Modeling Clay*

Listening well is not one of my strong suits. It’s a professional requirement, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Whether at work or with friends, my natural bent is not steering me toward any Listener of the Year awards.

Speaking of friends, we have one who is a really good listener so I’ve tried to follow her model. Here’s what I saw her do once when my wife was telling her about a particularly difficult day:

“Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next? … And then what happened? … I’m so sorry to hear that … Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next … [etc.] …”

At least that’s how it sounded to me. So I tried doing that next chance I had.

How did that go again? “Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next? … I’m so sorry that happened … Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm …”

It sounded stiff to me, but I kept at it and after a while it wasn’t so stiff. In fact, I started to sound to myself as if I was actually engaging with the person talking to me. And the more I modeled my friend’s sincere behavior, the more sincere I got in being able to listen well. I still probably won’t win any awards, but I’m better at it than I used to be.

God’s Modeling

We’re clay. You knew that right? God’s the potter and we’re the clay and he gets to decide what he’s making us into.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8.)

So what does that mean for God’s people under the New Covenant? It means being modeled on Christ himself:

We all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18.)

This modeling, though, is not of our own doing, but is the work of God himself, because:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6.)

God models clay still, and he won’t stop working on us until he’s completed that work.

Been Made Brand New

The great thing about God’s eternity is that we are not only being made new, but we are already made new, righteously new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here! … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21.)

  • Because we are in Christ, we are completely new.
  • Because of what Christ has completely done, we have become the righteousness of God.

God, the master potter, models his clay perfectly well. What a modeling job.

I’m glad I’m in the Potter’s hands.


*I got the idea for this post from reading Jeannie Prinsen’s article here.

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11 Responses to Modeling Clay*

  1. michellevl says:

    My husband enrolled in beginners’ level adult ed pottery classes at a local junior college a few months ago. The experience of actually working with the clay has been therapeutic and frustrating for him. Therapeutic, as creative handwork can be; frustrating, because the clay in his palms does not yet flow into the image his mind has for it. The Scriptures you’ve quoted above are taking on different meaning for him as a result of this Saturday morning hobby time. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      What a great illustration for our spiritual lives as well, Michelle. We can fumble along at times, but the Holy Spirit can form our efforts to God’s perfect will.

  2. Jeannie says:

    This is a great message. I’ve always known about this potter/clay image but never really internalized it in my life. Maybe I should try that: if something in my life is challenging and pressuring me, visualize myself as a piece of clay on the Potter’s wheel, trusting that He knows what He’s doing with me (and not try to climb off the wheel!).

    Thanks too for the shout-out; I appreciate that!

    • Tim says:

      Funny image that, clay climbing off the wheel. Good advice for us not to try it too. Why aspire to be a soggy lump of mud lying on the floor?

  3. Mary Anne says:

    Potter and clay, hmmm? (Must resist the mental image of Snape yelling “POTTER!”) Anyway, my beef with this metaphor goes back to the whole question in Isaiah(?) about “Does a clay pot argue with its maker?Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it,saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong! ’ ” OK, fair enough—but clay has no NERVES! No will, no imagination, no ability to feel pain. And the way my life is right now, yeah, I’ll argue about whatever “molding” is going on because there’s that part of me that wants to scream, “There MUST be a more painless way to do this, whatever ‘this’ is . . .”

    • Tim says:

      MA, I am so sorry for the hardships you are facing. I am praying for God’s rest in your life as you go through them.

    • Jeannie says:

      I understand what you mean, Mary Anne, and I think this shows the limitations of all metaphors. I’m glad there are images of wrestling in Scripture too.

  4. nmcdonal says:

    I’ve always thought of you as being an especially good listener (or reader, as it were), Tim! Maybe I got you on the upswing from your former ear-plug days.

  5. sarahtun says:

    To be re-modeled is an act of surrender I think. Surrender is the most difficult but rewarding ‘act’ I think. Isn’t it funny that by trying not to try we can succeed!

    • Tim says:

      I know a lot of people use the image of surrender but I tend to go with abiding and resting, as those are the images Christ himself used. God molds us while we rest and abide on the Potter’s wheel.

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