Sunday, February 19, 2012

Collapsed in His Embrace

I heard a dull thump as I entered the church. Like a heavy heart thrown against the floor.

I wasn’t far off.

We had a special speaker that Sunday morning, a potter. He stood near the edge of the platform with a large block of red clay in his hands and slammed it onto the tarp-covered stage. Then he picked it up and slammed it down again.

I shuddered.

I knew the Old Testament account of God sending Jeremiah to the potter’s house. I liked the part about the artisan creating a useable vessel. I didn’t like what I was seeing at the moment.

Our guest held cold and unyielding clay. He had to soften it, make it pliable before he could use it. The force of his throw surprised me, but his purpose was clear and focused. Justified, though fierce.

The Bible hadn’t mentioned this part. Did it apply, too?

The potter seated himself behind his wheel, a small mound of formless clay in the center of it. He set it to spinning, dipped his hands in a bowl of water, and then tenderly grasped the clay, wrapping his fingers around it, smoothing it upward, downward, dipping again in the water and returning to the clay.

His slightest impression made a rim at the top. The potter pressed his fingers into the clay and slowly it cratered. He reached into the center and pulled, it seemed, for the sides beneath the edge began to grow, stretching upward and out. All this time he spoke, telling us how God had worked in his life, how He had carried him through divorce and loneliness, out of darkness and into light. Into marriage again. Into ministry. His voice soothed us as gently as his fingers smoothed the clay that transformed before our eyes.

The potter’s patience and pressure created a large bowl from that formless lump. Just the right amount of water, just the right speed of the wheel, just the right movement of his fingers. We were transfixed by the miracle.

He stopped, dried his hands on a towel, and picked up a tall, stately vase from a nearby pedestal. He continued speaking, but his words slipped away as I fixed my eyes on the vase, not yet fired, still the dark copper color of workable clay. As he spoke, he turned the lovely vase in his hands, revealing the other side—disfigured by jagged cuts that marred its symmetrical grace and made it unfit to use.

And then he wrapped his arms around the piece and pressed it to his body, crushing it against his chest. The vase collapsed in his embrace, and he folded it over and into itself and spoke of how he would remake it.

It would be new, he said. Nothing would be lost.

Nothing wasted.

He would make it a worthy vessel, a thing of beauty and purpose again.

In that moment I felt the gentle pressure of fingers on my heart. And I understood the hope of healing at the touch of the Potter’s hand.

Jeremiah 18:1-6

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Romantic at Heart

I enjoy a good love story with a happy ending.

Some people discredit such tales as unrealistic and irrational. But I’m not talking about ruffles and lace and hearts and flowers and chick-flick movies (though sometimes I like those things too). I’m talking about love and happy endings.

A crusty old fisherman said God is love. He said God was so good at loving that he gave his best gift to those who didn’t deserve it. That doesn’t sound like ruffles and lace to me.

An unknown singer of songs said pretty much the same thing.

“…the earth is full of his unfailing love … ” —Psalm 33:5 (NIV)

I think the God of unfailing love had a happy ending in mind. Otherwise, there would be no eternal home awaiting us, there would be no new heaven and earth, and Jesus would not have said, “I want you to be with Me forever.”

He would not have died.

The Great Author added a surprise twist to his love story: a never-ending. You can read more about it in Psalm 136.

In fact, if you read one verse from that Psalm each day of this month, you'll see there are nearly enough to go around. A lover of love stories might do that, and find that the Great Author was trying to make a point. Twenty-six times.

I’d call that a good love story with a happy ending.

Wouldn’t you?

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
—Psalm 23:6 (NIV)