From a Lump of Clay
Once there was a rather large lump of clay. He lived in a storage room of a great and famous potter. The potter was well known throughout the kingdom as well as other kingdoms in lands far away.
Every day the potter would come into the small room and knead the lump of clay, adding water and kneading some more. This was not altogether pleasant for the clay for the pinching and the pulling hurt a great deal. But he knew that it was necessary else he would grow hard and useless.
Meanwhile the clay would dream; dream of one day becoming a priceless vase or a beautiful piece of sculpture, perhaps even a bust of the King. Day after day passed, and he only continued to be kneaded and he continued to dream.
One day the potter came in a little earlier than normal. He reached into the lump of clay and cut away a huge chunk of it. The cutting was very painful to the clay, but as the potter took him into the workshop room, he quickly knew the day had arrived. His dreams of become a lovely piece of pottery had finally come.
“Oh, what shall I become?” he wondered. “Will I be a beautiful vase? Or perhaps a work of great art?” he asked. He knew the master potter was too famous to be churning out common pottery, for the master potter only the highest quality goods were commissioned.
Leaving the potters workshop was a man finely dressed in royal robes. The man stopped for a second and said over his shoulders, “The King is expecting this in a week.”
“To hear is to obey,” said the potter.
“The KING” thought the clay. “This is too wonderful. I will be a treasured sculpture or a fine vase or some highly admired piece of pottery for the King himself.”
The potter slammed him hard upon the potter’s wheel. Then with skill and precision he molded and shaped and cut and pinched and kneaded the clay. This was very painful for the clay, but he tried very hard to keep his focus on his destiny. He was to be something of great value to the King. He could hardly wait to see what his role was to be.
As he spun on the wheel the potter lifted and shaped him more and more. He was growing taller and rounder and then the potter pushed his fist inside the clay. This hurt like nothing before and the potter started to shape a large bowl inside.
He then started to make the clay a little less round and more oval in shape. “Oh, I see now,” said the clay, “I’m going to be a pitcher for the King.” He was a little saddened because he had hoped to be something of more value. But he took heart knowing that the potter made very beautiful pitchers. And besides, he would be a pitcher for the King. He would have to be very beautiful indeed.
As the day wore on much of the clay was cut away and shaped and molded and pinched. A large piece cut away earlier was placed between the hands of the potter and he rolled it into the shape of a long thick snake. He then attached this to the back side of the pitcher.
“Oh, that is my handle” cried the pitcher. He was quite satisfied with the work in progress.
The potter started up the wheel again and shaped the top of the pitcher one last time. This made the pitcher feel sick. But he held on one more time to the suffering. He knew this was all for the sake of the King and he could endure. As he spun he noticed the potter was applying some sort of pasty liquid goop on him. When this was finished the pitcher nearly cried. He was covered inside and out with the most hideous color paint he could imagine. “I am ugly” he despaired.
After a few hours and with a great deal of care, the potter picked up the pitcher and carried him over to the kiln. When the door opened the pitcher could feel the heat and cried out, “No! It is too hot for me; I will melt in the heat.”
But the potter seemed not to care or maybe he just ignored the pitcher. No matter, the potter placed the pitcher on a long piece of slate and slid him into the fiery oven.
The heat was hotter than the pitcher could imagine and the pain was greater than any of his nightmares could conjure up. He screamed and begged for mercy. He pleaded and made promises if only the potter would release him from this torture.
But, the potter paid him no attention. The pitcher wept as he realized the potter had abandoned him to his fate. He cried in self pity and in fear and then in anger. But nothing helped.
Finally, he came to himself and decided that the potter knew what he was doing and left it up to him. At about that time the pitcher realized the oven was getting cooler. As the time ticked on the oven became less harsh. Finally, after a day the potter pulled him out of the kiln and placed him on the shelf.
One of the first things the pitcher discovered was the hideous goop he was covered with had turned into the most beautiful color he had ever seen. It was an off white color, almost the color of marble. This time he cried with joy, not despair.
