My ceramics teacher sighed as she passed my workstation as I held a contorted wet lump of reddish clay in my hands. She might have been more understanding if I hadn’t been working on it for days. It was supposed to be the first project of the year, a coil pinch pot – the simplest method for making primitive style pottery. Early in the process I rolled the earthen clay into long cylindrical strips and began coiling them together into a miniature bowl shape, but I didn’t want to make a bowl! In a room near the kiln where other student projects were fired I saw hundreds of fingerprint laden ‘bowls’ that looked haphazardly mashed together. It saddened me to think that my contribution would be more of the same, so I resolved at that moment to make a really cool pinch pot.
Instead of making a bowl, I decided to make a vase with a flared neck – just for a little extra style. Of course this was the first time I had ever worked with clay, and the only technique I knew was the ‘pinch and coil’ method. It seemed that the next logical step in the process was to make more clay strips and build a dome over my bowl, and so I began pinching, coiling, and smoothing the clay. For days this went on, until finally my piece started looking like a little globe with a hole on top! By this time everyone in the class was now working on their second, or third projects, but my teacher’s smiles as she walked by encouraged me to continue on my ‘super pinch pot’ project. I began building the neck when to my sorrow the entire structure began to sag at the base like a full garbage bag.
“Nooo! All of that work for nothing!” I thought, and briefly considered firing it and just moving on to the next project. But the idea of seeing my sagging pinch pot on the shelf as an immortalized tribute to my frustrated efforts was too much to bear. The next step was going to be difficult – and embarrassing, because everyone in the class was now ahead of me and I was under the glaring scrutiny of my teacher. In order to solve the problem I needed to widen the hole in the dome and fortify the foundation from the inside! To everyone else my great ambitious project was going to look like an utter mess, like a total failure. Only I would know that the ugly wet lump in front of me was better off now than it was before.
Coming to Christ, and growing in Christ, is a lot like my super pinch pot. In the world or even in our current relationship with Jesus there is a certain level of ‘goodness’ we can attain to ourselves. From the perspective of others our lives can look attractive and smooth on the outside, but on the inside we can barely hold ourselves up. Coming to Jesus, and growing to a new place in Him often requires some serious internal work, where our inner foundation is fortified in Christ. That is a messy business, because it requires facing your issues instead of ignoring them, and acknowledging your need for JESUS. In a world where outer appearances are more important than souls, some of us will choose to look good instead of being reworked on the inside.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed”. –Romans 9:33 JESUS is a stumblingstone and a rock of offense because we must be broken down in order to receive Him. To others you look more messed up after coming to JESUS than you were before, but those who receive Him know the work He is doing on the inside. As cool as my super pinch pot, or, flared vase ended up being, God’s plans for every individual are far greater. When you really believe that God has the best of intentions for you, it is much easier to yield to Him. He promises, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” –Jeremiah 29:11