I don’t mind, really. I rather like the feel of wet, warm clay in my hands as the wheel spins. I like the way it forms soggy clumps on the heel of my hand. I like how time slows and nearly stops as my hands draw form from a lump.
When I decided to try my hand at wheel throwing this year, I set forth with two goals in mind: I wanted to be more creative (check) and I wanted some writing fodder about God as the potter (…).
I may be God’s most exasperating child. I’m a little worried I make him sigh… a lot. I don’t mean to, truly. I’m quite sure He was silently shaking his head at me when I, lowering myself before a pottery wheel for the first time, turned on my mental notebook to capture all the tidbits I’d need for writing.
Four weeks later, my hands were coated in slimy clay and my frustration was mounting. I was having an off day, I rationalized. Last week I was centring like a pro. Tonight I could barely hold my right arm steady against the clay or apply enough pressure to bend that clay to my will.
“Sometimes you try too hard,” Nick said, a quiet laugh in his voice. Nick is a great teacher. He’s a phenomenal potter. He also has an annoying way of seeing what I’m doing wrong, chiming in with a chipper ‘I told you so!’ when I realize I’ve ruined another piece.
I mustered what grace I could and grunted.
“Close your eyes.”
I’m not an eye-closer. I’m not a trust-faller. I’m a doer, a getter, a perfectionist. And here, my most endearing qualities were rising in a frustrated crescendo and ruining a would-be bowl.
“Close your eyes.”
I knew why he was asking. Sitting on this stool for six and a half hours had made it abundantly clear that I try too hard. I am not the woman of mystery I imagined I was. Previous lessons had involved closing my eyes and had produced encouraging results, but I still stiffened.
I closed my eyes. Within the briefest of moments I felt myself shift to correct my form. A few seconds later Nick reached over to place gentle but firm pressure on my right hand to correct it further. And just like that, my clay was centred.
“Stop getting in your own way,” Nick said, sitting down beside me again, “just let go a little.”
I shot him a look and a smile, and carried on. I did end up ruining that bowl, but I had fun doing it. I let go a little and let the wheel wreck it at high speed. As I watched that ruined bowl spin and spin, bowing further and further out until the clay buckled in on itself, it occurred to me that maybe God had other plans beyond my idealized intentions.
I get in His way a lot. And I’m no good at letting go. I spend a great deal of energy in my daily life refusing to surrender. My eyes will stay wide open, thank-you-very-much.
I was going to write about Him as the Potter. It was going to be a great series on his faithfulness and abounding love. You were going to want to read that.
Here’s the thing though… I’ve written about that. I have. Many times. I know these truths backwards and forwards. I can recite Scripture both encouraging and beautiful. I can do these things. I have done these things. God knows this.
What I haven’t said is that I struggle deeply to rest in God’s trustworthiness. I can manage obedience quite well (prefer it, actually) but, as my pastor has gently reminded me, trust and obedience aren’t the same thing. “Surrender,” Pastor Bill says, “feels like taking up a cross. There’s no way to attenuate that burden.”
I know that God is trustworthy. I do not, however, believe it in a way that is life-satisfying or life-sustaining. I have, for all of my 37 years, lived life in hindsight… I can look back and see his pattern of faithfulness. I can review the past and breathe a sigh of relief that He didn’t drop me. And yet, I do not move forward with confidence that He won’t drop me at some point in the future.
I am not an eye-closer. I am not a trust-faller. I’m a doer, a getter, a perfectionist. I’m a try-harder, do-it-yourselfer, a nothing-to-see-here-just-carry-on-er.
And it isn’t working. I am spinning round and round, stretching thinner and thinner. The cracks are starting to show and any moment now, I may buckle completely. Hindsight and the truth of Scripture promise that He’s got me, and yet my heart is sorely afraid.
I want to trust. I need to trust. Without it, my faith will be limited.
And so, because it’s the only thing I can think to do, I’m going to take a deep breath, say the only prayer that makes sense… and close my eyes.