Tucked away in the most unsuspecting of villages here, there is a potter at work. His shop is as rugged as the terrain that surrounds it and you’ll find him bent over that wheel, completely immersed in creating the next masterpiece that’s been conceived in his mind.
Watching him is almost rhythmic – the spinning of the wheel, the trickling of water as he gently wets his hands, cradling of his creation. He shapes, he moistens and he re-shapes. He’s in no rush. To him, every intricate detail matters and his patience is as pliable as the clay itself. He’s unmasking something beautiful out of what seems so obscure.
I’ve not visited there in nearly two decades, yet the experience that day has not been lost on me. I came here as a new bride to join my native husband, but I was untrained in ministry, uncertain of my place in our calling, and, admittedly, unenthusiastic about the sacrifices my coming here had demanded of me. On the inside, I felt disjointed, misunderstood, and completely unnoticed. For years, I’d masked those feelings in this closed culture with a polite smile and the anticipated response of “I’m okay.”
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t okay. The ambiguities of this overseas life coupled with the unhealed fractures and broken promises of the past began to manifest themselves through anxiety attacks. They’d come fast and were full on. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t function. I was literally at my weakest and I saw myself like that insignificant piece of clay that lay on the potter’s wheel so long ago.
I had given my life to Jesus as a teenager, but the attacks made me deeply aware that I hadn’t surrendered it all to Him as adult. Sure, I’d sung that song a million times:
“All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him. In His presence daily live.
I surrender all. I surrender all.
All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender….”
All? Most? No, wait. If I’m honest, the lyrics would look more like this:
All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender some.
See, I trusted Him enough to surrender the parts of me that seemed wholesome and good. That was easy. But surrendering my battles of shame and guilt, despair and grief, heartache and unforgiveness, well, those were the parts of me that I thought had to be hidden living in this glass house of ministry. I knew I couldn’t hide the ugly from God, but surrendering it all to Him would undoubtedly make me vulnerable – and vulnerable is often a scary place to be.
But I also knew that I didn’t want to keep living in this space of constant anxiety and that, in order to overcome it, I had to become like the clay – willing to be malleable in the hands of the Potter. Willing to trust Him to reveal the beautiful He’d already designed in His creation.
So the unmasking began. Or should I say, the unmasking continues. The fears that were holding me captive have become docile in His perfect love. Those anxious spaces of my mind are being watered with reminders of His promises. My frailties are being met with His strength daily and my layered battles that darken the door of depression and loneliness are being overcome with His marvelous Light.
Yes, that’s all in present tense. Because surrendering it all is not just a one-time thing you do. It requires an every day, abandon-self, follow-Jesus kind of trust. And for twelve years, since my first anxiety attack, my mind keeps going back to the clay and bids me to surrender and become more and more pliable in the hands of the Potter knowing that every intricate detail of my life matters to Him – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Knowing He is the Mender of the broken, the Presence in the refining fire, and the precious Treasure in this jar of clay.
A few years ago, I led worship at church on a Sunday in May, which is observed by some as Mental Health Awareness Month. I had no intentions of sharing my testimony. After all, I was told that those with mental health issues here are often looked upon as crazy. But the Spirit was loud and clear. Today was the day.
So there I stood, vulnerable, looking into the eyes of many I call family and some who were complete strangers. I told the congregation about the attacks. I told them about some of the underlying reasons that brought them on. And I told them about the Potter – how He’d taken this piece of clay and was shaping and unmasking the beauty of His glory from the inside out.
As the service finished, I had two women come to me at separate times. One had been dealing with bipolar disorder and the other had been having anxiety attacks as well. Both thanked me for my boldness in sharing what God had done through my story. Both said that they had been battling their disorders alone for fear of being labeled crazy. Both had tears well up in their eyes because they sensed the freedom in the Potter’s unmasking of the beautiful in them too.
Maybe, being vulnerable in the hands of the Potter is not so scary after all.
In what area(s) do you need to allow the Potter to unmask the beautiful He’s created in you?