I have always been amazed by the process of making pottery. From bowls to tea cups to vases; from ornamental to simple; from intricate pieces meant to display to sturdy pieces meant to be useful…the craftsman meticulously shaped and formed what was once just a lump of clay. And through the process of many hours, he creates something beautiful.
But there’s so much more that takes place than just shaping and firing. Prior to shaping, all the air must be removed from the clay. This process is called de-airing and ensures an even moisture content throughout the clay. The clay is then shaped, but before it can be fired it must undergo a drying process. The clay body is referred to as “bone-dry” when it reaches a moisture content of 0%. At this stage, the object is quite fragile and can easily be broken. Once the clay item has been dried, it must be fired. The maturity of pottery within the kiln is based on achieving peak temperatures anywhere in the range of 1000-1400 degrees Celsius. The length of time the item is fired at this temperature is also an important factor.
Sound familiar? The trials we are going through sometimes feel like we are in the midst of flames, like we are being bent, pressed down, pulled apart. We are that ordinary, insignificant lump of clay that the Craftsman is forming and shaping for our good and for the benefit of others. Sometimes we must become “bone-dry”. All the junk needs to be removed from our hearts and our lives. Just like the pottery, it’s in this state that we are the most fragile. It’s during this process that we are the most frustrated, wanting to give up, complaining about our situation, at our wit‘s end. And then comes the fire….burning away the selfishness, the pride, the pessimism, the self-sufficiency. Our maturity and growth are based upon withstanding the heat‘s intensity. Even though it feels like an eternity that we must endure the hardship, we can be certain that this is all for a purpose.
Isaiah 64:8 tells us, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” WE are the clay. Clay cannot shape itself. It is at the mercy of the potter, it’s creator, to either create it, or to destroy it. We, the clay, are placed in the potter’s hands to be molded. We are the work of the Lord’s hands. We are dependent upon Him to make us into exactly what He wants us to be. This passage speaks to the sovereignty of God and by Him alone can we be saved.
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, and people in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1-4
There is hope! God sees us as His valuable creation! He has redeemed us and called us His own! He promises that even though we must endure these trials, that He will not leave us. He will not allow it to destroy us. We are precious in His sight! Take heart….we may have to pass through the flames, but God’s promise is that we will not be set ablaze!
My Maker takes me, just an insignificant lump of clay. He removes all the impurities trapped inside. He molds me and shapes me, and when I am bone dry, He places me in the fire. The heat rages on for what seems like an eternity, but He promises He will rescue me from the flames. Just as the firing of a clay object produces permanent changes, so it is with my life. I still have to endure a good polishing now and then, but the result is something strong, something precious, a useable tool for Him! Beauty by fire.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” -Isaiah 48:10
“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” -Psalm 66:8-12
“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.” -Malachi 3:2-4