10 April 2006

He Is the Potter

* This is the pottery instructor at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, MD. All the other pieces pictured are generously supplied by my own in-house potters.*

The topic of Honor. It's got a lot to do with pottery, you know. "How?" you ask...

Well, imagine being a potter. If you've ever attempted to throw a pot on a potter's wheel, you know it's not the easiest thing in the world to do. When I threw my first pot in junior high, I was so frustrated that I literally wanted to THROW my pot. Out the window. I swore I hated pottery and would never use a potter's wheel again.
My problem was that I didn't understand any of the subtleties of wheel thrown pottery. Somehow I thought I could whip out a gorgeous decorative bowl in no time. All you have to do is sit there and mash the clay into shape while the wheel spins around, right?

Wrong. You can't man-handle the clay into a perfectly round bowl or cup. You have to learn to feel the clay and how it behaves in motion. You have to sense the rhythm of the spinning wheel. It requires a gentle touch, in which just the slightest push or pull can have a major affect on the look and shape of the clay. You have to understand centrifical forces and how to harness them to work for you rather than fighting against them. Small moves equate to big changes in the form on the wheel. One push or pinch too many, and you've impaled your lovely coffee-mug-in-the-making. Too shy with the pressure, and the clay does nothing but spin and fling slip all over the place. You also have to know how to position your hands and arms (and your entire body actually) in order to get the clay to pull into shape you desire. It takes patience, practice, and lots of clay.
Because the first 20 pots you make usually end up on the recycle heap.

My Potter is a master craftsman. There is no man-handling about him at all. As the clay in His hands, he watches me spin on the wheel round and round, watching life whiz by at a dizzying pace. He knows my consistency, for He's the one that mixed and wedged me on the worktable. He has a vision for my final shape. My usefulness, my beauty, what I will contain, what I will someday be able to pour out.
These are things I can't even fathom as I sit in the center of the potter's wheel. I feel like the life is being squeezed out of me. He's poking me, scraping my sides, dousing me when I'd really rather be dry- thank you very much. Setting me on the shelf with a plastic bag over me. "Am I finished yet? Is this what I'm supposed to look like? Gotta say that I feel a bit rough around the edges. Not a lot of color or splash that I can see. Are you sure this is what you want me to be like? Surely sure? For sure for sure?"

My head bobs and weaves while I try to focus on the things around me. They're spinning, whirring, not making any sense. I can't get a bead on my surroundings. But I find that when I quit trying to focus on the horizontal and shift my focus to the vertical, I look straight up and see my Potter. The frenetic blur surrounding me only highlights the crystal clear image of my North Star. My Creator. My Source. The One I honor.
He's smiling and humming, covered in clay up to His elbows. He seems to think things are going well on this spinning plate of mine. And all other things are as they should be... just a blur.


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