Lessons from the Potter's Wheel
by Teresa Flora
Have you ever watched a potter form a lump of clay into a useful vessel? It is fascinating to see this process as the potter’s wheel spins around. A master potter makes it seem effortless as he shapes this lump of clay and it responds to his hands, moving just as he would have it move while the wheel spins around. But if you have the opportunity to try making something on a potter’s wheel from a lump of clay, you will find that it is not as effortless as it appears. A master potter has had hours and days and years of practice in forming and shaping the clay, thus making it look effortless to the onlooker. I heard an astonished onlooker say to the potter, “You did that in five minutes!” The potter replied, “Yes, thirty years and five minutes!”
The clay must first be centered on the potter’s wheel. If it is not perfectly centered, it will wobble around as the wheel spins. The vessel will turn lopsided or even useless. So our will must be centered in the Master’s will – or we wobble around, wavering “like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6). We must crucify the old man and be renewed into His image. We must ready and study His Word to know what His will is.
The larger the lump of clay the harder it is to get it perfectly centered on the wheel. A larger lump of clay takes all the potter’s strength and skill to force it to the center of the wheel. Small lumps of clay are easier to center. So are young children easier to mold than older folks. This puts great responsibility on parents, as young children are so impressionable and moldable in their younger years. Any “defects” may be carried with them for the rest of their lives. This should drive parents to their knees, imploring God’s help and mercy in molding and shaping their children.
Clay is very pliable when it has first been shaped on the potter’s wheel. It can be molded and formed into any shape the potter desires. As it dries, it becomes less pliable. This is known as “greenware.” Greenware is pottery that has not yet been fired. At this stage it may still have imperfections which can be sanded off, making the vessel into the image the potter desires. The greenware can also be carved which can hide some imperfections and also bring out the beauty of the vessel.
This sanding and carving can make us into the image of God as we are molded and shaped by the Master Potter’s hand, made from the dust of the earth into His likeness. Through the sanding we can become more patient, long-suffering, slow to anger, plenteous in mercy. May our virtues be made more strong and active so that we may be improved – a more useful vessel for the Master’s service.
A challenge many potters face is attempting to make two vessels that look alike. A master potter can come close, but because the vessels are handmade there will still be slight variations. So each of us is fashioned different, unique and special. We are custom made by God. We each have our special gifts and positions to fill.
After the greenware is thoroughly dry it is then put into the kiln and exposed to the fire, reaching temperatures of eighteen hundred degrees. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” (1 Peter 4:12). Any impurities are burned off, but may leave an impression in the vessel. At times the heat will cause vessels to crack. When we face trials remember that Jesus, the perfect and pure Son of God, came down from heaven and became a man, facing the same trials that are still common today. Let us look to Him for strength and comfort in the midst of our trials.
After the first firing, the vessel is “bisque.” It is a dull, earthy color and is ready for the glaze. This is a protective layer of glass over the pottery. So the church offers protection to our souls as we journey through this life. The glaze finish brings out the true beauty of the vessel. In the same way our beauty is brought out as we blend our lives into one in the body of Christ. We each have our place to fill as we are knit together in the bond of love, peace, and ultimately, perfection.
In order to obtain the protection and beauty from the glaze, it must be put into the kiln and fired again, reaching extreme temperatures of twenty-two hundred degrees. Sometimes vessels that did not crack in the bisque firing will crack in the hotter temperatures of the glaze firing. At times our trials may seem more than we can bear, but we must remember that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear and we must look to him for strength.
In order to obtain the protection and beauty from the glaze, it must be put into the kiln and fired again, reaching extreme temperatures of twenty-two hundred degrees. Sometimes vessels that did not crack in the bisque firing will crack in the hotter temperatures of the glaze firing. At times our trials may seem more than we can bear, but we must remember that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear and we must look to him for strength. “There is no temptation [trial] taken you but as such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13).
James 1:2-4 reminds us, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Trials usually don’t seem to us a reason for joy. Matthew Henry says, “There is joy in afflictions [trials] if we consider the other virtues promoted by our trials. (1) Faith- there must be solid belief in the great truths of Christianity and a resolute cleaving to them in times of trials. (2) Christian patience allows us to become triumphant in and over our trials. As we let it have its perfect work, it will work wonders in a time of trial. When we bear all that God appoints, and as long as he appoints, and when we not only bear troubles, but rejoice in them, then patience has its perfect work. When the work of patience is complete then the Christian is entire, and nothing will be wanting [lacking]. (3) Prayer—especially for wisdom. We should not pray so much for the removal of an affliction [trial] as for wisdom to make right use of it. To be wise in trying times is a special gift of God.”
Our trials are only for a little while, but we shall wear the crown for eternity if we are faithful in and through our trials. “….the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:7).
May we bring Him praise and honour and glory through our trials as we are shaped, sanded, carved, and fired to become a vessel meet for the Master’s use!