Growing up in the southernmost part of India, my friend and I would often pass the potter’s house on our way home from school. Stopping to rest under the tall coconut tree in front of his shop, we would watch intently as he and his wife made their clay pots.
Numerous times I stood there mesmerized as he took a lump of clay and began spinning it on his wheel. Soon that which was formless turned almost magically into a beautiful and usable vessel.
Quite often I would observe that what he was working on became marred. Yet the potter was never as disappointed as we were. He knew his craft well. He simply took the piece off the wheel, kneaded the clay again and started over. This next time it seemed to me the new creation surpassed the one previously attempted.
In Jeremiah 18, the Lord had His prophet watch a potter go through this exact same routine. Then God spoke through His servant, saying, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6). These words were intended as both a warning and a message of hope that in spite of repeatedly messing up, God could still make something beautiful of this nation.
All of us have been on God’s wheel only to be taken off and repeatedly remolded. Who can’t identify with these lines?
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world will be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying,
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out—
God knows what He’s about.
Too often, however, we fight the potter, sometimes sinning grievously in the process. More often than we care to admit, our flaws have been exposed in the protracted process of becoming what God has in mind.