I have been working lately with a line from a Bible Lesson a couple weeks ago, “Deity which outlines but is not outlined.” This statement is a version of the more familiar phrase said by Jesus in the Bible, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” We often “outline” with our preconceptions when we would be better off discerning God’s will for a situation.
For example, this was born out in a recent blog post of mine about my son realizing he wanted to become an economist instead of an engineer. This concept is also very helpful in interpersonal issues or decision making. It helps us be patient about the unfoldment of a state of affairs when we remember that God is driving the ship of life and not ourselves. As a homeschooler and parent it is helpful to apply this understanding to dealing with one’s children; you do not inflict your opinions upon them, nor give free reign to their whimsy, but try to find a middle common way in any situation that feels like the hand of God, who is Principle, Love and Life itself. Most often this approach works out beautifully with peaceful clarity on every front. On the other hand, as you can see in this post, sometimes this process is as clear as, well, mud.
I have a bit of time every week in a pottery studio as my little perk for myself. Since it is a short period of time, progress on pieces proceeds slowly, over many weeks. This week, as my last efforts are in the kiln, it was time to start a new project. My idea was to use white clay on the wheel to create something thick enough that I could cover it with underglaze and then carve away color to revel the white clay beneath; after that I’d glaze the whole piece in clear. It seemed like a great idea, but was it my preconception, or an idea given and inspired by God?
When I headed into the studio, the white clay was in shambles, and I’d have to wedge bits together to have a chunk big enough to use. Alternatively, there was a perfect, new slab of brown clay on offer as well. I considered the choice. Brown clay is easier to use on the wheel, but it would carve to a tan color, not the vibrant white contrast I had in mind. However, fresh new clay is largely bubble free, whereas clay wedged together is often riddled with them. Bubbles make centering the clay on the wheel much more difficult, and can throw the balance of the vessel off at any point as it takes shape. Not only does this take more time, it is aggravating and can completely flop. Additionally, if you succeed beyond all that, bubbles often cause a piece to explode in the kiln. Look at the two photos in this post, and you’ll get an idea of what the choice looked like.
When faced with the condition of the two clays, did I have renewed clarity of what God would have me do at these crossroads, or was I just sticking to a previously revealed idea? Should I have listened to the clay itself, when all indicators were that it was saying that I should revise my plans and use brown clay that day?
Instead, I pressed forward, wedged the white clay as best I could, and had a dilly of a time on the wheel. I ended up with one large bowl with bubbles in it that might not survive the kiln (so I should not put time into carving it before hand), and a second try that flopped altogether. With the lovely brown clay, I could have, rather effortlessly, produced several stable, reliable objects in the same period of time, with the only problem being that they did not meet my “outline.”
After kicking myself about this stupid scenario for the rest of that day, I woke up the next morning to read the following bit (Isaiah 45:9) in this week’s Bible Lesson: “Woe, unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?” This blew me away!
Was I striving with my Maker and having a bad time of it, or was I attempting to be obedient to my Maker by honoring an idea that came from Him? I certainly struggled with those potsherds, but I, myself, am not one. And was my previous day’s devout resolution to always go with the freshest clay, right either? Shall I let the clay tell me what to make? What tells me what to do? What legitimately informs and changes my decisions?
God outlines, but is not outlined. The large, tenuous bowl I made may explode back into potsherds, or may survive to be glazed with a quick simple dip glaze and become a complete delight. We don’t know. One thing is for sure: we rarely get our preconceptions. But God does know and gets His, and we live to have it all revealed!
Marianne: “This sort of discernment is something I struggle with at times and really loved your story. I often have an idea that I feel is inspired and then stick to it even when there are signs indicate I should ‘correct my course’.”
Patricia: “Do I do this thing despite the obstacles that are coming up in it (am I supposed to overcome them) or do I do this other thing that seems to be an unfolding thing to allow to happen? Sometimes the obstacles are saying no, go the other way; sometimes they’re saying persevere. Sometimes it’s not easy to discern which one it is.”
Note from me: Many of you have requested for me to add a photo of the bowl if it survives to completion, or a note documenting it’s demise. I will add that here in a few weeks when we know one way or the other. xx