Like Clay in the Potter’s Hands

Margarita was a typical devout Catholic young adult. She loved food and friends and was trying to figure out God’s plan for her life. Then, all of a sudden, things began falling apart. After several personal tragedies, depression forced her to take time off from work. She began to lose her faith in God. She stopped attending Mass and soon she was compromising her deeply held convictions.

That’s when she found out she was pregnant.

Margarita considered herself pro-life. But now the father of the baby, with whom she had dreamed of marriage and family, wanted nothing to do with her. Her family, though compassionate, was overwhelmed with the situation and told her they would “support her whatever she decides”. Margarita’s self-identity was shattered. She thought of her Catholic friends, especially a friend who had entered a cloistered religious community. What would they think of her now? Suddenly the temptation towards abortion became overwhelming. She felt trapped and desperate, like the walls were closing in around her.

It took a lot encouragement, support, and grace, but Margarita was able to persevere through the temptations and anxieties. We accompanied Margarita on a visit to her friend in the cloister. As we waited at the grille, Margarita was terrified, wondering how her friend would react when she saw the unmistakable baby bump. When the friend appeared and saw Margarita, the young nun burst into tears; so did Margarita.
The friend said: “I heard what happened and I was so worried about you, because I knew the pressure and temptation you were facing. But when I saw you with the Sisters of Life, I knew you had made the right decision.”

Recently, I visited with Margarita and it was like she was a different person. There was a confidence and a light in her eyes that I had never seen before. As we gushed over her adorable baby girl, she said to me: “This baby saved my life.”

We read in the Old Testament that the Lord sent the Prophet Jeremiah down to the potter’s house to observe him working at his wheel. He saw how the vessel that the potter was making was spoiled in his hand. Undaunted, the potter reworked the clay into a new and different vessel. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 8:6)

Sometimes we can feel like a spoiled vessel, misshapen and flawed. Perhaps you feel that your life is in shambles, or maybe just that this particular day was a disaster. We think: ‘It can’t get any worse!’ Then God drops something more on us, something that appears totally beyond our strength. We can only whimper: ‘And this too, Lord?’

Margarita’s unexpected pregnancy was such a moment. And yet, it is moments like these that the Divine Potter can reshape us according to a new and better design. At times it is necessary to shatter our false identities, our false securities. Margarita had been on the wrong trajectory; she had lost the sense of who she was as a beloved daughter of the Father. So the Lord gave her a new identity. In learning to embrace her identity as mother she remembered that she was loved. She found purpose again and reconnected with her parish community and her faith.

These lessons are never painless, and but if we learn to surrender to God’s hands, what seems to be a catastrophe can become a great gift. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” can become the foundation of something new and better. Let us try to remember this the next time we feel that God is asking too much, that he is trying us beyond our strength.

Father, we are clay in Your hands. We place our confidence in Your wisdom, Your power, and Your love. We give You permission to fix our mistakes, to set us free from our self-sufficiencies and distorted identities. Lord, send forth Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.