working the clay (part 2) – reclaiming the clay

At the Potter’s House

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

Jeremiah 18: 1-7

Often I have people ask when throwing a pot on the wheel,  If I mess up this pot can I squish it back down and start over?


Well, can you use the clay again?

Yes,  but first it needs to be reclaimed.

People are alway taken back by the process, misled by simple phrase “so the potter formed it into another pot.”  The simplicity leaves out the steps of changing, waiting and pressure involved in reclaiming the marred clay.

To reclaim means to bring into or return to a suitable condition for use.   Clay is an organic body, when touched by human hands or by the elements its physical state, its moisture, and its elasticity is changed.  If working on the wheel it may become to wet or stretched out to continue, if left on a board it may become too dry or cracked to use.  There is a whole spectrum of wet and dry stages.

All through Israel’s history the people have spanned the spectrum like the clay, drawing close to God and drifting far from Him.  Nevertheless, the Lord always retained a remnant, a small line that he could accomplish his purposes and promises through.  Reminding us that the potter can take clay at any state and reclaim it to use for his purposes.

To reclaim the clay it is necessary to obtain an even moisture and consistency through the whole piece so that it can be readied for use. The key is time and patience.  If you rush it, it will be a sloppy mess; if you wait too long, it will be too stiff.  In essence you must pause until just the right moment.

Reclaiming clay is time consuming.  Not many potters enjoy this process,  I know artists who throw their clay away saying it is cheaper to buy new clay than waste their time wedging.  Many dream of a pug machine, a device that compresses the wet clay and simply removes the air.  But wedging  (think kneading dough) goes a step further, it gets all the little clay particles moving in the same direction, it incorporates the wet areas and restores the dry edges,  and it exposes air pockets.  When properly wedged it makes the entire body stronger and less prone to cracks.

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6

The longer that the potter wedges, the more consistent the ingredients are throughout the lump of clay.  The uniqueness to wedging by hand is the clay warms in response to the touch.  How neat to think that as we are held by the Potter our entire being warms throughout.  I love the picture of this process of redemption, by the Lord’s hands He works His clay through timing, energy and personal attention.

Have you experienced the touch of redemption in your life?

Are there any hard particles or foreign bodies that keep you from being an even consistency to be used by the Potter?

In what areas have you felt the warmth of the Potter’s hand?

Are you willing to be transformed by the Potter into a new vessel as seems best to Him?


About Kate

I am a wife, mother, friend, artist, swimmer, traveler, cook, adventurer and follower of Christ. This is where I share the best moments in my day – the kind you know would be a crime to keep to yourself. I write like I talk, not too fancy but from the heart. View all posts by Kate

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