I took a break from teaching today and had a chance to sit back. It’s nice for a time such as this and our guest speaker, Beth, did something quite different from the norm. Set up front was a potter’s wheel and all accompanying materials – a bowl of water, tools for scraping and shaping, a towel and more – and she was prepared to speak on the obvious subject ahead.
I was surprised how moved I was with all of this. After all, it’s almost as if you knew the whole sermon before she started – how many places can you really go with the potter-and-clay analogy, right? She spoke as she threw (not literally throwing things across the room, but the proper terminology for shaping and molding that which is in the potter’s hands), building proper tension at all the right times. It was beautiful in its presentation but also in its truth.
She would explain what she was doing to the clay and then tell her own life story, jumping back and forth. And at one point, she said, “You can’t tell, but I’m placing a tremendous amount of pressure right now to get the clay to move where I need it to move.” That was it for me. That was my highlight, of sorts, to take home.
I find myself always attempting to wiggle out of moments that are the pressurized. I guess that’s human nature, but it doesn’t make it right. Coming up in our communal living scenario, we are facing a time this summer in which we know many changes will take place and it’s something we’re desperately working to avoid – keep things as stable as we can so we don’t encounter too much friction, worry or nervousness.
My entire history is like that – in moments of financial pressure, relational pressure, etc. – my tendency is to collapse beneath it all, unwilling to allow myself to take the shape I am intended to. And then I wonder why again and again, I am forced to go through the same thing. It’s obvious that I am supposed to do something different yet I consistently run from that which God wants to do in my own life.
Trust. Patience. Endurance. I was late to the character party. I was almost 30 when I married and for good reason – I wasn’t close to ready before then. I was a complete jerk to a number of girls I dated through my teens and twenties and there are various moments I can look back and see where pressure began to build and I would run. Same thing in my jobs and it took a complete collapse and depression to make me see that I continued to sacrifice my character and integrity just to escape things I didn’t want to go through.
Now? I hope I’m different, but I know what I am capable of. I’ve also seen the beauty that comes in allowing yourself to be thrown by the one who created all things. It hurts like hell sometimes, but the process is always worth it.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.