I have loved horses my whole life. And God has seen fit to nurture that passion and bless it. Now I am blessed to teach horseback riding as a side job to my full-time gig of “mommy.”
Anyway, I always, find that the most painful part of both learning to ride or riding with a new instructor is the first lesson. It can just be brutal! When I start training with a new instructor I feel like every fault I ever had in the saddle is exposed. I have no doubt my students feel the same way. There seems to be this process of un-creating before anything gets better. But, if we (me and/or my students) persevere, something awesome happens. We get put back together. Even better is that we now have more skills, are stronger and are better equipped than when we started. And so the process has its rewards.
It also always makes me think of this scripture:
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
And isn’t that how it seems sometimes? That as we come to faith in Christ, there is this process of un-creating. It can and is painful to let go of old habits and attitudes as we lean into the molding work that God is doing in our lives.
If we’re talking about the process of throwing pottery, we should start at the beginning. When clay is dug from the earth it must be washed and kneaded and washed some more to remove the impurities (sand, stones, etc…) from the clay that would keep it from holding together. Once the clay is prepared it is thrown literally onto the the pottery wheel. And only after all that, can the inspired process of molding begin. Sometimes, depending on the environment, temperature and humidity, it can take quite a long time for a useful vessel to develop. Then when the vessel if fully formed it must be placed in a kiln (think super hot oven) and “fired.” After the cooling off period (which can take days) then and only then is the vessel ready to be used. What an interesting concept and process to apply to our own spiritual growth.
I firmly believe that when God made us he already knew who we were. He already knew what kind of “lump” if you will, you and I were starting out as. But, he also has a divine inspiration of exactly who we will be formed to be. However, it is a process and some parts of our preparation and formation will take longer than others, and that is OK. Unlike, if you or I sat at the pottery wheel, God is the Master Potter. He is skilled in the business of creating beautiful, and useful vessels.
And here’s something important to remember. He needs vessels of all kinds. Not just pretty vases to be used on special occasions. (Yes, those are needed too.) He also needs: plates, bowls, cups, baking dishes… you get the idea.
Romans 9:21 puts it this way:
Isn’t the potter free to make different kinds of pots out of the same lump of clay? Some are for special purposes. Others are for ordinary use. [NIRV]
And I don’t wonder about the value of those vessels that are considered “ordinary.” Aren’t those the ones we use the most in our own homes?
I’ll admit it’s not always clear to me what God’s plan is. But, every day I’m learning to trust the process. And God is so good to just meet us where we are. My job is to be willing to be molded into the vessel he planned me to be.
Finally, I want to leave you with this little song that we sang in Sunday School when I was a child. To this day, I will hum this tune. It is always especially encouraging on those days when I feel more like a ‘lump’ than a useful vessel.
He’s Still Working on Me (listen to it on YouTube here.)
He’s still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me.
1. There really ought to be a sign upon the heart,
Don’t judge her yet, there’s an unfinished part.
But I’ll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands.
2. In the mirror of His Word reflections that I see
Make me wonder why He never gave up on me.
He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He’s the Potter, I’m the clay.