Wheel full of Clay

This summer, I decided to take pottery classes on a whim. A very expensive whim. I got a wide array of responses and reactions ranging from “OMG! Karen that’s soooo neat!” to “OMG! Karen you need a boyfriend” (that was my boss…who promptly shut up after her patient squealed “OMG! Thats soo neat!”).

On my first day at pottery, my quirky teacher Dennise sat me at the wheel. I was so excited! She did a little demo where she effortless threw a slab of clay on the wheel, had it spinning like it was being run by a pack of hamsters on crack and then produced what looked like a fine toothbrush mug. I gaped.

Then it was my turn. I started my wheel on full speed and devoted my life for the next hour to trying to stop the clay from flying around hitting walls and people. There was clay everywhere! On my hands, my face, in my mouth, in my nose, on my legs. I sheepishly looked at Dennise hoping to God I would somewhat get the hang of this soon. I had to somehow justify selling off my good kidney at Chinatown to pay for these classes. After making several pieces of unrecognisable crap on the wheel, I started to get frustrated and disappointed.

Until finally, Dennise stepped in and helped me out. She patiently explained to me that while pottery was fun and ultimately very rewarding, it was not going to be as easy and romantic as Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore made it look on “Ghost”. Well I guess it could be once you learnt how to stop it from flying into your mouth. After all, nothing says romantic like a mouth full of dirt.

I made some okay little bowls but nothing sexy to write home about. They were ugly, deformed and relatively worthless, but I delighted in every single piece because I put my whole heart into it. I knew I would recognise them as mine anywhere.

Now, why am I boring you with all this? Well because what struck me after taking these classes were two things: 1) Pottery is the most fun thing you can do on a Sunday afternoon…apart clay flying off the wheel onto Dennise’s walls. It’s all mud in the sun until it’s flying in your nose. 2) I finally really understood the magnitude of the biblical metaphor of the Divine Potter. For those of you who are not in the mood for God talk on a Sunday night, I will break this down for you in the most painless way possible.

First of all, in terms of pottery, if you want to make anything remotely decent you need to focus on the damn clay. Clay (like us), I learnt the painful way, is like a 3 year old child that moves in every direction OPPOSITE of where you want it to go. Last time I had it under control, I thought what a fine job I was doing and I had flying clay in my face. You can’t even be THINKING of something else. Clay on the wheel demands the Potter’s undivded attention. And since God only makes masterpieces, His options are very limited in the attention department. Half a second of loss in focus could be the difference between a cute little teapot and something that very much ressembles a large piece of poo in the toilet. So trust me, God must have spent a little more time on you because He normally does not make poo.

Second of all, as Dennise kept stressing “No two pieces you make will ever be the same”. Every potter wants and knows every single piece he has ever made. The Potter has infinite patience. He has to. Even if his clay is behaving like a 3 year old child juiced up on Red Bull. So we can jump and fly off the wheel and rebel all we want. But sooner or later, we’re going to be held onto until we calm the heck down and turn into a funky vase.

And thirdly, potters were creative. We all start off as a mound of mud. What we become is at the discretion of the Potter. Some of us are small little teacups and some of us are large decorative vases. Some of us have fabulously extravagant colours, others have more down to earth monotones. Dennise proudly showed me displays of her pottery. Some of her most boring colored pottery were by far her most beautiful pieces. It didn’t matter if it was a mug or a plate or a boring looking ashtray. Only the Potter knows the time and love he put into creating you. Only the potter knows what your use is. And only the potter knows where you’ll shine and look your most beautiful. Most of all, only the potter truly knows you, your worth and why you were made.

If God is a potter, I now truly have a new found respect for God.

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