Turned Clay

Thursday, March 7 2019


It is believed that the potter’s wheel was invented thousands of years ago, between 6000 and 4000 B.C. more or less, and possibly in Mesopotamia, in Egypt or in China. The initial wheels seem to have been made of very rustic stones, lying flat almost on the ground, and spun around by hand.



Others were turned with a large stick.



Later on, the wheels were made out of wood, with holes, and they spun around more easily and quickly.


Then, wheels were made much higher up off the ground, and they were turned by foot.



And finally, we have the modern potter’s wheels…



Really, it’s a hard thing to accept. One truly wishes that it were different.


But the one who is in control of the wheel, the one who makes it spin around, is the potter and only the potter. He is the one who decides when the wheel begins to spin and when it stops, and he is the one who decides the speed at which it turns. When he wants to begin working with the clay, he begins to turn the wheel – he doesn’t ask the clay if it is ready or not. If he wants to stop the wheel for a moment to remove a tiny stone or to burst a small air bubble, he does so – and he doesn’t ask the clay for permission. If he wants to increase or decrease the speed of the wheel’s turning, he either moves his feet or his hands faster or slower depending on the type of wheel he has – but he never consults with the clay to ask whether or not that particular speed is adequate, or whether or not the clay wishes it were different.


The potter manages and controls the wheel – the clay simply submits to what the potter wants and does. It doesn’t ask questions – it doesn’t complain – it doesn’t resist – it doesn’t rebel.



On a spiritual level, the potter’s wheel could represent the circumstances of our lives that God uses to shape us. Sometimes when we, like clay, are on the wheel, we don’t like very much or at all just how our lives are “turning”. Sometimes, we need to “start spinning” when we would prefer to remain still. Other times, we need to “stop” when we would prefer to keep on going. Sometimes we feel that our life is “turning” much too slowly, and we are bored. But other times, we feel our life is “spinning” so fast that we can hardly breathe. Often we fight internally with the life that we have been given to live, wishing that it would start up or stop or turn differently. And many times, because our heavenly Potter does not ask us or consult with us if we are content and pleased or not, we do what clay never does: we resist, we rebel, we fight and we wage war. And when it seems that none of those strategies works for us, we simply jump off the wheel in complete desperation and panic. Isn’t that the way it is?


It is in those moments when it is so important that we remember that God knows what He is doing, that He does everything in our lives out of the eternal love that He has for us, that He is powerful “to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) – and powerful “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)


We need faith and trust and courage to stay on the wheel – to submit to its starts and stops, and to its different speeds – to allow our Potter to shape and to mould us without asking questions, without demanding explanations, without resisting and opposing His work in us.


A few years ago, I had a very difficult year – I never threw myself off the Potter’s wheel, but I certainly felt completely dizzy from the wild and furious spinning that it put me through. And, as I was meditating these days about the Potter and the clay, I realized something: all that time I had the sensation that God as the Potter was sitting at His wheel, I as the clay was placed on the wheel, and He was spinning the wheel along with me on it at high speed – but I felt like He had neither His eyes nor His two hands placed on me – that He had His arms crossed and that He was looking elsewhere with complete indifference, while I as the clay on the wheel was flying every which way, stunned that the Potter did not seem to care at all what was happening to me.


What a huge comfort and profound joy it was when I realized and saw my heavenly Potter as He really is! With His eyes fixed on me with infinite interest and eternal love. With His hands placed firmly on me, not allowing even the tiniest piece of the clay of my life to fly out from under His control. With His feet perfectly controlling the speed of the wheel of my life, sometimes slow and sometimes fast, but always in complete command and mastery.


Slowly, I am learning that the way of a potter with his clay is not the way of understanding, but a way of faith and trust. However many starts and stops the wheel of my life may have, however slow or fast the wheel of my life circumstances turns, I as the clay do not need to and am not asked to understand what is happening – I am called to have faith in a sovereign Potter who knows me, who loves me, and who is shaping me into a vessel as it seems best to Him.


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths."

(Proverbs 3:5-6)


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