Today's reading: Isaiah 64:1-9
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
I took pottery classes for awhile; I wouldn't say I was particularly good at it, but it was good for me. I learned to get my hands dirty (not my favorite thing), to throw clay firmly onto the wheel's center (more challenging than it sounds), to use water wisely (always a good lesson), and to recognize when I'd gone past the point of no return (ditto). I learned to scrape a sad, soaking mound of clay off the wheel, to shape it into a rainbow--a trick to increase the surface area so it could quickly air-dry just enough but not too much--and to try again.
I never quite got to the level of making the clay do what I wanted it to do; I always felt like I was at its mercy. It would become what it wanted to be, if I just didn't screw it up. I made a lot of soggy rainbows. Then there were many unfortunate, uneven vessels to come out of my efforts, and I eventually managed some quite functional mugs, bowls, and even two acceptable teapots. But as a potter I never felt confidently in charge of my own abilities or of the clay's potential.
Clay surely has potential.
I like to imagine it has hope, too, because I can relate. I doubt any block of clay really wants to be a too-wet-til-it-dries-out rainbow... even there, waiting in that rejected, overworked, lumpy arch, I imagine it hopes that its second chance will be more fruitful than the first.
It's said when Michelangelo carved his sculptures, his intention was to carve away all that was not the form waiting there in the stone; I imagine my clay had "bowl," "lid," "teapot" patiently waiting inside, hoping to be released.
Hoping to be useful and to be used. Hoping simply to be beautiful. Hoping to make its crafter proud.
I'm not sure being a potter made sense to me, but being clay certainly does.
Being a messed-up rainbow does too.
Because even here, from this stiffly bent-over stance, waterlogged and frustrated and resentful and waiting, set aside for awhile until I am ready to be used---even here, I trust that there is a Potter whose hand knows this work. Knows promise and potential despite filth and fading. Knows waiting. Knows that in a sometimes angry, ugly world there are necessary functions to serve and important beauties to bring.
Knows how to release the bowl, the teapot, the saint, the chalice that hopes and hopes inside.