Friday, October 17, 2008

Hands of the Potter

Note: This photo was taken a couple of years after the column was written. This image shows the hands of the potter over those of a young girl.

I watched in awe as a skilled potter shaped a blob of clay into a small bowl. As the wheel spun around and around, the potter cupped her hands around the wet, supple clay she’d placed in the center of the wheel. Once the bowl began to take shape, the potter placed her right hand outside the bowl and her left hand inside the bowl. By applying gentle pressure—inside against outside, outside against inside—she used her fingers to create the details she wanted the bowl to have.

“I’ve got it started,” she said to a young boy who was watching the demonstration. “See what you can do with it.”

She got up from her chair, and the boy, who looked to be around 12 years old, sat down. She said, “Press the pedal so you can see how fast the wheel will go.” He did.

“Slow it down,” she said. He complied.

“Too slow,” she said. “Try to set the speed somewhere in between.”
After he’d cupped his hands around the clay, she squatted beside him and used her hands to help him shape the clay.

Watching the teacher with the pupil reminded me of a phrase I heard years ago: “Each one teach one.”

Teaching often involves more than simply telling and/or showing someone how to do something. So, as the learner struggled to obey her instructions and replicate her actions, she provided additional guidance by actually taking his hands in hers, allowing the gentle pressure from her fingers to guide his. As a result of their working together, the bowl turned out fine.

As I reflected on that, I thought about how I’ve often wished I could’ve heard Jesus speak and watched His actions—and had Him come to my aid whenever I’d messed things up. How wonderful, I’ve often thought, to be among those who say, as one of His disciples did, “We have seen him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands” (1 John 1:1, New Living Translation).

Although the “Teacher,” as many called Him, is no longer on earth in bodily form, I am not without a master teacher, and neither are you, dear reader. You see, after Jesus returned to heaven, God sent us another teacher, one Jesus referred to as the Counselor, the Paraclete, the One who comes alongside. (See John 16.) The Spirit guides us as surely as the potter guided the young boy, as surely as Jesus would if we could receive instruction directly from His lips or feel the guiding touch of His hands on ours as we work, as we minister according to His commands.

Since we have the Spirit to accurately teach us and to divinely enable us, we can know and do infinitely more than we ever could on our own. Like the young boy who would have made a mess of the bowl (apart from the potter’s presence and patient assistance), you and I will make a mess of our work (of our ministry) if we depend solely on our own abilities. Even the most earnest effort is not sufficient for success—apart from the Spirit’s help—for, as God said centuries ago, “It is not by [mankind’s] might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6, NLT).

Copyright © 2005 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. For permission to use, please contact her.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mom, this article is so very true. We all just have to learn to be open to the guidance that is provided us! Love, Jena