Thursday, November 13, 2008

From the Hands of a Potter...

This past summer, while I was teaching summer English camps, we would tell a story to the kids that went like this.

"I was a lump of clay. Every day I lay by the side of the road while many people passed by and I longed to be of more worth...I wanted to be big and important! I wanted people to look at me and say, "Oooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!" But I was just a lump of clay. One day a man came by and to my excitement he was looking at clay! He began to pick up different lumps of clay, examining them closely, and turning them over and over in his hand. As I watched him, I cried out, "Pick me!! Oh, please pick me!" I hoped he would take me back and possibly do something great with me! I wanted people to look at me and say, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhhh!! Beautiful!!" But he did not. He picked another lump of clay and left. Day after day the man came back to find clay, and day after day as he passed by I cried, "PLEASE pick me!!" Then one day, as his eyes passed over the lumps of clay lying around me, he suddenly stopped. His eyes rested on me. His hand reached out and then picked me up. It was big and strong and it turned me over slowly. In my heart I cried, "Pick me!! Oh PLEASE pick me!" I thought, "Maybe now is my chance to become something great!! Maybe I will someday be in a very important place, and people will look at me and say, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhhh!! Beautiful!!" Then the man took me and placed me gently in his bucket and carried me home. I was so excited! I thought, "NOW is the time! Finally he will make me into something great!!" But the man simply took me out of the bucket and placed me on a shelf. My hopes were dashed to the ground! Is this all I was made for? Is this what he brought me back for? All I wanted was to be something big and great. I wanted people to look at me and say, "Oooooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!" But how would that ever happen if all I did was sit on a shelf?

I sat there for a very long time. As I sat there I saw other lumps of clay be taken into the man's hands and fashioned into beautiful vases and pots. I dreamed of the day when I would also become something big and important...maybe even a vase that would sit in the King's house! Oh!!! When I thought of that I felt tingly and excited all over! To be something that the King Himself would consider worthy to sit in His house! Then SURELY when people looked at me they would say, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!!" Still I sat on the shelf. Until one day, at long last, the man came over to me, took me into his hands, and began to push and shove me. It hurt!! I didn't like it at all! I cried out! But still he continued to mold me, twist me, turn me, and press me. I thought to myself that I didn't think becoming something beautiful would be so painful. But I remembered my dream of becoming a beautiful vase and sitting one day in the King's house...and I put up with the pain as best I could. Surely after all this suffering I would be made into something worthy of anyone's notice! I thrilled with excitement at the thought of how it would feel for people to look at me and say, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!"

When finally the man stopped pushing and shoving me, I looked down at myself to see how beautiful a vase I had become! I was stricken with shock disappointment to find that I was not beautiful at all! Instead I was a rather simple, rather plain, rather ugly pot. "Oh no!" I cried! "How could this be?! I was supposed to be something amazing, unique, and beautiful! I was supposed to be something that the King would admire and place in His house!" Now all my hopes were gone. How would anyone ever look at me and say, "Ooooohh! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful?!" I was placed on a shelf next to many other rather simple, rather plain, rather ugly pots. Every day people passed in and out. They would walk around, choose a pot they wanted, and then leave. But they never chose me. And every day I thought how drab and boring my life was. I had wanted to be something great! And now here I was, a plain, simple, ugly old pot who no one ever looked at and no one wanted.

Then one day a man came into the shop. He was big, and strong, and he smelled like hard work and sweat. He began to look around at the simple, plain, ugly pots. Inside I cried out, "Please, DON'T pick me!" He was NOT the King! He smelled bad! If this man took me home with him, I would never become something great. I would never sit in the King's house. People would never look at me and say, "Ooooohh! Ahhhhhh!! Beautiful!!" But the man picked me up and to my horror I heard him say the words, "I want this one. Yes, this one will do just fine!" He carried me to a camp where there were many men who smelled just like him and placed me in his tent and went to sleep. I heard some of the men say that they were preparing for a battle! A battle?! Oh no! That meant fighting and danger! This was nothing like my dream! Was it never to come true?! Then suddenly the man picked me up and there was a great shout, and then I was thrown down to the ground and I broke into many pieces. I was trampled upon over and over as men ran back and forth yelling and shouting and fighting. When all was over and things finally quieted down there I lay on the ground...broken into pieces, shattered just as my dreams were shattered. Now I would certainly never sit in the King's house. I would certainly never be anything big or great. People would never ever look at me and say, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!"

