Last week, Drew and I were visiting another province of Zambia for my work, and it happened to be the same time that there was an International Trade Fair in town, so we decided to take a look. It turned out to be quite chaotic actually; not very different from the hectic African markets we are used to in Lusaka, the capital city where we live. However, right before we were leaving, we found a little gem tucked away in a section we didn’t even know was there.
Craftsmen always fascinate me, and one of my favorite things about Africa is that it is very common for people to make the things they sell. In America you will find handmade items in specialty boutiques for a high price, but here, you can find people making things on the side of the road and they will negotiate with you to usually pay a very affordable price. There is just something so cool about knowing the person who made the things I use everyday in my home! The man pictured above was doing amazing work. Pottery isn’t the most popular craft in Zambia, so this is the first time we had actually seen someone at work and it was so cool to observe the process of a skilled potter.
We weren’t able to stay for too long, but it got me thinking about the analogy in the Bible about God being the potter, forming us the clay. In Jeremiah 18, God instructed Jeremiah the prophet to go down to the local potter so that He could give a word for His people the Israelites. Jeremiah describes what he saw,
“And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.” Jeremiah 18:4 (ESV)
Now, God was using this analogy to declare what was happening between Him and the Israelites. In one sense, He was humbling them by showing them that they are not in control; they are not the reason for their success. God is the potter and He is working through them to declare who He is to the world, as He seems fit to do.
The story goes on, however, to also emphasize the important part that the clay plays. If you watch a potter you will notice how he continues to work and rework the clay, with patience and a certain vision that only he has for the piece the clay will become. God relates this to the story of His people in that He had good plans in mind for them, a beautiful mold that he has set out to accomplish, but they have choices to make in order to become what He has planned.
It is so easy for us as little lumps of clay to stay just as we are. We may get all of these grand ideas for what we want for ourselves, and as the potter begins to mold us, it may not seem in line with how we thought it was supposed to go. So, our choice is to fight it and stiffen up so He can no longer move, or to trust the ways of the potter and remain pliable and open to His every move.
In order for the beautiful pot, mug, or vase to be made, the lump of clay has to be pounded down and stretched. It has to go on the wheel, and surrender to a process that is often painful, in order to get to that moldable consistency that is needed for the skilled potter make a masterpiece.
It is very much like a concept that I have been learning this week in a leadership conference about having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. When we have a fixed mindset, we act out of the belief that things are the way they are and there is nothing more we can do about our situation other than get depressed if it is not how we want it to be. However, the Jeremiah passage goes on to proclaim that this is not the case,
“If at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.” Jeremiah 18:7-10 (ESV)
God’s will is sovereign, but He desires our participation in the molding process. Instead of having a fixed mindset, thinking that things must stay they way they are, we need to adopt the pliable attitude of a growth mindset. Seeing every roadblock and open door as an opportunity for Christ to work and move in us. We must allow the potter to move in us, and look for ways we can be moveable according to His good will for our lives. No matter whether we are in a season that calls for repentance and turning back to God from the destruction of our sin, or a season of abundance that calls for a renewed focus on our Creator whose craftsmanship brings about every good and perfect work in our lives.
May we be women who do not see our situation as fixed, but rather as a growth opportunity to be molded as we surrender to the Potter’s will.