Is there a point where we can put ourselves out of reach? A place where our refusal to listen has gone on so long that we have gone too far for easy correction. It’s a place where drastic measures are needed instead.
When I was thinking about this verse, it triggered thoughts of clay. It specifically brought up images of clay curing in the sun. The wetter the clay, the more pliable it is. But as it hardens, it becomes stiff and unyielding. If it is not in the desired shape before final hardening, the project will be spoiled. The craftsman will have to start over.
A jar of playdoh is my first example. So long as playdoh is kept in its sealed container, it is pliable. Leave it in the jar, instead of on the kitchen, and it stays pliable for YEARS and ready to engage a child’s imagination. Like most children, someone inevitably gets playdoh on the carpet or in a tool, where it hardens. After that point it is not fit to work with any longer. It’s hard and unyielding. It’s sad to lose it but not nearly as bad as leaving the whole jar open. It takes a bit longer to harden the large lump that it did the small pieces, but it eventually happens. All of it is ruined.
I was thinking of this from the point of “stiffening” and how that would work with clay. Clay does become harder as it dries, but as long as the craftsman is still working with it, it is pliable. If it starts to dry before he is ready he simply adds a little water to its surface and works in in. When he leaves it with the intent of returning, he drapes a wet cloth over it to preserve the pliability of the clay.
The clay in this instance is completely yielding to the craftsman. There is nothing inherent in it that resists his hands. Yet our proverb is focusing on clay that has impurities and resists the hands of the craftsman. This clay won’t absorb the water and won’t stay in the shape, or even accept the shape, the craftsman has in mind for it. For a novice craftsman, this clay is beyond his skill and he gets frustrated. He abandons the project. This clay is destined for the scrap pile. Or the fire.
Our clay continues to resist the hands of the craftsman and chooses instead to choose its own form. It hardens quickly and won’t accept the water that would soften it again. When the craftsman tries to correct the flaws in the design, the clay breaks instead. This piece is ruined and tossed aside for a more willing piece.
This story is what happens with a simple craftsman. My Craftsman can work wonders beyond the imagination of any other. The clay that is brought to His table comes with impurities. It often tries to assert its own will and direction. It wants to harden before the design is complete. Yet my Craftsman NEVER gives up on His pieces. He sees in each piece beauty just waiting to be brought forth. Often that process involves “breaking” what has been formed and guiding the lump into the position where it can receive restoration. He can make something new and beautiful from the pieces others would discard. But ONLY when the clay surrenders itself to the Craftsman.
Not ALL clay will take that first step of surrender. It won’t allow itself to even be set on the Master Craftsman’s table. It won’t break free from the earth surrounding it. It clings fast to the ‘order’ it knows no matter the cost. And the cost will be great! Clay apart from the Craftsman will find itself burnt up and scattered as ash. But in the hands of The Craftsman, even the most impure clay can become a BEAUTIFUL work of heart.
Father God, I know I have challenged Your skills on MULTIPLE occasions. I have resisted the shapes You designed for me and tried choosing my own. I have tried to harden, thinking a certain process was complete, only to be broken and brought back for the reworking process. If I had only yielded every time, how much easier that would have been. How much mor intricate a pattern You can shape without resistance.
But would the always pliant me even recognize the resistant me that You have brought forth? How different would my story and my design be? For the scars of breaking have become woven into the design I am today. As Jesus knew, the end is worth the pain of the journey. For Him it had to be so for my sake. Is there someone out there for whom my journey gives them hope? Someone who has felt broken beyond repair that glimpses the path You have brought me on and sees that there is hope for them too? For that person Lord, break what needs broken in my life. For I KNOW what You create from that brokenness will be BEAUTIFUL. BECAUSE YOU DID THE WORK THAT I COULDN’T. Thank You Father for loving me enough to NEVER give up on me! THANK YOU that I am NEVER too far for You to reach out and draw me back.