“Go down to the potter’s house and hear the words I have for you.” Jeremiah 18:2
You hunched in the car in your pioneer dress, eyes squeezed shut, just returned from the museum with your class and your daddy, having eaten your authentic pioneer lunch with the beef jerky you’d begged me to buy. It had been a wonderful day.
I know how it is. Laying down your life is easier to imagine in the shared laughter, but harder in the lonely slog.
Last week, I’d brought clay to your classroom and talked about the early settlers firing pottery in pit fires. You looked so happy.
Once, beneath the oak tree outside the ram’s pen, we dug a pit in the ground. We lined it with leaves and grass clippings. My students laid their dried pots in the hole, the ones they’d made of raku clay and glazed while wet.
After more leaves and clippings, we piled sticks, hardwood logs, and damp fuel atop to burn slowly overnight.
I told your class we could have used coffee grounds, eggshells, cowpies, or dead fish in the pit fire to make colors on the pots. But if you add salt on a windy day, it can take the paint off a car.
I didn’t tell them I hadn’t wanted to do pottery with them–not this year. I’d wanted to slump around thinking about my dad’s death, about his birthday coming up, about how the messy house overwhelmed me, and how I still don’t know how to cry.
But I’d made a promise.
When the school janitor showed me the bags of hard clay, I saw hours of work in a hot garage, slicing, spraying, tearing, squeezing, slamming, and kneading the clay to make it workable.
I did it anyway.
It’s like that, you know. Sometimes laying down our lives requires lots of little deaths. But if we give them back to God, He can take His giant Potter hands and mold sacrifice into dazzling resurrection–of hope, of joy, of beauty, of perseverance, of peace.
I showed your class how to make a coil box with a lid. You watched with shining eyes, in between listening to your baby sister recite the ABC’s over and over beside you.
But two classmates had missed it all and you, generous heart, volunteered to make boxes for them to glaze. That was before you’d tried it yourself.
“I don’t want to, but I don’t want not to,” you said now, miserably. “It wasn’t a fun project.” I knew that was true for you and I knew why.
While your classmates squeezed and rolled clay in artistic abandon, you’d answered a higher calling–that of Big Sister. Thus, your clay became dry and cracked. You cobbled bits and lumps together. You gave up hope of a pretty handle.
I ached for you, torn about your promise. “It’s up to you,” I said. “They missed the day, and sometimes people just miss things. But didn’t you say you’d make a bird for one boy’s handle and a hollow log for the other?”
Your dad leaned into the car. “Why do you think you should do it–because of guilt?” You slumped in the back seat.
You pulled and squeezed your face like clay, deciding hard. Your dad said it reminded him of the Indiana Jones movie when the villain opens the Ark of the Covenant.
Sometimes difficult choices squeeze us out of shape. Sometime we become dry and cracked. We need that Living Water Jesus offers–a drink to ease the pain of the cross, to smooth the rough places, to make us soft again.
Then you said yes. My heart swelled with love and pride. I can’t wait to see the resurrection joy in your face next week when those boys pick up glaze brushes to paint their very own lidded coil pots.
We made the boxes together on the kitchen table, you and I, laughing and rolling clay. And, this time, you had fun–so much fun you crafted a beautiful new handle for yourself, too.
It has a log and a bird on it.
*Also see–“How to Make a Coil Pot with a Lid”