In a memorable scene, God commands the prophet Jeremiah to go to the workshop of a potter and observe him working at his potting wheel. As Jeremiah watched, the clay vessel the potter was working on was spoiled. But the potter kept working with it, reshaping the clay into the vessel he wanted. The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:1-6).
Like Jeremiah I have watched an accomplished potter at work. She was running a lesson for young children, among them my two sons. Most of the children couldn’t do much with the clay on their own. Thankfully, they were not on their own. The master potter sat patiently with each child in turn, guiding their hands, smoothing over their mistakes, helping them to create cups they could be proud of.
That was maybe fifteen years ago, and my wife and I still proudly display the cups our children made. I doubt they hold water, and they certainly aren’t symmetrical. But we think they are beautiful!
Jeremiah suggests that we are like the cups my children made. We begin as clay in God’s hand. As a result of sin, we are in constant danger of spoiling and there is little we can do about it on our own. But God is at work on us, smoothing away our worst impulses and making of us something that we could never make of ourselves.
Few of us become truly great works of art. For most of us, our lives remain misshapen to some degree. But God never gives up on us. God looks at us a little like I look at the cups my children made all those years ago. Despite our flaws, God loves us with an unshakeable love. Thanks be to God!!
Jeremiah’s image comforts me when I reflect on my own sinfulness. It also reminds me not to judge others when I see what I take to be their flaws. After all, God is at work on them, just as God is at work on me. And if they continue to have a few unsightly lumps in their lives, I certainly do too.
In God’s heavenly kingdom, our master potter may smooth us out to the point that we truly reflect God’s goodness and love. But in the meantime, we all rely on God’s grace. And perhaps we can all show a little more grace to each other!
Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!