the beauty and pain of pot-making

and for all you naughties out there who only saw the title & not the picture,  i’m talking about pots that potters make out of clay!   yesterday i went to the spiritual direction  3 hour retreat that the refuge hosted at jenny’s house.   my friend debbie swanson, who is a spiritual director, facilitated.   i loved the time and space to just chill, be quiet, listen, receive.  it was good for my weary soul after a rough couple of days (the aches and pains of developing a new community that is so “weird” to so many is sometimes brutal).   she did an exercise that i wanted to share here because it helped me connect with God in an interesting way, from a perspective i rarely think of. 

she gave us all a nice big chunk of playdough and asked us to just mold it, feel it, work it, and try to put ourselves in the place of how the clay is feeling as it’s getting molded.  what is the clay thinking, feeling, experiencing?   

then she read jeremiah 18 out of the message version quietly while we worked the clay.  here’s what it says:

God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.” So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?

then she asked us to reflect on how the clay felt.   me, the clay, here’s what i wrote down:

“ouch”…”it hurts”…”quit squeezing me”….”you’ve got to be kidding”….”when are you going to leave me alone?”….”come on, this isn’t right.”….”this is too hard.”….”stop it, it’s not fair.”….”i don’t see the point.”…..”when is it ever going to get easier?”

then she asked us to re-work the clay, this time noticing what it felt like from the potter’s perspective. what was the potter thinking, feeling, experiencing?  here’s what i wrote:

“i love you”…”i want to form you into something good.”….”i want you to feel me”…”i know what i’m doing”…”it all fits together”…”notice the warmth, notice my presence, notice my strength, my hand on you”….”i feel you…i get all the bumps and lumps and weird stuff”…”it’s beautiful.”…”i get you”….”i like doing this with you.”

something about this really resonated with me.  things get so distorted. sometimes i get so angry. i get tired of feeling like i am getting “worked” and i forget the other side.   that God has not left the building.   in fact, His hands are right in the midst, caring, tending, shaping.  that there’s beauty in the making, the process, the molding. that nothing is for nothing.  that the Potter somehow knows what He’s doing and is shaping me in ways i can’t see.    and  when things change course, it’s not always back to square one, even when it seems like it.  it’s just a new direction. same clay, same potter, new stuff.  no question, the hurt and pain of being molded and stretched, well, sometimes that just sucks. 

but i guess what seemed to touch someplace deep with me is that maybe He likes doing this with me.   He’s not as focused on the fired & glazed finished product as i thought…maybe it’s all about the muck & muddy hands & the water & the spinning off of the wheel, the mistakes, the lumps….the process.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

9 Comments

  • wow, what a great way to experience and interact with a spiritual truth.

    on a personal retreat i went on years ago i was lamenting to God about some painful things that happened in my family of origin. And then I think I heard him say, “I did not place you in this family to frustrate you but to shape you.”

    Granted, a lot of that shaping has meant me getting broken free from stuff. But with God, he takes everything, the good, the bad and the ugly and redeems it to bring us closer to himself and to experiencing his love.

    Great post kathy……

    Reply
  • What a great exercise! “things get so distorted. sometimes i get so angry. i get tired of feeling like i am getting “worked” and i forget the other side. that God has not left the building.” amen to that.
    “maybe He likes doing this with me.” because He sees the progress and can envision where the process is going. Thanks for sharing this. It helps a lot right now. I can see that I will have fun digging through your posts here.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting our FFF blog.

    Reply
  • Wow.

    “maybe it’s all about the muck & muddy hands & the water & the spinning off of the wheel, the mistakes, the lumps….the process”…that’s a fantastic observation. It is very much along the lines of what I’m learning for myself.

    Reply
  • this last season the potter has been working me hard. trying to mold me into something that i’m resisting, because it feels so foreign. it’s scary and so uncomfortable. looking at it from his perspective is something i never really thought of. something to contemplate.

    Reply
  • pam, yeah, redemption is one of my favorite words–and experiences. i really do believe in God’s wild and crazy redemption.

    gary, i am glad that it resonates with you. i do love how through sharing honestly we can all feel a little less alone, a little more hope

    erin, oh boy how i want to keep leaning into this thought (not my natural tendency but i am learning, noticing, embracing the process…

    mike, i am glad you commented! i have missed you here in blogland! yeah, it is scary and uncomfortable but i am glad we are together, staying in instead of running away!

    Reply
  • “there’s beauty in the making, the process, the molding. that nothing is for nothing.”

    yeah, i have to hold on to that. i can’t do “meaningless” nothing. I have to trust that there is meaning and purpose in this process even if unseen.

    Reply
  • There was this couple that used to come to Calvary Chapel every couple years and do this “pot” thing. He threw the pot, and talked, she sang. It was amazing. He’d be on this big potter’s wheel on the stage, and everyone is watching as this beautiful, big piece of pottery is emerging as he tells stories and shapes the clay. As the pot begins to look really wonderful, he gets to a part in the story where he talks about something being awry with the pot — off balance a little — he explains you cannot make it right – you must

    And then he just MUSHES it down!! The audience just GASPS every time. It’s just such an abrupt suprise. You can feel the “WHAT?? You’re just going to START OVER??” all over the room. Powerful.

    then…he does this amazing thing. Before he mushed it, it looked like it was going to be sort of a bowl or a roundish pot. Well, after mushing it, it becomes this HUGE glorious URN that stands as tall as he is; nothing like what was anticipated at the beginning….
    The visual impact of this whole presentation is unforgettable. I saw them do it three times and it never got old, and I never stopped GASPING when he did the mush thing. Its just how I feel every time I’m mushed.

    Reply
  • jenny, i loved what you put on your blog, too, the “okay….”

    susan, beautiful! i have a friend who is a potter who we would love to get to the refuge. thanks for sharing.

    hanan, fun, glad that it gave you a little inspiration for your community!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *