Like Clay...

Tuesday, February 12 2019


I loved that class in high school! It was a mental break from all the other subjects I had to take. I could sit and dirty my hands and arms up to my elbows – I could forget the world around me, and just concentrate on creating something beautiful and useful. It was my wheel-throwing pottery class – and I loved every moment in that art room!



At the beginning, it seemed so easy: just put the clay on the wheel, give it a few spins, shape the desired vessel – and voila! No problem!


But the initial appearance of things was so very deceiving: in reality, working as a potter is difficult and laborious – elaborating something lovely and functional from a mass of clay on a wheel is actually quite complicated. I had so very much to learn.


For example:


- the clay must not be placed on the wheel just anywhere or in just any way – it has to be placed in the exact centre of the wheel... so that the vessel has a firm and solid base and so that it is centred and balanced


- the clay must not be either too dry or too wet: too dry, and it is impossible to mould – too wet, and it is also impossible to shape into anything – it must have a perfect consistency, and a good potter just by touching the clay knows whether or not it is ready to be worked


- if the clay has an imperfection, be that a tiny stone or grain of sand or even an air bubble, as small as they may be, they will still cause the vessel to crack or even explode when it is heated in the oven


- in forming the vessel, the potter surrounds and covers the clay with his hands and puts pressure on it – a constant and not intermittent pressure, a firm pressure which is neither too weak nor too strong... so that the vessel is shaped exactly as the potter has it visualized in his mind


- the clay is treated with hand pressure, finger pinches, pointy objects and pieces of wire... so that the vessel ends up the desired shape and size, and with the desired spouts and handles


- the potter controls the wheel: she starts and stops it, and controls the exact speed and constancy with which it turns – one would think that faster is better; but actually, and especially at the beginning so that the vessel walls are properly formed, slower is better


- the potter always knows very clearly, even before starting up, what it is that he wants to create with the clay that he has... what he works and shapes with his hands is what he already has visualized in his mind and in his heart


All this, and so much more! 


Around 2600 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah had an appointment in a potter’s house – because God wanted to speak to him there.


Jeremiah 18:1-6 tells it like this:


“The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah.

He said,

“Go down to the potter’s shop,

and I will speak to you there.”

So I did as he told me

and found the potter working at his wheel.

But the jar he was making

did not turn out as he had hoped,

so he crushed it into a lump of clay again

and started over.

Then the Lord gave me this message:

“O Israel,

can I not do to you

as this potter has done to his clay?

As the clay is in the potter’s hand,

so are you in my hand.”


Dear friend: follow along with me in the next several weeks of reflections, where together we will look at some life lessons that God wanted to teach the prophet Jeremiah – life lessons that He no doubt wants to teach us as well – life lessons learned in a potter’s shop. 

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