By Dr. Kevin Thomas
The year was 1979. I was a 13-year-old kid hanging out for the week in Tuscaloosa with my brother and sister-in-law. At the time, she did ceramics as a hobby, and she invited me to tag along. During the week, I completed a few pieces of my own and learned lessons that reach beyond the art. Ceramic pieces start as a liquid poured into a mold, and they’re fired in a kiln until they form a pliable solid called green ware. Once I got my green ware, my work began. The mold leaves seams in the piece. My first job was to scrape and brush away the seams until they were smooth and blended in with the texture of the rest of the piece. Once we were satisfied with my work, it was fired, again to make it much more solid. Then, the painting began. My favorite style of painting was dry brushing. I used it on a couple of raccoons. We started by painting the raccoons solid black. Then, I would dip my brush in brown paint and brush most of the paint off on paper. Once the brush was essentially dry, I began dry brushing the raccoon. At first, it didn’t seem I was making any difference, but eventually, after many strokes, the tint began to show up. It’s a long process, and I repeated it with various shades of brown and red, and white for the tummy. When I was satisfied with the result. I signed and dated the bottom. Both of my raccoons still decorate my house, today.
My brief experience in ceramics teaches me a lot about my lifelong experience of Christ. I came out of my “mold” in the image of God but with more than a few rough spots that God continues to scrape and sand away. God has taken His brush to my life for a lot of years doing work that, at first, was barely visible. And, sometimes God has let me experience the heat of the kiln. My hope is that by the end of this life, God will have created in me a work of art to which He will be proud to sign His name.
Spiritual formation is something that God does in us. It is God’s work to shape us into the image of Christ, but only with our permission. God will not mold us by force, so we must invite Him in. Please join me in this simple prayer. “Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me.”
“Family of Israel, you know that I can do the same thing with you. You are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter. This message is from the Lord. Jeremiah 18:6 (NIV)