“O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8
If you’ve ever seen a potter in action, plopping the clay onto the potter’s wheel, it’s easy to see that there is a plan. The potter owns the clay, commands the wheel, and the vision belongs to him alone. The potter sees what the lump of clay in his hands can become after he has thrown, fired, glazed and refined it. His intention is to create a work of art.
The same is true with us. God, as the Master Potter, beholds us as lumps of clay, but He has vision. He sees what we will become in time, after we have gone through the firing, glazing, and refining process – even when we cannot.
God creates us with a purpose, with a plan in mind. We are as God intended for us to be, even when we ourselves feel that we are imperfect or weak. God sees beyond that, and as his daughters, we need to trust in God’s plan for our lives and that he is molding us, in his time. The process of making pottery involves several steps. The first step is Centering. A vessel is only as true and strong as its center; our center is the cross. We need to be centered in order to do God’s will, and as Catholics, that center is the cross of Jesus. The cross is a constant reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made and how we too, as Christians, are called to carry our crosses and follow him. Our tiny, daily sacrifices united to Christ’s have infinite strength and possibility to change our circumstances in life, our perspective, and save many souls. But in order to do that, we must remain centered and model our lives after the Savior himself – with love, courage, sacrifice and humility.
The second step is Opening. Once the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, the potter begins to open it, which requires hands-on, individual attention. God spends his time on us, making us unique. God didn’t assemble us in a mass production line. Not everyone is the same, and we all have a different purpose in life and our own way to achieve holiness. Just look at the saints. St. Therese of Lisieux had “the little way.” St. Francis of Assisi renounced his riches and began an order. St. Vincent de Paul served the poor. Our path to holiness may very well be through our marriages and families, our jobs, or any state of life to which God has called us.
Throughout the shaping process, the clay must be kept moist or it will lose its elasticity. In extreme cases, the entire vessel may break apart. God shapes us, even as he uses us to help shape people. Jesus once compared the Holy Spirit to water. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4, verse 14, Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We need to be pliable to the Holy Spirit’s work in us, to the graces that God so lovingly wants to bestow on us. We often interfere with the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, either because we don’t ask for the graces or we are afraid or reluctant. But if we are going to let the Master Potter work on us, we need to make sure that we, the clay, remain moveable, moldable, and allow Him to work.
Then comes the most challenging stage in the process: Firing. Once the vessel has taken the shape the potter intends for it, fire begins to roar in the kiln. The potter uses the kiln to remove impurities from the clay. The fire makes the vessel even more beautiful than before. As we spend time in the fire with our Lord beside us, we mature. The firing process is very difficult for us.
When life gets tough, our first tendency is often to jump out of the kiln, to settle for less than being like Christ in our hearts, minds and character. However, God has promised to be with us in our trials and troubles. He tells us in Isaiah 43: 2-3:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
These promises have power. As we spend time in the fire with our Lord beside us, we mature. We grow stronger in faith and more suitable for the service into which God places us. But to do this, we must first go “through” the fire. We don’t stay there, and we often lose sight of this. Our Master Potter is our Savior – the one who uses even the fire to shape us for his service.