Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Potter's Wheel

I woke up this morning with a Tenth Avenue North song playing in my mind.  The lyrics demanding my attention so strongly, I couldn’t sleep anymore.

You say let it go,
You say let it go,
You say life is waiting for 
     the ones who lose control,
You say You will be everything I need,
You said if I lose my life
     it's then I'll find my soul,
You say let it go.

This has been the most difficult aspect of my journey with Jesus – letting go.  I’ve read in a lot of books that I’ll never be “free” of hang-ups or strongholds or burdens or bondage until “I surrender all”.
“Surrender” is one of the most frightening words in the English language to me.  In church talk it has dozens of synonyms:  “Turn your life over to Jesus”, “Make Jesus the Lord of your life”, “Give God control”.  And there are as many hymns whose lyrics say the same thing:  “I surrender all . . . all to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all”, for example.  All I think is what a liar I am when I have to sing those lines. 

It would be more honest for me to sing, “I surrender some, I let go a bit, I don’t trust You, I can’t see You, take what You can get.”
Or, another hymn, usually sung in its entirety during a church’s invitation time, questions, “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?  Your heart does the Spirit control?  You can never be blessed . . . til your all on the altar is laid.”  So this theology says I can only be blessed if I one hundred per cent  (i.e., all) surrender to Jesus.  But to clarify, is that one hundred per cent of each sixty seconds in every minute all day long? 

This is not encouraging.  Honestly – and I mean, get honest with me – can anyone do this?  It seems like an invitation to frustration.  “I can never be blessed, cuz I can’t pass the test, guess I’ll pass on that altar today.”
It’s an all or nothing theology, and I don’t think any believer can do this.  There are issues in our lives including addictions, guilt, wounds, grudges, and fears that cannot be packaged all together with a pretty bow on top and shipped off once and for all via UPS to God.  I say this because many of those issues have been pushed down out of sight within us for so long we don’t even know they exist anymore.
It reminds me of our move to Mesa from Chandler.  We’d outgrown our little house and had to box up what amounted to an entire room of stuff, filling a 10x10x10 foot storage unit with all of it before we could show our home to prospective buyers.  The house looked big and welcoming with all the clutter stored safely out of sight.  Lovely to look at, but I knew it was a big façade. Four months and a new house later, I went to retrieve everything and was astounded by the immensity of it all.  By then, I’d lived so long with it hidden, I wondered why I should bring any of it out into the light of day?  Still, it was “my stuff” and since some of it was seasonal, I had to bring the whole mess with me and sort through it all later, knowing much of it would be shoved into a closet again.
My point is I believed throughout much of my Christian life that to be acceptable to Jesus I had to pull out my issues, even the ones of which I was not aware, and give them up, promising never to have those hang-ups again.  It’s kind of like a little kid cleaning out his overall pockets for his mom – first you leave the frogs and snakes and rocks and rodents outside where they belong and then you can come inside the freshly vacuumed house.  Come clean and then you’ll be acceptable and blessed. Of course, once I see what I’ve been stuffing inside, it’s easy to agree those are things that need to be dealt with.   But if I knew what to do with them, I wouldn’t have put them in storage in the first place. 

See my predicament?
I thought if I held onto anything, I’d be stoned to death in judgment, Achan-like, for possessing accursed  things (Joshua 6.)  And if I clean out my pockets, I have to try not to fill them up again.  If we really can put our all on the altar, then why do Christians still struggle with anger, fear, lust, overeating, bitterness, impatience, critical spirits, etcetera etcetera etcetera?  It leaves me with the impression that I must fess up and give up.  And both of those strongly suggest that I never have or do those things again, or I’ll be in BIG TROUBLE.  I might even get kicked off the altar. 

Now that’s failure – when you’re not even good enough to be charbroiled on a BBQ.
It sounds unrealistic to me, even dishonest.  If I can’t come to God or be blessed by Him until I stop behaving badly, I will come to Him as a liar (which I’m pretty sure is a sin) saying I’ve done something I can’t do, like getting over everything on my own so I’ll be good enough for God.  Or I’ll come to Him truly cleaned up and then wonder why I need a Savior anyway?
As beloved as these old hymns are, and as familiar as our theologies have become, I wonder if they may be the items that belong on the altar of sacrifice.  Perhaps we need to surrender all our misconceptions about what it means to be pleasing to God.  Recently I heard it said that God doesn’t mind a mess.  Obviously that’s the “papa” in Him, not the “mother-hen” side.  He likes getting His hands dirty, which only makes sense when I remember He’s a potter.  While the potter’s wheel spins, it’s pretty difficult to differentiate where muddy fingers end and the clay in process begins.  It’s all a big, brown blur.
Maybe the best way to describe myself right now is “clay in progress.”  I know my Papa has a vision of what I will be.  And since He never fails, it will come to pass.  I just don’t see it yet.  I really wish I could.  It makes me cry to realize God loves His work – both the process and the clay.  I can’t come to him cleaned up of the stuff imbedded in me. I can’t pick out the debris and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I could. 

But I do know how gentle His hands are.  I’m always safely held by them while He molds me, changing me from glory to glory, whistling while He works and I take a ride on the Potter’s wheel.


  1. Oh my goodness! I truly love reading what you write, but this: "It makes me cry to realize God loves His work – both the process and the clay." completely stopped me in my tracks. What a true and lovely thing to say. It seems that we more often separate those things out. I cannot begin to count how often I have heard "God loves you too much to leave you the way you are." and I get what folks are trying to say with that, but it makes it sound like we are a chore, not His workmanship that He delights in. Now I am all teary-eyed. I am so grateful for your writing and when you publish a book, know that I will be standing in line to buy it.

    1. What a lovely thing for YOU to say, MrsH. If I can get one true thing across to anyone who thinks I'm worth listening to, it is that one thing-God loves people who desperately need Him. I can't think of anything more needy than a muddy clump of clay. I guess we all qualify. He really really loves us, one at a time and all of the time. Love you.