At Discover One Thing, my friend Tara shared some beautiful words describing Jeremiah’s visit to the potter:
S~ Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” Jeremiah 18:5-6 (NIV)
O~ “Jeremiah, my old friend!” Adam’s bellowed greeting was warm, and the sound steadied Jeremiah’s inner shaking – until he saw Adam’s eyes slide away from his as they stepped away from a friendly embrace. I am an object of dread to my closest friends.(Psalm 31:11). “What can I do for you today?” The short, sturdy frame of his childhood playmate turned towards his work as he asked the question over his shoulder.
Jeremiah paused, looking around the workshop, taking a deep breath. His nostrils filled with earthy musk of wet clay. The pale rust and gray of Adam’s work covered every surface. Fired and unfired earthenware lined the shelves, piled onto the ground, covered the low tables at the front of the shop. Adam lived, breathed, and moved with earth – his name perfectly suited him.
Jeremiah carefully made his way back towards the far wall where Adam was reaching for a hunk of earth that, from the look of it, had just recently been torn from its home in the ground. He threw the clay onto his worktable and began to slice it into long vertical lines, picking out rocks and roots as he went, tossing them to the ground. Jeremiah watched thoughtfully as Adam focused his attention on his task. The sleeves of his linen tunic stretched and pulled over thickly muscular arms as Adam slapped the layers of cleaned clay together. He hammered the air pockets out, then folded and slapped the layers again onto the worktable, one on top of the other. Is the lesson, here, Lord?
“There’s nearly not enough sleeve in your tunic for your muscle, brother. You’re going to need some new clothes if you keep working at this pace!” Jeremiah spread his arms to the cluttered evidence of Adam’s efforts. Adam offered a polite laugh and glance before gathering up his newly cleaned and layered earthen lump. He slid it into a vat of water, barely disrupting the shimmering clay slick across its surface. The clay would stay there for nearly six months, soaking up moisture, before it was ready to be formed. Is the lesson here, Lord?
“Either that, or I must stop eating Rachel’s plentiful food!” Adam admitted, patting an equally bulging belly. “Now, you aren’t here to discuss my form, are you? What do you need?” The potter wiped his hands on a rough muslin rag and stepped back, ready for business.
“I- I- Well, show me that pot over there, the squat one in the corner,” Jeremiah stammered. What do I say? Like everyone else, he does not want to hear that I am about the Lord’s work. Yet, I have not heard His word. I must stay.
“Looking for a chamber pot, are you?” Jeremiah flushed. The snide tone in Adam’s remark made it clear what he was thinking of where Jeremiah might belong. They ridicule me…Those I love have turned against me. (Job 19:18-19) Lord, help me.
“I’m not sure yet what I need. May I just look around a bit while you work?” Jeremiah purposefully ignored the implication, remaining congenial, acting ignorant when he was indeed all too aware. Why could I not have been called to this simple existence, working with my hands, raising a family? Ah, no, I would be dissatisfied here too, wouldn’t I? Your word is a fire within me, burning hot as the kiln behind this shop.
Adam shrugged and sat at the wheel. People often came by to watch him work – usually children, but who was this man but a foolish child? The only concern, of course, was others seeing him here. How would that make Adam look? Still, he could not turn him away. He was a customer, after all.
Jeremiah watched his old friend closely as Adam reached for a slick knob of clay and carefully placed it in the center of his wheel(in the center of Your will, Lord…). From this point on, Adam’s hands never left the clay. The wheel began to spin as Adam worked the pedal, and his hands pressed against the knob, smoothing it as it began to yield to his touch. A tall cylinder rose, then rolled back as Adam’s thumbs pressed an indentation into the center, opening it out into a vessel. Over and over, he pressed and prodded, shaped and pulled the clay that seemed to breathe and live under his touch. Just when Jeremiah thought he knew what form Adam was after, he would take the shape another direction. Then, suddenly the wheel stopped and the clay collapsed into a lump. Adam muttered a choice word as he slapped the clay back together, adding a bit of water as he reformed it into a shapeless knob once again.
“What happened?” Jeremiah inquired. Adam shrugged.
“The shape was marred. I must begin again.”
“But the clay is still useful?”
“Yes. You have seen what it takes to prepare the clay for this moment. I will not waste it.” Adam’s feet worked the pedal, and the table resumed its spin with the knob carefully placed at its center. Adam cupped water in a hand and poured it over the knob, once again pressing into it with the skillful touch of an artisan.
“A mistake does not render it useless. I’ll begin again, and make a shape most suitable for this clay.” As Jeremiah watched, the clay narrowed, then fluted under Adam’s hands, taking the form not of a common-use bowl or plate, but of a graceful vase. This is my word, Jeremiah, my work, to rebuild, to restore, if only Israel will yield to my touch. Jeremiah rose abruptly and left to attend to his own work, to record the word of the Lord. As he left the workshop, the hem of his robe caught the little clay idol Adam had placed at the entrance, sending it tottering and crashing to the ground.
A/P~ Lord, how grateful I am that You are in the business of rebuilding and restoring. You pulled me from the dirt, picking out the rocks and roots of sin in my life, and placed me in water-deep seasons of preparation. You hold me in your hands and shape me, and just when I think I know what You’re up to, You surprise me again. And, oh Lord, when I resist, and mar Your work, what grace You offer, to begin again. You do not throw me aside! You know how I am formed, that I am dust (Psalm 103:14). When I yield to You, You make something beautiful even out of my brokenness. You put Your Spirit in my weak body, a treasure in an earthen vessel (2 Cor 4:7) so that the surpassing greatness of Your power may be exalted in my life. Thank You for restoring me, for renewing me every morning. Let me be found a useful vessel for You (Romans 9:19-21). I choose to submit to Your will for my life.
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