The potter and the clay


The image of God as the Potter and us as the clay, is as valid today as it was in Jeremiah’s tme. It is our faith journey and it becomes more meaningful as we get older.

God chooses the clay. God works the clay. The clay is fashioned into a vessel, then the vessel is filled with holy presence and is sent out to the world.

Henri Nouwen put it another way: we are like bread, blessed, broken and given out ..

Both images speak to the heart and both illustrate the necessity of brokenness.

For me, the Potter image is stronger. It has gained more meaning with age.

When I was young and on fire with desire for God, I was in such a hurry to get there.

I didn’t know where ‘there” was but saw the Potter and Clay process as stages I’d go through once, to arrive.

However, God does not have a linear sense of time. God is time, and there is no arrival in this life. I know now that all of the stages are being worked in us continually.

We feel the pleasure of being chosen, of knowing intimacy with the sacred presence. There comes a spaciousness of heart and a vision that sees God in all creation. Everyone and everything on this planet exists because it is chosen by God.

This sweet awareness is the honeymoon stage of what we traditionally understand as positive response to God’s call.

But then comes the working of the clay. This is not easy, for the Potter’s hands don’t always seem gentle.

Jeremiah knew this.

The clay is broken and kneaded until it is  pliable, free of anything that is superfluous.

We can feel loss.

We were possessive about some of that unnecessary stuff. Why did it have to go?

More than once my prayer has been an upset cry, “Whatever happened to free will?”

When the Potter starts shaping the vessel, however, there comes a knowing of the rightness of the process.

There is a sense that the brokenness has been a small dying that is now experiencing resurrection.

There is a new feeling of optimism and purpose, a willingness to lie still under the hands of the Potter.

We already know that the vessel he creates, he will fill and send out in service.

Lent is a good time to reflect on this ongoing pattern of spiritual growth.

There have been times when I’ve imagined that I’ve had enough life experience to deal with anything that comes my way.

But that’s pride in action.

Brokenness is as real as ever, and God can turn my comfortable world upside down when the clay needs to be worked.

The only consolation is – I’ve learned enough to trust desolation.

I  remind myself of a couple of unfailing truths.

God demonstrated that crucifixion and resurrection go together and through all the stages of shaping, the clay never leaves the hands of the Potter.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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