The Gifted Blog

September 29, 2010

Why We Make: Delicate Lines Left on Purpose

I write The Gifted Blog because I love to make. I've been thinking about what it means to be a Christian and to love making things. I hope the reflections in this series will be jumping-off points for thoughtful discussion among us, no matter your spiritual background. For the whole series, click here.

After writing about my hunt for the perfect handmade souvenirs in Japan, I reflected on this passage from the Bible:
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
                                       Isaiah 64:8
I came home from our trip with a single teacup and bowl, loving the the mark of the potter's hand on each. At the time I wrote, "[M]aybe there's a deeper reason this bowl and cup are striking a chord for me. I can't always see the beauty in each person, but if you look, we each bear evidence of a master potter's hand."

A month or two later, I was excited to hear that a friend was picking up her last batch of work from a ceramics class. The firing process was complete, the pieces ready for collection. I asked if I could see them. We had a little viewing party, and though the vessels were lovely for a first-time ceramicist (as you can see for yourself), she was very humble. Later, she e-mailed to say:
It was fun having you and N today! I am so glad you stopped by to see my "work of art" (haha, this is how my husband, J, calls them, though he thinks the flat ones look like ashtrays).
She'd seen the post I mentioned above and continued:
You're right about the mark of the potter's hand! I really liked your quote. I haven't read the Bible yet but I could relate to your thoughts. I agree with you that they make ceramics more special. I sometimes make delicate lines with my fingernails and leave them there on purpose. They seem to make my potteries look more warm and friendly, compared to the ones with a clean and polished surface.
What she wrote took the Isaiah passage right out of the abstract and into real life. How refreshing to remember that the mark of the potter's hand can literally be a mark, made and left on purpose.

E's joy in making these vessels was evident. It helped me to imagine the way that God works as a potter does. With pleasure. With purpose. Putting his distinct mark on our lives, making something that might seem like a mistake into evidence that it was crafted by him, by the divine.

"We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Lord, that I would yield to your hand. That I would be shaped and made by you. That I would bear the mark of your touch on my life.

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  1. Thanks Charissa! So flattered to be here! My little potteries thank you too for the beautiful photos =) Looking forward to your next Why we make series!

  2. "I sometimes make delicate lines with my fingernails and leave them there on purpose"

    I love that. I love that. And I'm really moved by the thought that God isn't necessarily rough when he makes his marks--but that the slightest movement of his hands has a profound impact on who we are and who he wants us to be.

    I'm wicked excited about this series! Yay, Charissa!

  3. @E. - No, thank YOU for letting me tell your story and set up a photo shoot for your ceramics (I bet you don't get asked that every day...!). The light in your living room was just right for photographing. Anyway, thank you again. And I welcome your feedback on this series any time!

    @boatx2 - Roe, thank you! It felt like a gift to hear from my friend about her pottery-making experience. I've even taken clay classes as a kid, but there was something about her description that really shed light on this aspect of God. I love your point that his movements don't need to be forceful to shape us...I wonder where in my life he is making a delicate line right now. Great food for thought - thanks again!

  4. Thanks, Charissa, for this thoughtful post and the beautiful photos! I love the question “why we make” because it searches for a purpose behind what we do. In thinking about people as clay in the Potter’s hand, it is also interesting to ask, “why God made.” There is so much to think about regarding God’s design for our lives that it is worth pondering in the general and the particular.

    In the general, God made us in his image from the dust of the earth. In Genesis, God is quite literally a potter -- molding and giving life to a bunch of dirt. Additionally, God is to creation what your friend as potter is to her pottery, yet in man, God is not just making ceramics, but a self-portrait.

    More particularly, he created man and woman, both distinct and together reflecting his image – another fingernail of the Potter, if you will. Our modern culture often losses this distinctness, arguing that man and woman must be the same if they are to be equal. Yet there is freedom and beauty in our distinctness while dignity and equality are found in His Image pressed upon mankind.

    Even more particularly, God formed us as individuals. We are not all the same, so there is something in our diversity (not just cultural diversity, but personal diversity in thought, actions, habits, skills, etc.) that reflects His Image. We were created for diverse work and callings in this world.

    One final question that this blog post points to is “why God continues to make.” We are not a finished product but a work in progress. God never sends us to the kiln. However, there are two times in scripture that suggest completeness – Christ on the cross cries “it is finished” and saints in heaven hear, “well done good and faithful servant.” Through Christ’s cross, God sees through our incompleteness and the blemishes to see what He created us to be. Through perseverance in this life, the saints actually become that person.

  5. @Carolyn - Whew! This is deep. I could probably respond to each of your paragraphs with a whole other post.

    Thank you so much for taking time to sit with these thoughts and mull them over. I especially love your observation that God literally sculpts when he made man and woman from dust. It brings a more nuanced perspective of God as potter. Thank you again!

  6. I'm a little new to your blog, so the moment might be over and done with, but this caught my attention because I'm a potter too. I love to purposely leave my throw lines in the clay...I love to accentuate certain shapes with texture. The idea reminds me that God's hands and marks on us are unique to us. Each of us are special to Him, so we each get distinct marks (experiences, characteristics, etc) =o)

  7. @Michelle - That is so cool to hear! I didn't realize the lines have a specific name - throw lines. Thank you for commenting. This series is near to my heart and I always appreciate readers' thoughts on it!


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