• Sheila Harkins

Trusting the Potter's Heart


Years ago, when my oldest daughter was in elementary school, I asked her to help me with an illustration for an elementary chapel. I put two tables together, with an opening between them. I draped tablecloths around them in a way where the students couldn’t see the opening. Under the table, Maurissa hid. She had one hand holding a microphone and another hand lifted high in the middle of a huge mass of clay that I was shaping.


When the students arrived, all they could see was me, working on shaping a lump of clay. I begin to mold the mass with a little pat here and a little pull there. Suddenly, the clay begin to move and a voice cried out “Stop! That hurts!”


The children gasped. Their eyes were huge.


I continued, as I spoke to the clay, “It’s okay, I’m just making you into a teapot.”


“I don’t want to be a teapot! I want to be a beautiful vase!” The clay twisted and turned, trying to get away from my hands shaping it. To the delight of the students, I continued to dialogue with the rebellious teapot.


As chapel concluded that day, I felt like it had been a successful illustration. It seemed like I had done a pretty good job of getting across the idea that we should allow the Potter, the Creator of all, to be the one shaping us. I had explained that the God who made us and knows us best is the One that we should allow to shape us into who He wants us to be.


Later, a teacher stopped me to tell me about the conversation she had with her kindergarten students as she debriefed with them after chapel.


“Do you remember who spoke in Chapel today?” Mrs. Jan asked.


“Mrs. Sheila!” a student answered.


“And what happened today in Chapel?” She continued.


“Magic!”  The same student answered.


Perhaps I should have explained how my illustration worked. Maybe I needed to show them that Maurissa was hidden underneath the table. It’s possible the point of the whole illustration was lost because of the mystery.


However, in a way, the entire story of the Potter and the clay is magical. It’s an extraordinary mystery that the Creator of all wants to interact with us as He lovingly shapes us into the person He planned for us to be. He asks us to trust Him as He pulls a little here and shapes a little there.


Although the teens I work with are so different from me in many ways, there are ways we are similar. We don’t like pain. We aren’t too fond of discipline. We have our own ideas of who we want to be and what we want to do. We don’t get excited when our failures and inadequacies are exposed. We often don’t love the boundaries that have been placed in our lives.


Yet over the years, I have been privileged to see over and over again young people who are willing to pay attention to the nudges of the Spirit.


I’ve seen sin confessed even when it was hard and I’ve seen lives more fruitful and beautiful because of it. I’ve seen friendships in disrepair restored because of the softness and humbleness of the hearts involved. I’ve seen teens yield themselves to the help of their parents, friends and/or mentors as they work on breaking a sinful habit or addiction. I’ve seen extroverts choose to have one-on-one talks with someone who needs an extra dose of love and I’ve seen introverts push past their comfort zones to interact in a group setting. I’ve seen honest apologies that weren’t easy to make.

Each one of these choices of surrender has resulted in a deeper and more Christlike individual than before the painful shaping begin.


Time and again, as I have seen the magical transformations in the lives of others, it has reminded me that the Potter’s hands can be trusted because His heart can be trusted. As we yield to His shaping, He makes something much more beautiful than we could ever be on our own. And so the God of love continues to invite us into this mystery–this surrending of ourselves in order that we can become a much more loving and gracious self than we could have ever imagined.

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