A few months ago, I invited my friend to join me for a pottery class at a new local studio for her birthday present. We both love to try new things and were intrigued by the experience of using a potter’s wheel to create something out of clay.
When we arrived at the class, the teacher gave us step-by-step instructions. We each sat down behind a wheel while she passed out a ball of clay to each student. Our first task was to slam the clay down in the center of the wheel to get it to stick. Then we were to wet a small sponge and soak the clay.
Our teacher encouraged us to gently nudge the pedal to get the wheel spinning. With wet hands, we learned to center and cone the clay. Coning helps to mix the clay and work out inconsistencies or air bubbles before shaping it. We used our fingers to lift the clay into the cone shape and then our palms to push it down again.
Once the cone was centered well, the teacher showed us how to smooth and shape the clay into a flat disk. She said to make it look like a mini flan. (She had me at flan. Hello, one of my favorite desserts!)
The process of forming clay on the wheel was longer and harder than it looks.
The trick was to keep adding water to keep the clay supple and moldable. We pressed, pulled, and pinched until that ball of clay eventually became a bowl or vase.
Metaphors for life abound in the pottery studio.
A few times, the teacher came over, stuck her hands in front of me, and started to work with my clay. At first, I wanted to take control of the clay myself. I wanted to learn by doing it myself. But soon I realized the value in surrendering to her expertise. In fact, I learned a lot from watching my teacher and her techniques.
The first surprising lesson was that it requires lots of water to make a clay pot on a wheel. Clay is naturally hard and heavy, but water makes it workable.
Our souls are much the same. We need consistent hydration. We need the living water that only Jesus offers. On our own we are heavy, brittle; we are dust. With Jesus’s living water, we are malleable clay. The very same water that He offered the Samaritan woman at the well has the power to transform us from the inside out (John 4:13-14 NLT). He is our Thirst-Quencher when we are parched, our Teacher when we lack technique, our Shepherd when we need a gentle guide.
In the pottery studio, I also learned that pushing on the pedal to speed up the wheel does not actually make the work go faster. I had to be slow, deliberate, and intentional if I wanted to make a beautiful bowl.
It turns out in pottery-making, as in life, you have to trust the process. It’s rare that someone would sit down at a pottery wheel and make something perfect on the first try. Oftentimes the clay needs to be reworked, reshaped, and reimagined.
This brings to mind the story where God sends the prophet Jeremiah to the potter’s house to show him something important He wants to relay to the people:
Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there. So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”
Jeremiah 18: 2-6 (NLT)
God uses this visual to remind the people that He is the Master-Potter, molding them like clay. He calls them back to repentance and rest in Him.
The prophet Isaiah uses a similar metaphor of clay and Creator:
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)
These verses remind us that the Potter can do whatever He wants with the clay. He can push out our inconsistencies, transform our too-jagged edges, and smooth us to symmetry. It might feel uncomfortable or too-long in the waiting, but we are not to resist His design work. We are to submit to His molding and making, and behold His creative process embodied in us.
After the class, our teacher fired our creations in the kiln — a hotter-than-hot oven — to set them. When it was done, I traced my finger along the smooth edges of my bluish-teal bowl. I held it with a quiet sense of pride because it wasn’t fancy, but it was my creation.
That little bowl sits on my bathroom counter now, holding some of my favorite jewelry pieces. It’s a sweet reminder that God is the Potter, and we are but dust mixed with water in His heart-shaped hands.
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Ruth Mills says
Simply beautiful! What a great truth to start my day! Blessings!
Thank you for reading and taking time to respond! It means so much!
Thank you—this is such a good visual for me. God is our potter and while we may not like to be on the wheel, if we will stay “ hydrated “ and yield to Him the process of shaping us into who and what He wants will be much easier and quicker. God is always reshaping us for our good and His glory!
It’s so true. We have to yield to His creativity and design!
A perfect experience to bring home God’s words.
Yes, I knew I had to write about it! So many nuggets of truth in the hands-on process!
Beautiful! Lord, give me the wisdom to submit to your shaping of my heart, mind, spirit and my life.
Amen! Mold us and make us!
I love the imagery you use here! A great reminder to obey God even when it’s difficult.
Yes, Sandy! I’m a work in progress on this!
Beautiful imagery! God always has our best interest at heart when He asks us to obey. Losing our stubborness is the key to the great things He wants to place into our lives. May we all pray for more wisdom to follow His way.
Thanks and Blessings, Sandy
Yes, I’m always working on surrender and trusting the Master Potter.
S. Allen says
Thank you for sharing your pottery experience. As an aspiring potter (for the last 2 years) your words “Metaphors for life abound in the pottery studio.” ring so much truth. Every time I sit down behind my pottery wheel, I am taught a lesson about life from our Creator. I have been journaling my pottery metaphors or analogy. Also happens that “Trust the process” is my mantra for 2022. Again, thank you for sharing your experience and wise words.
Bless you! Thanks!
Hayley W says
This was great! I have learned over the years to lean into that phrase a little more. Sometimes we may not understand why things happen, but trust the process and know God is always at work in our lives.
I’m so glad this one resonated with you, Hayley!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dornia thank you for this post. It does sum us up beautifully. We are clay God is the potter. Every day God is shaping us into the beautiful pots he wants us to be. So as we can be filled with living water. The living water that Jesus gives. So we will never thirst again. That living water is the word God. We need to keep our body the pots God has made us into. Filled with the living water of his word by reading it every day. So as we don’t go dry and crack. In thoes cracks sin can get in. So to stop it we need to keep drinking the living water from the word of God. To keep our spiritual pots from cracking so as sin can’t get in. As if we keep close to God and read his word and apply it to our lives. We will stay the beautiful pots God has made us to be. Sin will have no way getting to us. But if we don’t we will come dry pots and crack then the sin will get in. We don’t want that. We want to stay the beautiful pots God has made us to be. Well hydrated by the word of God. Then that water of God word pours out of our lives for other to see. If not saved they will want this living water in that we hold in our beautiful pots God has made us into. I say Amen to that. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Yessss! I love how you leaned into this, Dawn! May we continue to return to Him for living water!
Nancy Ruegg says
God’s Word DOES hydrate our souls like nothing else. Thank you for these delightful lessons from your pottery lesson, Dorina!
Nancy, I learned so much there! I’m grateful for the ways he hydrates us when we are parched.
What a wonderful and uplifting article. I love how you paint a picture of why we need God in our lives and how beautifully He works within us.
Thank you for your encouragement, Kelsey! I’m learning to trust the design work of the Potter!
Beth Williams says
I thought of the song “Change My Heart O God”. Chorus: “You are the potter I am the clay. Mold me and make me this is what I pray. Each day & every step of our journey God is molding us into the person He wants us to be. The process can’t be rushed. Go to fast & there will be a glitch. Perfection takes time & patience. Great post.
I was totally singing that same song to myself through this process!