Clay is a natural substance, a form of hardened dirt that is made up of minute fragment particles of rocks, similar to dust, that are ground off by the wind and the rain that the water then washes away. You will find clay at the bottom of rivers, creek beds where it has settled and become stuck together.
When you encounter pieces of hard clay in nature they do not look like much, rather cracked, hard, dry earth.
There are many kinds of clay, depending on the rocks pieces that make up the clay. Different clays are used in basic earthenware (bricks, tiles), another in stoneware and another is used to make porcelain (china) and finer pieces as it can be “stretched thin”.
Clay in the dry form is not good for creating anything it breaks and cracks but as soon as it gets wet, it starts to become pliable. In the pliable state clay can be molded into endless possibilities with a texture much like cheese.
Once molded, the piece you created needs to air dry to remove the moisture out of the clay enabling it to harden. The item becomes hard to the touch but very porous, brittle and breakable, you could not wash this item, as it would get soft and pliable again.
After a clay item is air dried, it then goes into a kiln, a very high heat furnace to remove any trace of moisture and to chemically change the structure of the clay. Different clays need different temperatures and once they change chemically, the clay is now ceramic and will not succumb to water again. Glazing the object covers it with color, pattern and visual interest.
I got to thinking about God using the analogy of the Potter and the Clay; very fitting, God is the Creator of the universe, including dirt. God also said He formed man from the dust of the ground. (Genesis 2:7)
Mix dust and water and you get dirt, take a sanding block or hard life experiences and rub some of that dirt, rock off and you get clay. Clay like people can be cracked, hard and appearing useless, but introduce a bit of water and “wha-la” you get clay, add a bit of molding and shaping and you get a vessel or piece of pottery that you can use.
Then bring on the fire – the more heat the better the end product will be. High temperatures will make clay waterproof and strong.
Looking at the analogy of turning a hunk of dirt into a usable vessel takes a few steps. Turning people into usable vessels for God is also a few step process.
God loves to mold us, trim us, shape and fashion us and then if He does not like it, He throws us back onto the pottery wheel and spins us around some more. When He is satisfied with the “look” He then works on the inside – the chemical makeup of the clay or person.
God is never satisfied with a hunk of clay – only the end result. We as people balk and complain when life “hurts”, what if instead we wanted to be the best piece of “porcelain” in the pottery shed?
People, like clay come in different forms and textures. Some of us respond to molding and shaping better than others. All of us are porous, that is we take in from our surroundings and all of us are breakable. God knows that adding heat to our weakened dirt frame strengthens us, changes us.
The light bulb moment for me came when I realized that the “heating, hot spots” and the “stretching” in my life are being used to drastically change me from the inside out into something beautiful and strong. From a people stand point standing in the fire is too much pain, too much heat, from the potters perspective, the beauty of the object is just being realized and brought forth because of the heat. He gazes at the object in the fire, His affection grows even deeper, He is the Creator and He is making a masterpiece.