Days passed. Months passed. Years passed. Still I lay on the ground. No one looked at me. No one wanted me. I was just a broken pot. Then after 500 years or more, I heard a noise. It was people, and they were coming my way. They seemed to be looking for something. "There should be something around here," I heard one of them say. Then one of them gave a cry and knelt down. He called his friend over and they began talking excitedly. I wondered what could be exciting them so much. Then one of them reached down and carefully, gently, Oh, so gently picked me up. Me! The broken pot! They were talking about me! They were excited about me! "This is it!" they said, joyfully to each other! "This is his pot!" "His pot?" Whose pot? And why were they so excited about finding an old broken pot? They carried me back to a huge place with many, many old things...special things...things that people came from miles away to see. They placed me in a display with a sign that simply said, "Gideon's pot." And to my surprise as people came by to see me they stopped and stared. They gasped in amazement! They said, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhh!! Beautiful!"

I was so confused at first! Why, I wasn't beautiful! I was nothing but an old, broken pot. Then I heard them say it again..."This is Gideon's pot!" And suddenly it clicked. The truth dawned on me. I realized that I was treasured not for what I was, but for who I belonged to. It didn't really matter if I was big or great. I didn't matter if I ever sat in the King's house, or did great things, or received great fame. The important thing was not what I was, but whose I was. The man named Gideon, who took me back to his tent that day was a great military leader who led a small group of men in a battle against an army many times their size and defeated the enemy. That day on the battlefield he held me high and used me to give the signal to his men to begin their surprise attack that resulted in victory. Because I belonged to him, and he had done great things with me, I was famous. Not because I was big or great or beautiful. But because I was his. When I understood this, my heart swelled with pride and suddenly I didn't care if people said, "Ooooohh!! Ahhhhhh!! Beautiful!" or not. I just wanted to sit there forever and rejoice in the glory and delight of being his."

This is a simple story... and it is a children's story... but I have been thinking about it and pondering it ever since camp. But in this story there are two things that stick out to me.

This first thing that sticks out to me is when the clay is being turned into a pot. Like the story says, it was very painful for the clay to be turned into a pot. It hurt alot... it was uncomfortable... and it didn't feel good. But, it was for a purpose. This clay was being formed and made into something that the potter had in mind. The clay had one idea... and wanted it SO bad. But the potter knew what would be better for the clay. Last night, I was reading my Bible. Right now I am working through the book of Jeremiah. In the 18th chapter it talks about a potter. The Lord wanted to show Jeremiah something so this is what He told him to do.

"'Arise, go down to the potter's house, and there will I cause thee to hear my words.' Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel the he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it. The the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Oh house of Israel, cannot I do with you as the potter?' saith the Lord. 'Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in mine hand, O house of Israel.'"
Jeremiah 18:2-6

I don't think that this was any accident that I came across this passage of Scripture. I think that the Lord is in a constant state of moulding is and making us into the vessels that He wants us to be. But like in the story, it is going to be painful... and there will be times when we will not want to go through the pain that we have to go through. But the Potter knows what is right for the clay. And the Potter will never lead you wrong.

The second thing that stood out to me in the story of the pot, is that the pot had an owner. The owner (much like the potter) had a purpose for the pot. And (much like the potter) it was going to require some pain. At first, the pot did not see the "big picture." The pot just wanted everyone to look at it, admire it, and see how beautiful it was. But the pot was not a beautiful pot. The pot was designed for a different purpose. The owner of the pot had a purpose for the pot that would save many people... so he used the pot for that purpose.
So often I feel like the pot... wanting to be used and stared at... and for people to see how beautiful I am. But the Lord has a different idea in mind. The Lord has a purpose for me... and if I just submit myslef to Him.... then He can form me... make me.... and mould me to be what He wants me to be.
But, all of the pain... all of the hard times.... and all of the tears... are all because of one thing. Because I am loved, and I am His!

"As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in mine..."