A Greater Work
We’re just pieces in a bigger plan.
This content is available in Spanish here.
The allegory of us being clay in the hands of the Potter is widely used to explain how the Lord works with us. This is typically explained as an individual process, but if we do a little research on the topic we will find a bigger picture.
We tend to think that there is only one type of clay with which the potter makes his vessels. But this is not true. There are several types of clay, and part of the potter’s job is knowing which type of clay to use for each specific pot.
Different Types of Clay
Depending on the criteria used to classify them, there can be up to seven types of clay, based on the properties of each. Some clays have more impurities, others have great plasticity, or are porous. Some are known as “refractory”, or heat resistant. The combination of properties is what makes each clay different, no two clays are alike.
What’s interesting about this is that the potter cannot form a pot with only one type of clay but must mix them taking into account their properties and the final result he’s looking for. The qualities of the clay are important because they affect the final result, for better or for worse.
In clay, “impurities” are minerals that have been added to the original clay, but they are not always seen as imperfections. When the clay is dragged to other places by the action of the rain and the elements, it collects impurities along the way. Traces of other minerals that come in contact with the clay. Impurities are but a memory of the process that the clay has gone through.
Furthermore, this process causes the clay particles to degrade and become smaller than they were, which makes the clay more moldable, that is, it has more “plasticity”. Other clays remain where they are without going through this process, the reason why they are considered “pure”. However, they do not possess plasticity either since they have not been ground; but they are very resistant. Why is this so important?
The Potter knows his clays, the process, and the properties of each one. He knows the clays that have been grounded in the process and have marks (impurities) due to their long journey before He rescued them. He knows how moldable they are and the temperatures they resist.
He knows the clays that have remained where they started, he knows their purity, and also their resistance. He recognizes porous clays that absorb water easily and knows how to use each of them. The secret is that He cannot use any of the clays alone, He cannot even mold them properly if they are not together. He needs the properties of each clay to be able to mold the others.
Creating a masterpiece
The Potter knows that the clays with more plasticity are very easy to mold, but they break in the oven. He’s aware of the fact that the purest clays resist the highest temperatures, but they are difficult to mold because they have not been properly grounded.
He also knows that the most porous clays absorb water well, and once baked they keep the contents of the pot fresh, but they fall apart easily when molded. The potter distinguishes the impurities that help us in the process, and those that will cause the pot to crack after baking.
Therefore, He knows exactly what to do. When it comes to cleaning the impurities from the clay, He knows how to distinguish the scars that must be healed because they will ruin the result and those that were part of the process to change us and improve the final product. God knows that it is necessary to mix a moldable clay with a pure clay so that the pure clay learns how to be molded.
He also knows that a porous clay will need to be mixed with a moldable clay so that it does not fall apart while both are molded. Also, both will need a heat-resistant clay so they don’t warp in the oven. So the most fragile clays are helped by the strongest clays when they enter the fire and learn how to resist the heat. All of this is known to the Lord, including the fact that at least three different types of clay are always needed to make a pot.
Pieces of a Puzzle
In the same way, the Lord takes us all, unique clays with different properties, gifts, and talents; and it unites us in a single body where our individual properties edify the whole body. Where He uses each one of us in order to shape the others, and he uses the others to shape each one of us.
So He can create a vessel called Church, which will be able to resist the heat when the time comes to go through the fire and transform us all into a single instrument that He can use for His glory. So he constantly asks us for unity; for if we resist the process of integrating one another, the vessel will fall apart when He tries to mold us. Or it will crack in the furnace and the work will be ruined.
That was the purpose of making us different, so we would need each other until we became one. So we should not try to change others to be like us, or try to be like them. God designed each of us with the properties he needed and no other clay can take our place.
The Potter takes care of the preparation of each individual clay, we must only unite and let ourselves be molded in every way. For even when God works with us individually, he is only forming the pieces of a greater work.
“from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”- Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)