A project I am undertaking has had some real ups and downs. Made up of a number of subassemblies, it’s been hit and miss as to which components have succeeded and which have failed. The successes have been a source of joy. One spectacular failure was the source of a Children’s Story I shared with my congregation. What’s important about the failure isn’t the mess I created; rather, the important thing is that I just started over, reusing parts that were salvageable and recycling those that were not. It was a good metaphor for how God never gives up on us even when we mess up, hence great material for a children’s story, complete with the failed subassembly as a visual aid.
After sharing the story of my failure, one gentleman came up to me following worship and remarked how my reusing the good bits of my disastrous project was like the Biblical image of clay in God’s hands. He was absolutely correct; when we mess up, God refashions us as a potter refashions a failed pot of clay. I was thankful for my friend’s insight and understanding, especially as he is a fellow creator who knows the joy of success and the frustration of failure.
As I pondered our conversation I thought more and more about the clay. It is a powerful image. God takes us when we mess up, mushes us up into an unformed ball of clay and then reshapes us into something better. Notice, however, that the clay itself remains unchanged. While its form undergoes a transformation, its essential essence does not. It retains the same texture, keeps its colour and holds onto its density and flexibility.
Clay, of course, is clay. The potter alone determines its final shape and function. There may be various types of clay suiting different needs and requirements but for the most part, one lump of clay is much like another. Humans, however, are unique creations. Each of us is a very different lump of clay, differing vastly from one another. As we grow and mature we develop our individual God-given gifts and talents as we realize God’s purpose for us.
When we mess up or follow the wrong path, God doesn’t change our essential essence. Our unique abilities and interests remain; God helps us to refine and grow them to their highest possible level. Should we really mess up and miss out on our true calling and gifts, God redirects us onto our right path. Again, our essential essence is not changed; God just makes sure that we know ourselves more fully and truly so that we can be all that God means us to be.
Each of us is uniquely and wonderfully blessed by our Creator. Our individual gifts and talents reflect a particular aspect of God’s heavenly image. They are our essential essence, the means by which we express God’s love and contribute to serving our fellow humans, and indeed all creation, in our own way. Sometimes we mess up or miss out. When we do, God reshapes us and sets us back on the right path but the essence of who we are and what we are called to do does not change. God simply ensures that we use our blessings in a way that will be a blessing to our fellow blessed and beloved children of God.