As he sat on the shelf he could see the potter at the wheel working on another piece of clay from the same batch he himself was taken. This was no doubt to be a vase, and from the looks a very fine vase indeed. Once the spinning stopped and the vase was taken shape, the pitcher asked, “Hey vase?”
The vase caught its bearings and said, “Yes?”
“Do you know your story? Whose vase you will be?”
“Oh, yes. I heard the buyer this morning. The door to the storage room was open when she came in. She is a princess from far off land. She is in town and heard of our great master potter and wished for him to make her a treasured vase.”
“Oh good for you,” stated the pitcher, even though a little envy crept its way into his soul.
For the rest of the day the pitcher watched as the potter tore away at the clay that was becoming a vase. He shaped him and pinched him and made him thinner and thinner until he was as thin as glass.
Once he finished the potter put a coat of darker and even uglier glaze on him. The potter placed the vase on a drying shelf for a few hours. Then as the potter picked up the vase, the pitcher told him of the oven. That it was terribly hot, but to hold on. Soon he would pass through and all would be wonderful.
The vase thanked him, girded himself up and entered the fire.
The pitcher was not sure the vase would make it. As thin as he was, the heat may shatter him into a million pieces.
Hour by hour the pitcher watched the oven door, wondering how the vase was faring. Finally the potter reached over and turned down the flame and slowly the heat dissipated.
The next morning the pitcher was picked up by the master painter and with delicate brush strokes the painter painted. The pitcher could not see exactly what was being painted on him, but he knew he was being decorated for the King, so he knew he would be beautiful in the end.
About the time the painter placed him back on the shelf to dry, the vase was removed from the oven and the pitcher could not believe what he saw. The vase was the most beautiful, rich purple ever seen. When the potter placed him on the window sill the sun light streamed right through him. Never had the pitcher seen such a beautiful object. He was looking at a manifestation of his long forgotten dream. The vase was the object he himself wished he would have been.
Two days later a crate was placed on the floor of the workshop and half filled with straw. The workman picked up the vase with a great deal of care and placed him inside the crate and filled it the rest of the way up with straw. Then the crate was sealed shut and the workman carried it outside to an awaiting wagon.
The pitcher barely had enough time to say goodbye to his friend. They both knew they would never see each other again. The pitcher was off to be placed on the King’s table, probably used to hold his milk, his cream, maybe his water. The vase was off with the princess to some far off land. They were going to miss one another, but knew they would be happy in their new stations of life.
Later that day the painter came by and added gold trim around the handles and the rim of the pitcher and then he was again placed on the drying shelf. There he sat for two more days.
Finally the day came. The master potter himself, brought in a crate and sat it down in the middle of the workshop and as his assistant did several times before, he half filled the crate with straw. The potter then picked up the pitcher with the greatest of care and placed him inside up top of the straw. Then more straw was added. The pitcher felt safe and secure in the straw and he knew no harm could come to him now.
He was loaded on the back of a wagon and the potter drove him to the palace. Once they arrived the potter was told to drive around to the back and someone would be there to meet him.
The pitcher started dreaming of his new life. How many parties would he be served at? How many people would admire his craftsmanship, his beauty?
Suddenly the pitcher grew ill. “Did I hear what I thought I heard?” He looked out to the cracks of the crate hoping to see that there was another crate being delivered. There was none. He was the only crate being delivered at that moment. “Oh, dear” he cried, “this is most dreadful.”
As he was being carried into the palace his soul was in turmoil. “Did the potter really say to the man, ‘here’s the Kings chamber pot’?” A common chamber pot! That was one of the most defiled jobs any pot could have. He was to be the lowest of the low. Even being the King’s personal chamber pot is the most disgraceful fates any piece of pottery could endure.
“Why me?” cried the pot. “What did I do to deserve this end?” All his dreams were shattered. Nothing could be worse. He was a disgrace to all those he knew back at the workshop. His only consolation would be no one there would ever know. The vase was far away by now. He would be hidden away in the King’s bedchamber, where no one would ever see him.
