the beauty and pain of pot-making

kathyescobar healing, spiritual formation, the refuge 9 Comments

and for all you naughties out there who only saw the title & not the picture,  i’m talking about pots that potters make out of clay!   yesterday i went to the spiritual direction  3 hour retreat that the refuge hosted at jenny’s house.   my friend debbie swanson, who is a spiritual director, facilitated.   i loved the time and space to just chill, be quiet, listen, receive.  it was good for my weary soul after a rough couple of days (the aches and pains of developing a new community that is so “weird” to so many is sometimes brutal).   she did an exercise that i wanted to share here because it helped me connect with God in an interesting way, from a perspective i rarely think of. 

she gave us all a nice big chunk of playdough and asked us to just mold it, feel it, work it, and try to put ourselves in the place of how the clay is feeling as it’s getting molded.  what is the clay thinking, feeling, experiencing?   

then she read jeremiah 18 out of the message version quietly while we worked the clay.  here’s what it says:

God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.” So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?

then she asked us to reflect on how the clay felt.   me, the clay, here’s what i wrote down:

“ouch”…”it hurts”…”quit squeezing me”….”you’ve got to be kidding”….”when are you going to leave me alone?”….”come on, this isn’t right.”….”this is too hard.”….”stop it, it’s not fair.”….”i don’t see the point.”…..”when is it ever going to get easier?”

then she asked us to re-work the clay, this time noticing what it felt like from the potter’s perspective. what was the potter thinking, feeling, experiencing?  here’s what i wrote:

“i love you”…”i want to form you into something good.”….”i want you to feel me”…”i know what i’m doing”…”it all fits together”…”notice the warmth, notice my presence, notice my strength, my hand on you”….”i feel you…i get all the bumps and lumps and weird stuff”…”it’s beautiful.”…”i get you”….”i like doing this with you.”

something about this really resonated with me.  things get so distorted. sometimes i get so angry. i get tired of feeling like i am getting “worked” and i forget the other side.   that God has not left the building.   in fact, His hands are right in the midst, caring, tending, shaping.  that there’s beauty in the making, the process, the molding. that nothing is for nothing.  that the Potter somehow knows what He’s doing and is shaping me in ways i can’t see.    and  when things change course, it’s not always back to square one, even when it seems like it.  it’s just a new direction. same clay, same potter, new stuff.  no question, the hurt and pain of being molded and stretched, well, sometimes that just sucks. 

but i guess what seemed to touch someplace deep with me is that maybe He likes doing this with me.   He’s not as focused on the fired & glazed finished product as i thought…maybe it’s all about the muck & muddy hands & the water & the spinning off of the wheel, the mistakes, the lumps….the process.