By Nancy Unks
A potter friend shared some clay with me that was quite different from any I had used before. First, its color was dark red from its high iron content. Then, it was very coarse in texture because of copious amounts of sand—grog in potter’s lingo—mixed into it. That’s the feature that affected its workability.
My friend said she tried throwing some on the potter’s wheel, but found it too painful. The rough, sandy surface spinning between her hands made them raw and sore. I thought that clay might be useful for an outdoor planter made by slow hand building, but it was also difficult to work with by hand. It was prone to drying and cracking while I worked on it, though I sprayed it often to keep it wet. It lacked plasticity and cohesiveness. Creating a simple pinch pot that stuck together took all afternoon.
It occurs to me that I am a lot like very groggy clay. I’m full of sand—little sins throughout my whole being. I have mean thoughts; I criticize; I complain; I cop a superior attitude. I neglect a kind word to a neighbor. I tell someone I’ll pray for them and then forget to do it. I fail to thank God or even acknowledge his constant provision each day, each hour. My little sins of commission or omission sometimes hurt another person, but they are always an affront to my Creator. They cause him pain.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51 expresses the dilemma and my guilty confession. “Have mercy on me, O God . . . Against you, you only have I sinned. . . Surely you desire truth in the inner parts. . . Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:1, 4, 6, and 10).
Yet God keeps working with me, difficult as I am, to create a cohesive whole. The good news is that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God can and will succeed in re-creating even me. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul prays for all of us: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you [God] is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
This is something encouraging to think about as we enter Lent, the traditional time for repentance leading up to Good Friday and Easter.