Once the crate was opened a servants picked him up and strolled up the stairs to the King’s bedchamber. There he was placed on a little table inside a small room used by the King at night, whenever the call of nature struck him. The room was small, dark and dank. The poor chamber pot cried for the entire day.
Late that night he heard the door opening. “Oh, no” he cried. The King took hold of his handle and before he knew it he was being used for the task for which he was designed.
“This is completely and utterly disgusting” the pot cried to himself. He was filled with horror and disgrace. He prayed that the King would drop him on the floor. He prayed he had never been formed by the potter. He prayed that the one day the potter would have forgotten to water and knead him, and that he had dried out. Better to have been a worthless piece of clay than a chamber pot, he thought.
The next morning a servant picked him up and carried him out of the palace to a horrible spot where he was emptied. Then the servant took him to a stream where he washed him to an almost new condition. “So what?” thought the pot. “So I am cleaned I am still nothing but a chamber pot. I will never be anything but a disgrace.”
As the servant was carrying him back to the King’s bedchamber a young lady asked him to step into her chamber for a second. She had a letter for him to post as soon as possible to her father, the King of another land. The lady was here to wed the princes. As he entered the room the pot noticed the most dreadful sight. On a shelf was the vase from the potter’s workshop. His old friend was sitting in all his glory while he was totally horrified.
“Hello, pitcher” said the vase. “Why is the King’s servant boy carrying you like a common chamber pot?” At that very moment, the vase realized the truth.
He tried, but he could not contain his laughter. “Oh, dear oh dear” he said through his chuckles. “You are a chamber pot.”
The pot was so embarrassed and humiliated he could not speak. All he could manage to do was to cry.
Day after day, week after week on into months and years the chamber pot became more and more submerged in self pity. Whenever he was carried out to be empted and cleaned he heard the laughter and snickering of the other pots and vases throughout the palace.
Once day, while he was drowning in self pity, something came to his mind. If he were destined to be a chamber pot, he would be the best chamber pot the world had ever seen. He was a chamber pot of the King. Although that was humbling, still he would seek whatever glory could be found there.
From that moment on, his outlook was changed. Whenever the other pots chuckled at him, he would say, “I am handled daily by the King, when the last time the King even looked at you?’
Many years later, over two hundred to be exact, some people digging near the ruins of the old palace and happened to come across the chamber pot and the vase. Both were still in pristine condition. The men marveled at their finds. Both pieces were packed in crates and shipped off to a land far away across the mighty ocean.
Once they arrived they were cleaned and polished and then put on display behind a great piece of glass. Thousands of people every day stopped and looked at the chamber pot and the vase and admired them equally.
The vase taunted the pot daily reminding him of his humbled life. The chamber pot only replied “I am what I am and I am the best me I can be.”
One day as the vase was being handled by a workman he slipped out of the man’s hands and landed on the floor. The once beautiful vase smashed into a million pieces. The man called his supervisor and they swept the vase up in a dust pan. Then they mixed the pieces in with the sand surrounding the chamber pot.
The next day on a card next to the chamber pot they hung a picture of the old vase. The chamber pot noticed for the first time there were two cards proclaiming the history of both he and the vase.
The first card stated that he was originally a chamber pot for the famous King Louis of France. And he was valued as ‘Priceless”.
The card next to the picture of the vase told of how it was once the possession of the princess, later the queen of France. How it was accidentally destroyed while being cleaned. The remaining shards were now mixed into the sand to add a decoration to highlight the chamber pot. Value: “Worthless”.
We may not have any control over what we are in this life, whether a vessel of honor or a vessel for dishonor, but we do control what we will make of ourselves. Will we end up as Priceless or Worthless to our Lord?
This story is based upon a real event. I was at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC many years back, when I saw the chamber pot originally owned by King Louis of France. Surrounding the pot in the sand was shards of a once beautiful purple vase (I do not remember its real history) that was destroyed accidentally during a routine cleaning.
This event made me think of Paul’s lesson to the Romans:
Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? Romans 9:21 NET
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