Written by Amber Lawton
Some of my fondest memories of creative discovery can be found in the latter portion of adolescence. Taking pictures of friends, then watching the film develop in the dark room of photography. Choosing color swatches, and learning how to “open up a room” for my project for interior design class. Even writing for a creative writing class in preparation of open mic night. Although, I didn’t quite look forward to the actual performance aspect. With each class a new process of creating, staying affixed to my own creative vision, while attempting to find satisfaction in completion, not perfection.
The class that posed the greatest challenge, yet holds the fondest memories, was ceramics. Kicking the wheel trying to control the speed while trying to form something out of a mound of nothing was not as seductive as the movie Ghost made you think. The process was messy. There was a bit of science to the art. You have to keep your clay moist enough to be moldable, but not so moist that it becomes sludge. The slightest pull or push could drastically change the shape of what was to be a bowl into a warped plate.
As I remember the intricacies of forming a mug, vase, or bowl, there is one step to the process that is rarely mentioned, but significant. The very first step is ‘wedging’ the clay. Before clay is every ready for the wheel the potter must wedge the clay. Wedging involves rolling the clay while applying the right amount of pressure. Cup, roll, press. Similar to a baker kneading dough, the potter cups the clay, and continues until they have repeated this process between 75-100 times.
When done correctly wedging mixes the clay, removes moisture and air bubbles, and aligns the molecules in the clay to be workable and conducive to making vessels. When done incorrectly wedging can cause air bubbles to be added to the clay instead of being removed. Air bubbles will not affect your creation at this stage of the process. However, they can prove to be detrimental at the final stages. The wrong level of moisture, or air that cannot escape, will cause an explosion in the oven (kiln) while the vessel is in the final stage of cooking. Of course there are those who have their own theories of explosion and wedging, but roll with me here. This is the process I learned, and has significance to what I am about to share.
Just imagine, you’ve taken the time to press and press on clay. You throw the clay, shaping and forming your desired vessel, only to place it in the oven and have it crack or explode! Unlike other art forms, explosion leaves nothing salvageable. What’s worse is the potential loss of other vessels in the oven simply because one exploded.
“Do I ask God to remove the pressure… or teach me how to endure pressure?”
We are halfway through 2016 and I can’t help but reflect on all that has occurred. The months have passed so quickly. I’ve had to face unexpected pressure, deal with emotions, all in the hopes of becoming a more stable, and balanced person. In other words, I need to get over myself, and just plain grow up. Don’t get me wrong; the life I have lived to this point has matured me…to a degree. But I went into 2016 willing to recognize that there are hurts from my past that have deeply wounded me and affected the lenses from which I view life. So why was the pressure unexpected? Because I thought that if I handed my hurt, deep hurt, over to God that miraculously my vision would be clear and I would see better. Well it turns out that maturing is more of process.
My deepest desire is to be a willing vessel yielded unto him. My willingness does not determine when or how I could be used. In being completely yielded I have to hand myself over as a lump of clay recognizing there are imperfections He must take out of me first.
Yielded by definition means to give way to pressure. Being yielded to Him means being teachable, learning from mistakes. Being yielded means submitting myself to Him, and those He has placed in my life that have wisdom in areas I need understanding. Being yielded means being pliable, learning how to “go with the flow”, and trust He is in control. Willingness is absolutely great but limits your ability to be used if you are not completely yielded to His will. After all, water doesn’t flow freely from a vessel with a warped lip.
In Jeremiah 18 God sends Jeremiah to the potter’s house where he watches the potter make a pot. When the pot is not to the potter’s liking he begins again with the same clay in order to make a pot that pleased him. In verses 6-7 God speaks to Jeremiah and says: “O people of Israel, can I not do with you as this potmaker has done?” says the Lord. “Like the clay in the pot-maker’s hand, so are you in My hand, O people of Israel.”
As I read this passage I couldn’t help but think of the preparation the clay went through prior to being on the wheel. I began to revisit memories of unpleasant circumstances that led to the hurt I was dealing with. Most I had dealt with. A few I had not – air bubbles. As the air bubbles began to rise to the surface I had to make a decision.
I chose to learn how to endure. I knew that the pressure being applied could only be from Him. That the more pressure I felt, the more I could see just what he wanted to heal and correct in me. Like the clay I had to take the pressure He was applying in order for my molecules to be in proper alignment. I had to see that I couldn’t become the vessel he wants without persevering under pressure.
There are many times we attribute what looks to be a negative circumstance to the enemy. Still, there are plenty of times where the Lord will use these circumstances to reveal the condition of our heart. James 1:2-4 says we should be glad when our faith is tested, because through the testing of our faith we learn how to persevere. I recently watched a video and the speaker said we may not have been able to control everything in our life, but we must become accountable for how we deal with what’s happened. This hit home for me because much of what I have been spending time on in the last month has been learning how to correctly think. Yes, I still struggle with extreme thinking at times. But if I didn’t stay the course under pressure I would have never discovered the error in thinking patterns or sought help. I am clay.
As a lump of clay I give in to the wedging, understanding the initial process of perfecting is not only for my good, but for others around me. As a lump of clay on the table I trust the potter’s hands to prepare me for the wheel and fire. As a lump of clay on His wheel I yield to the pulling up and tearing down. I mold to the shape He is forming me into. A vessel He is pleased with that will withstand the added pressure in the fire in order to be used.