Mud or Clay?

Most of us have accumulated several identities in our lifetimes. We call them hats. The hats quickly become masks, however, the answer to Who I Am. Rather than offering our personalities when meeting people, we offer what we do.

I’ve perfected this practice. I wear many masks: Super Aunt, Polka-dotted Sheep of the Family, Grammar Nazi, Martial Artist, College Instructor, Sunshine, Laughing Girl, Genius, Over-achiever, . . . . The list is pretty extensive. Each label is a lifeline—something I need to stand out in an ocean of masks.

Over the last few years, those masks have crumbled, leaving me naked, ashamed, and reaching for the proverbial fig leaf. God has patiently stood by, telling me I have an identity outside of what I do.

I am clay.

When he brought that to my attention, I was insulted. I was leaning over a throwing wheel at the time, up to my elbows in wet clay, cursing the unyielding, collapsing, stubborn lump of earth. In hindsight, it seems pretty accurate.

I didn’t go home with a warm glow of affection and sense of value. I was grumpy, annoyed, and throwing a silent temper tantrum:

I am nothing like clay, I fumed. I am an intelligent, creative, funny individual. Look at me! I have a master’s degree; I’m nothing like normal Christians—I actually have personality and opinions; people like me; I have a great laugh; and I’ve led an adventurous, full life. So quit wasting my time and let me get on with my life! I’m going to get an Irish Wolfhound, goat, and my doctorate and lead students on outdoor adventure trips and share the Gospel with them . . . oh.

I am clay.

Clay that is unyielding or has a sense of its own function and use apart from the potter becomes one of two things: a sticky arch, drying out and waiting to be pounded into submission . . . or mud. I brooded for two days, then returned to the studio.

This time, the clay was soft and smooth, easily responding to my hands. Ten minutes later, a pretty little pot sat on my wheel, drying in preparation for the firing and glazing process.

“This could be you,” God whispered.

I could be soft and pliable, molding to His hands and shaped with design, love, and a tinge of excitement. I could have a purpose beyond sitting in a lump on a shelf, waiting to be cast out or beaten into submission.

I want to be soft clay.

I want purpose and use. I want an identity crafted by an expert hand. A hand that looks beyond a lump of cold, wet clay. A hand that knows the precise moment between destruction and perfection. A hand that creates art within the confines of purpose.

To be that clay, however, is to give up all control and expectation. To sit spinning on a wheel, obeying the Potter’s touch and trusting He will guide me skillfully and carefully, no matter how much He stretches, pulls, and constricts me. No matter how uncomfortable or seemingly nonsensical each turn is.

My first turn on the wheel has been to let go. Letting go of my masks—hobbies, goals, dreams, accomplishments—feels like I’m walking out my door, naked and unformed. The second turn is to continue pottery. I’ve always been insecure about my art, knowing that for someone with an art degree and artistic parents I am not half as good as I “should” be. Long ago I compared myself to others and discarded the Art mask. No one would’ve been fooled.

However, God informed me that He gave me my abilities—mine, no one else’s—for a purpose: His glory and my good. I don’t know what that will look like. But He’s asking me to trust Him and swallow my fear, ego, and insecurity to open an etsy account for my pieces. For the past month I’ve built my stock, hoping that this is an Abraham/Isaac test (Genesis 22) and at the last moment some other artist would need my account. Apparently that isn’t His plan.

Rather than obey technically but without risk, I am deciding to trust Him fully, regardless of whether I sell anything. He never operates the way I expect anyway. So, here is the link to my esty page: etsy.com/shop/TheLittlePottress. If you like what you see, please spread the word. If not, thanks for checking it out anyway.

My Grief Experienced

It’s been six months since Will and I left our school and home behind to move into a new life and a new home. Marriage has been wonderful and life has been hard. Both of us bear the scars of rejection. Both of us wonder when it will happen next.

In January, I suffered a collapse due to stress and a damaged, over-worked brain. Will and I spent the next month surviving and consulting concussion experts. Recovery has been slow but steady. I’ve crossed a bucket-list item off and discovered a talent for pottery. A ladies’ Bible study occupies some of my time. Will is in a new job and gearing up for a new master’s degree. It seems as though we’re drifting in a calm harbor.

Meanwhile, I have been inundated with God’s mercy and gentle tugging towards healing—emotional and spiritual. This week he is inviting me to grieve my losses. It makes me laugh, albeit sardonically. I’ve lost so much, where should I start? And if I do, will I ever stop?

Nevertheless, loss after loss has come to mind. And somehow, God is holding back my walls as I truly feel what I no longer have. Today was a difficult loss. Possibly the worst I’ve faced. I lost my health, which is difficult enough, but it cost me something precious. Several years ago, I discovered a love for martial arts. I practiced constantly, nearly lived at the dojo, and dedicated myself to it.

I excelled. I flourished. There is nothing else that I have ever experienced that gives me such a sense of life and purpose. It was as though I was made to kick, strike, throw, parry, and grapple. I felt the presence of God as I moved through forms of strikes, blocks, and throws. Stepping onto the mat was a haven—from the world, my struggles, and spiritual estrangement. I was home. I was in His presence. And I was the person He created me to be.

Now it’s all gone. With so many concussions and injuries, I don’t know if I will ever be able to find a safe dojo where I can train consistently. I will never be able to compete. And I will never be able to teach. I have to be extremely careful of how I train and with whom. One misplaced strike, one wrong fall and I will have another concussion. My brain can’t sustain another one.

The most heart-breaking question I have is why God would let me discover such life if He was just going to take it away? Is He punishing me?

Most will think I’m overdramatic or that I should be focusing on the miracle that my brain still functions at all. To focus on the short time I got to experience such life and freedom. To recognize the gift of being able to stand and walk, much less kick. Eventually perspective will win. I will see God’s hand or I’ll just trust it’s for and not against me. But right now, I’m grieving my loss—no more and no less, not my sister’s or a stranger’s, but mine. No one has to understand. No one has to care. Because God does.