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: If you like what you see, please spread the word. If not, thanks for checking it out anyway.


2 thoughts on “Mud or Clay?

  1. Mom says:

    Scary and exciting all at the same time! Well done!

  2. Steve says:

    Very well said. I can identify. I hope that God brings you to where you are supposed to be.

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