A series of hard blows bursts a bubble of air. A wooden rib shaves off an imperfect ridge, gouging a new depth of capacity. Just when real progress begins to appear, down comes a hand reducing the vessel to a shapeless mass once again. No voice is raised in protest. Nothing is heard but the whir of the wheel and the juicy slap of skin against clay. Welcome to the Potter’s Wheel.
Gaylen Peterson has been an art teacher at Hillcrest for 25 years and never is he more eloquent than when he speaks of his work with clay juxtaposed with God’s creative commitment to form us ever more into the likeness of His Son.
Students streamed into chapel this morning to Mr. Peterson spinning a shapeless lump of clay on center stage. As he worked, he began to talk to them and they leaned forward to see what he would do/say next. From time to time, he dipped his hands in water and ran them over the clay as it circled ‘round and ‘round.
Mr. Peterson spoke of the importance of being centered. If our lives are not centered in Christ and His finished work of grace in us, there is no use continuing to expect anything remarkable to come of our crude vessels.
Gradually Mr. Peterson's hands tightened around the lump of clay as he positioned his thumbs inward, pulling a rim of clay upwards. He talked about being watchful for impurities in the clay such as a stone or piece of sponge that could compromise the integrity of the entire vessel. At this point, it is important to deal decisively with defects, even if it means starting over.
Through the entire presentation Mr. Peterson kept a tight grip on the clay that whirled on the wheel. The potter must maintain Critical Tension at all times, not rushing, but taking his time. As God’s workmanship, this can often feel to us, his projects, like punishment, a senseless source of pain.
For many students the time was self reflective and therapeutic. Watching clay morph from a crude lump slapped on a wooden disc to a beautiful bowl handled with the most attuned carefulness causes minds to slow. Centering on Christ, allowing the potter to dig out defects, and resting in the tension of the potter's hands were key points that many are wrestling with daily in Hillcrest's halls. The chapel service gave some the language they have been looking for, realizing that the uncomfortable feelings of growing and maturing are not bad, but are allowing a greater and more dynamic purpose to develop in their lives.
Hebrews 12:11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”