September 15, 1998
Bruised by the latest insult, Jonathan lingered in the locker room shower until the other boys went home. He tried to say “sticks and stones . . .” but knew that name-calling felt just as painful as rocks.
People can be unkind. When someone hurts us, we feel like fighting back even though retaliation usually makes matters worse. The Bible says “turn the other cheek” and that is tough enough, but God also wants us to deal with our attitude towards rock-tossers. We can be bitter and angry but hateful emotions are as harmful to us as is their name-calling or sticks and stones.
When predicaments perplex me, I think of Romans 8:28, “In all things, we know that God works for the good of those who love Him . . . .” If God can use everything for my good, what about people who seem set to harm me? How can He turn that around and make it profitable for me?
I remember an Alaskan potter, a tall woman with burlap cape to her ankles. She ran a potter’s wheel at the Kenai Craft Show. Dissatisfied with the plain pot on her wheel, she stood up and frowned at it. She took a few pieces of unformed clay in her hand and leaving the motorized wheel still turning, she stepped back about ten feet and started firing those bits at the pot.
As she battered it, an amazing thing happened. At first the clay on the wheel wobbled and reeled under the blows, but gradually it changed shape. Slowly under the potter’s hand, the plain pot became a beautiful and useful vessel.
In a similar incident, God told the prophet Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house. There he saw a potter working, “but the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
Then God told Jeremiah, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” He went on to explain that He planned disaster that they might be shaped and turn from their evil ways. However, each one would continue “in the stubbornness of his evil heart.” In response, God said, “I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed. . . .”
God uses many methods to discipline His people. If we can compare unshaped clay with people who do not know or follow God, then God can use them in our lives, for our good. He used the Babylonians just like the Alaskan potter used the blobs to shape His people, the Jews. After their captivity in Babylon, they never again worshiped pagan idols.
When Nathan the prophet chastened David for his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband, David felt the sting of his rebuke yet God used that pain to shape him into a beloved leader of Israel.
God even used “unshaped clay” against His own Son. Cruel men fully intended to destroy Jesus but God used their cross and nails for good. His death led to His victory over sin and death. The blobs of clay were God’s instruments to bring Jesus to His rightful place as Lord over all.
What about the things people toss at you and I? Certainly it is possible that God is purposely tossing some blobs of clay because He sees a need for reshaping in our lives. We need to consider that even in pain, God is working to make something useful and even beautiful out of rather plain jars.