My friend Marjorie Bankson is a gifted potter. One day, I saw her put a hunk of dry, brittle clay on her potter’s wheel and turn the wheel on. The motion of the wheel and the moisture from the water hose softened the clay to the point where she could begin to mold it into the desired shape. Marjorie explained that if her right hand exerted more pressure on the clay than her left hand, the clay would rise…and then collapse. However, if her left hand exerted more pressure on the clay than her right hand, she could mold the clay into any shape she wanted.

Marjorie taught me a profound spiritual lesson that day. She explained that the potter’s wheel and the water are symbolic of the daily challenges and changes that the wheel of life brings our way. Life has a way of softening the brittle parts of our lives! She went on to explain that the right hand of the potter symbolizes the outer pressures of life (the expectations of people, changes, transitions and deadlines.) If these external pressures exert more influence in our lives than God within us, our lives will collapse. However, if God within us (symbolized by the left hand) exerts more influence in our lives than these external pressures, then we can be molded into whatever God wants us to become. Have you ever felt like stiff, brittle clay that is stubborn and “not moldable?” If so, then you realize why God has to soften us with the water of challenges on the “wheel of life” so we are can learn to trust God!

When God wanted to teach the prophet Jeremiah an important spiritual lesson, God “nudged him” to go down to the Potter’s House. In that unlikely setting, God showed Jeremiah how the clay can be molded and spoiled in the Potter’s hand. God was warning Jeremiah that the people of Judah must make God their #1 priority. If they would not, then the same thing that happened to Israel, when they fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C., would happen to them. And, it did. In 587 B.C., Judah fell to Babylon and the people were taken away into captivity in a foreign land. The problem was that both Israel and Judah put their trust in the external pressures of military weapons and political alliances, rather than in God.

But, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that even when the clay collapses, the potter doesn’t give up on the clay. Remember that! In fact, that is when the potter can do the redemptive work of taking the clay and molding it into a brand-new vessel.

Reflection Questions

  • What is an example of some “outer pressures” that exert influence in your life?
  • When have you experienced a collapse in your life?
  • Has God ever taken the clay of your life and molded you into a new vessel after such a collapse?