Do you ever feel like you've been in the very same spot before? That you've already visited this situation or trial? Will the outcome be identical?
Jeremiah went down to the potter's house to watch the potter at his wheel. I can imagine what he saw—the potter bent over his work, sweat glistening on his muscular arms, intensity lining his face, his brow furrowed as he worked to form the clay in his hands into a perfect creation.
I've never sculptured clay—other than tinkering with playdough—but I have created some interesting paper mache objects. One summer, I labored over a four-feet-tall George Washington for an American Revolution theme. Another time, I made a life-sized Seaman, the dog who traveled on Lewis and Clark's journey across America. Each project involved shaping a figure with my hands, working in a gooey mixture, smoothing out the surface over and over, and letting it dry in the sun. Having done this quite a few times, I can relate to the potter. How difficult it would have been for me to look at George and suddenly think—oh man, I really need to start over!
On this particular day in Jeremiah's life, he was sent to the potter to receive a message from the Lord. He was about to learn a lesson he would never forget.
At the potter's house, Jeremiah watched the artist at work. He saw the clay maneuvered between the potter's fingers, watched as a wet mass was shaped into a definable object. Then something happened. A frown puckered the potter's face. Something was wrong. What? Was the piece cracked? A weakness, perhaps?
Suddenly, the potter took the clay in his big hands and squished it firmly between his fingers. Jeremiah must have gasped. The beautiful pot that had looked so perfect was now completely ruined. What had gone wrong? Was the clay too dry? Was there a pebble? A flaw?
Then, before Jeremiah's eyes, the potter began all over again. With the utmost care and concentration, the clay was squished once more beneath his strong fingers. A new shape emerged. Stronger. Better. A vessel for use.
Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand... Jer. 18:6
What did Jeremiah see? Surely, he saw a picture of hope. For him. For Israel. For believers everywhere. A hope that God could change simple clay into a vessel that could be used. Honorable. Perfect.
Sometimes I am that lump of clay. Not quite ready for the kiln. Not quite ready for use. I need to be reshaped. Molded into something different, something better.
As clay in a potter's hands, so we need to be formed in the Master's hands. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's not an easy process. The rough places must be smoothed out. Worked. Softened. And sometimes we find ourselves back on the potter's wheel again. Will the outcome be different this time? Will I be different? Yes, if we allow the potter to work. Breaking. Remolding. Changing us.
How much better to be on the potter's wheel than to be a broken vessel, hard and unusable, sitting on a shelf somewhere.
Oh, to be clay in the potter's hands.