, of a time when there was nothing, when ‘the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said.....’
I was there at his request to take photos, but God had me there for an entirely different reason...
When I looked at the lump of clay in the Haitian’s hands, I saw myself.
As Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3, “I am the man...”
I breathed in deep and heavy. I see me.
Jeremiah 18 came to the front of my mind, as never before have I been so defined, and yet so without shape as I am today. Never before have I so fully embodied a scripture, as if the Master was thinking of me when He guided the strokes of a pen thousands of years ago, to make the marks which would bring the definition to me, here, today. You can go down to the Potter’s house. You can watch Him working His masterpiece on His wheel, His wet hands pressing and forming the beautiful curves to form a thing so precious in His eyes... and yet...
And yet there is this impurity. This imperfection. This....”well, it’s me Lord. It’s me. I am this flaw. My heart cries. And I will never look at me again and not see it. It is there. Like an out of tune key on such a grand, grand piano, whatever I was made for, it will never go unnoticed, and the purpose of my very creation is in vain. No matter the song you play from me, there will always be this cryptic fault, cracked into the core of everything I have ever been and everything I will ever be. Maybe You should have never made me? Maybe I will never understand.”
But then, that’s not the whole story.
‘How do you sum up a life in a few words? How do you measure the weight of a soul in a matter of moments?
You do not.
But you can pray for rest, you can pray for light, and you can remember.
You can always remember.’
The Master sees the impurity, of course. He feels it! As the clay courses through His fingertips and runs with the water over his fingerprints, His very nature alone tells Him there is a flaw in the material.
But what does the He do? He caves in the beautiful pot, this work of art, oh yes! His hands press in and down until the form cannot bear to hold up under such a weight, and His massive, age-old hands bring the clay back to it’s original self...just a lump.
But then what? Does He cast it out? Does He wash his hands in disgust? Does He give up, just let the clay go dry and turn to dust? Does the music fade?
Never. Do you know why? Because those hands don’t ever quit. Because me practicing what I preach is this, that I will never be free of this, and He will never stop loving me on account of my imperfection. This clay is of the earth. I’ve laid my head in the dust, sat in the silence, clawed the ground for forgiveness.. I’ve been dug up from the dark pit and put into His hands, this dirty old earth in the hands of the Great I AM! And it’s HIS to form and make a thing of beauty.
It’s Him, telling me, “Yes. I see the flaw. But the flaw is not you. The flaw is only a part of you. It is only a piece of this old earth, of what you’ve been made from, that lives in you.”
He takes that lump of clay and He throws it again onto the wheel, He pushes out and forms again something new, pulling up something beautiful...from nothing. It hurts. Oh how it hurts. It has to.
His hands are already dirty. He’s not afraid of a little more dirt. He chooses to work the clay. He is still forming me. I am not finished.
I will spin round and round on this wheel until He decides to pick me up, and then there will be for me the kiln, the fire, the final passage into what He will call...perfect.