Yet O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. —Isaiah 64:8
From God shaping Adam from the ground through prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah to Jesus making a paste from mud to cure a blind man, the image of God as potter, working with the clay of the earth, reminds us that we have the humblest of beginnings but a divine spirit and destiny.
Knowing that we are the work of God’s hands should reassure us when we question our physical attributes. It should also encourage us to take better care of our bodies, much as we would treat a precious ceramic vase or even a practical piece of kitchen pottery.
A great deal of time and patience goes into creating something from clay. The intuitive and creative skill of the potter works to shape the clay but much can happen in the drying and glazing process. And a piece is only finished after it’s gone through the high heat of the kiln that changes its very composition and molecular structure. For a human potter, waiting in between stages takes a great deal of patience. Beginners often worry about hidden imperfections and cracks that can destroy a piece during firing. Fortunately, our divine potter has all the skill and patience needed to guide us to completion.
We might think of patience as trust through time. And our perception of time changes as we grow older. Remember what this time of year felt like when you were a child? It seemed as though Christmas would never get here. Children live so much in the present moment that it’s hard to get them to understand the passage of time and the need to wait. As we get older, though, it seems as though time moves faster and faster. We look back on our teenage and young adult years and wonder when we found time to hang out with our friends, to play games (card, board, video—the medium changes but the pastime doesn’t). We might think it’s our work and family responsibilities, and that’s part of it, but even people who have retired say that they find it hard to find time for all that they want to do.
Only at the very end of our lives do we again find time hanging heavy around us. If infirmity and illness keep us from doing the things we love, the days may feel endless and the nights even more so. Instead of having to slow down, we need to remind ourselves that we’re in the perfect time and place for long and leisurely conversations with God.
Take a Deep Breath
Hanukkah and the beginning of Advent coincide this year. The tradition of not working while the lights of the menorah burn is a good example for us. Too often prayer becomes one more thing that we have to do in order to cross it off some spiritual list. Slow down and take time for a real prayer encounter with God. We might pray along with our Jewish brothers and sisters, “Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who has brought us to this holy season.” As they kindle the lights of the menorah, we light the first candle on our Advent wreaths.
A Simple Gift
Today is the day to get out your Advent wreath or buy or make a new one. It can be as simple as a green wreath with four candles set within it—three purple and one pink. I’ve used the traditional tapers, but I’ve also used votive candles in glass containers that burn longer without dripping. This is the main symbol of this season when we celebrate the light that comes into our darkness.