My five year old, Rosie, got a kid’s pottery wheel for Christmas. One of the reasons she wanted this toy (aside from the fact that there was a tv commercial for it) is that I, her momma, am an artist and sculptor and she loves to “be like me.”
The day after Christmas we pulled it out of the box and put it together. Rosie couldn’t reach the sink, so I filled the water bottle. She couldn’t open the foil sealed packs of clay, but I easily pulled one open. She didn’t have the hand strength to shape the sheet of clay into a workable ball, but that was simple as pie for me. I showed her what each tool did, and she pushed the button to start the wheel.
Rosie decided to make the “Turtle Shaped Jewelry Box” as seen in the directions. I portioned out the clay, giving her just enough for the shell. There was some pouting when the clay kept skidding off to one side of the slimy, wet plastic wheel. Rosie doesn’t yet have the skill to put equal amounts of pressure on all sides of the clay to keep it centered on the spinning wheel. I sprayed the clay down as her little fingers worked out the bumps and lines, but she said, “Hey! I want to do that!” Now she was alternating between the squirt bottle and her fumbling attempts to “sculpt.”
I tried to hold back.
Better moms would have.
The joy is in the journey right?
But I couldn’t help myself. I kept insisting she let me guide her (otherwise the clay would’ve dried out before we had it halfway done and the outcome definitely wasn’t going to look like any kind of turtle!). When we had a “shell,” I rolled a ball for the head and showed her where to stick it. I rolled the feet and made little prick marks on our turtle so she’d space them with some semblance of physical realism. To make the turtley lines on the shell, I scraped the tool around the shell in concentric circles and then showed Rosie how to sketch the connecting lines. She slumped in her seat overwhelmed by my instruction. My involvement was starting to irritate her at this point. She sort of gave up on imitating my shell lines and let me finish them.
“Here honey, use these little tools to make the face,” I coaxed. Ready to be done with the long, laborious art project (it took less than ten minutes) she made some pokes and sat back satisfied.
A day later, our clay turtle was dry enough to paint. Rosie proclaimed that the painting part was her favorite part. She picked the colors—bright metallic green for the shell and neon pink for the head and feet. She danced around the kitchen waiting for the paint to dry and as soon as it was touchable, she hurried to show her daddy.
“Look what I made all by myself!” she flaunted her turtle with pride.
This proud momma smiled from the kitchen, happy for Rosie’s “achievement.”
Later, in prayer, this proud momma had a startling realization.
I often feel needed. Desperately needed. Heartbroken friends, needy children, a husband who has forgotten how to make a sandwich, sisters, Sunday School, church responsibilities, my cake job, even friends who aren’t “going through something” desire time with me. All of that starts to build up on me sometimes. All the people, all the needs, all the prayer I should be praying gets me feeling a little smooshed.
“So and so needs us,” I say to my husband and we pick a night to have them over for dinner. That young couple who is struggling needs our years of experience. That friend who is hurting needs my prayers. That co-worker isn’t saved so I need to hurry in to the shop with a good attitude because, “Who else will tell him?”
With burdened shoulders, I lifted my eyes to the Maker of Heaven and Earth and the Lord humbled this proud momma. His big hand pressed me low, and I blinked open my eyes to reality.
He gave me a picture of Him, the Master Sculptor working the clay of people’s lives.
He and I are just like me and Rosie. I don’t know even a smidge of what He knows. He knows the past and future. He sovereignly shapes the clay of people’s lives with the uttermost skill. I am deluded if I think He needs me. He lets me hold the tools sometimes. The tools give lines and ruffled edges to the pottery that he has already created. And if His strong, Fatherly hands didn’t hold my feeble hands still and teach my fingers just the right amount of pressure, I’d ruin the pottery for sure.
Momma isn’t needed. Momma is blessed to study under the tutelage of the Lord.
What a distinction!
I’m blessed to be an apprentice under the most creative Creator of all time.
Blessed to watch the Master work.
All these people I minister to are being ministered to by Him. And I, with much less skill, am learning from my Father as I “help.” If for one minute I start thinking “This won’t happen without me” I am dangerously out of whack in my role as apprentice.
It’s why He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
When the Lord opened my eyes to my self-absorbed, prideful error, I felt the burden lift. Tears in my eyes, I praised Him for being so patient with His little girl. Being in my right place is relaxing!
I occasionally teach adults my craft. When I’m at work and I’m training someone to sculpt, they usually watch me work with awe. I’ve been sculpting and painting for many years now. I often hear my co-workers say, “I’ll never be that good.” Or, “You make it look so easy.” Unlike my little Rosie, when I teach adults how to sculpt, adults have the maturity to recognize that I am the teacher and they are the student. When the piece is finished, they say, “I couldn’t have done it without your help.”
One important side note, if you sit back too far, you are just watching not apprenticing. Are your hands in the messy clay of people’s lives? If your apron is white and unspotted by the flying flecks of clay that spray off of the Potter’s wheel, you aren’t taking up your cross. There is a balance. Involved, but not in control. Invested, but only because of what has been invested in you. Burdened, but only by the light burden of the One who wants you to learn how He sculpts. Apprenticing isn’t a hands off study.
Oh Lord, you’ve lifted my burden yet again. You are constantly setting me free from myself. Help me to remember that what people “need” from me is my heart and eyes fixed solely on You and the work that You are doing. Make me mature and complete. Let me always remember as I minister that I am your humble apprentice. You are the Healer. You are the Fixer. You are the Master Potter. And Lord, just as Rosie gave me the turtle to hold my precious rings, may the “work” I do with you and for you produce glittery crowns that I can lay at your feet.
“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;” Psalm 86:11