Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64:1-9)
On November 28, 1904, Dorotha Alice Bullock Crum was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania. This is an unimportant fact to almost everyone, except she was my grandmother, and when I was growing up in Indiana, she was my best friend. I do not know of any other single individual who had a greater impact on my life. I cannot think of one person who spent more time and energy helping me become who I am today. I find that there is no one else in my life who I miss more than Dortie (and heaven help anyone who called her Dorothy… I don’t know why).
Whenever I read the passage, “we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are the work of your hand,” I know in context it refers to God, but in my heart and mind I cannot help but think of Dortie. I believe we all have a handful of special people – or maybe just one – who took us, molded us, shaped us, strengthened us, “fired us” in the kiln of their love, and helped us become who we are. I believe this is a significant way that God is the potter, shaping us through the significant people in our lives.
I love the idea that each of us is an unformed lump of clay, full of almost infinite potential, but always becoming exactly who God envisions us to be. I grew up in the “God doesn’t make junk” generation, where I was lucky to have excellent pastors who focused on the love and grace of God, redemption, salvation, and grace rather than judgmentalism, condemnation, and punishment. Oh, sin was and is very real, but God’s grace and Christ’s forgiveness is greater. It is why I became United Methodist. Grace is greater than all our failings and weakness, allowing all to see what the potter intends instead of looking for flaws and faults.
God saw what human beings had done to the divine creation – all the chips and cracks and breaks and dings we managed to make in the world – and decided it was time for transformation. Sin – that condition of separation from God – was intolerable to God, so God set in motion the greatest restoration project ever. Letting go of anger for love, and setting aside iniquity for reconciliation, God became a child in this world to redeem it. God sent hope back into our world, converting even one such as Saul to become the Paul who teaches:
“because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
No matter what I did in life, good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative, my grandmother loved me unconditionally and welcomed me with open arms. Much of what I know of God I first saw modeled in my grandmother Dortie. May each one of us become such an influence, such a potter, in the life of another.
Prayer: Divine and amazing Potter, thank you for never throwing us away, but always working us and working us and working us that we might become a beautiful vessel in your loving hands. You see our fullest potential; help us to see such potential in one another. And where possible, use us to help mold, and shape, and strengthen, and form the very best in each other, we pray in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.