I remember sitting in my seat, feeling quite inadequate. My fingers were dark gray, with watery clay stuck underneath my fingernails. I sighed, mushing what lay before me into a new pile of abnormality.
I looked up and studied my professor; he was always at the wheel ahead of me — always looking determined and yet at peace. As though there weren’t anything in the world to disturb him, and if there were, it probably wouldn’t have bothered him.
Every day when I’d walk into ceramics class, there was something I couldn’t exactly pinpoint about my professor. He was older, and had spots on his wrinkled skin. I figured he’d burned himself several times since being a potter.
I drew close to his station one day and asked what he was making. He muttered a little something here and there along the lines of décor pieces. From what I saw though, it looked like several beautiful crosses. Of course, they hadn’t been put into the kiln yet, so they were still dark gray. I managed to say they were lovely before I walked away to my messy attempt at a bowl.
Several days later, I asked him how to make bowls without dents. He told me that it takes time at the wheel, but that he’d be willing to teach me. And me, being me, just said thank you and never really took his offer.
I wish I had. The following semester I eagerly signed up for Ceramics II, elated to be taught by him again. I walked up the stairs — and I felt a gentle stir in my being. It in fact, made me walk even slower up the stairs. I remember my brows slightly furrowing before I opened the door to our ceramics station.
I walked to my seat, eyeing the new lady wearing a dirtied apron. “Where’s our professor at?” I quietly asked the girl beside me. She looked at me, with wondering eyes. “He passed away last week.”
I left to go outside onto the porch for air. I wanted to quit in that moment. But in that instant, God walked onto the porch towards me.
Everything in its time, my daughter. Everything its season. He is with me now. Go back inside, and continue to grow and learn.
I walked back inside, sat down, and listened to our new professor; she was young and tattooed, but just as helpful. I looked down at my utensils, fingering the wet clay; I looked to my right at the board that had our schedule typically listed on, and in the very top right-hand corner, I noticed his handwriting — and in all caps our former professor had written, Get An Afterlife.
I smiled, knowing where he was. I stayed in the class, and continued to make abnormal bowls and cups. After a couple of weeks, I walked around the ceramics house to the back shed where the kilns were. No one seemed to be around, so I walked in, looking at all of the fired clay.
As I made my way towards the back shelves, I saw them. All of the beautifully decorated crosses he had made. They were white, and just needed to be glazed. As I touched them, I remembered their former selves — dark, wet and gray. Easily susceptible to damage if not laid out to dry.
And then it struck me — that is how we are — dark and gray and easily changed until we are as God sees us, where He then rests us aside to dry before we are refined in fire. Then we are strong and pure, durable and ready to be painted by His hand.
It’s not only imperative that we don’t give up what we know we shouldn’t, but it is life altering. The feelings of inadequacy are infrequent and become smaller the more we continue to grow and learn in Christ. We are more than just the clay in this story; we are all turned into much more when this life gives way.
God is — like my professor had — gently smoothing away our rough edges at the wheel. So as long as we are a work in progress, we are God’s workmanship.
“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” —Isaiah 64:8