Steve, my husband, has been reading The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. (I think he feels a bit coerced into doing so because of Abby and me.) And knowing that he is reading words I have read many, many times causes me to remember a scene from Taran Wanderer.
Taran has been traveling—journeying to find himself. To see who he is. He knows not his parentage, his lineage or his heritage.
During his journey, he was trained by the artisans and craftsmen of the Free Commots. He learned to forge steel with a blacksmith, learned to weave cloth with a weaver and he learned to throw pottery with a clay shaper. He mastered all of the skills except the potter’s wheel. And this is the one skill he longed to master more than all the others, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Taran was disheartened.
There are times I feel like Taran. I see something I want to do or be more than anything. I work and strive and lament because it just doesn’t seem to flesh out as I think it should.
What a quandary: wanting to be able to do something so well (teaching, writing, studying, loving, mothering, friending, creating), wanting to be able to use a tool so efficiently and precisely and artistically; yet, what I have longed to do doesn’t seem to have the effect I desire. Sadly I become hesitant and unsure of myself—filled with doubt and anxiety concerning my skill and gifts. I find myself so concerned and afraid that I will spoil the endeavor that sometimes I don’t do anything at all.
Annlaw Clayshaper addresses this very issue with Taran. He encouraged Taran to finish shaping the half-formed clay vessel on the wheel. Annlaw tells him to sit down and shape the clay for himself, but Taran protests and says he will spoil Annlaw’s creation.
The potter laughs and says, “Spoil it you will, surely. I’ll toss it back into the kneading trough, mix it with the other clay, and sooner or later it will serve again. It will not be lost. Indeed, nothing ever is, but comes back in one shape or another.”
This is the whispering I am hearing from the Spirit these days; I keep getting the Holy Spirit nudge (as our pastor describes it). And I find myself hesitating—protesting that I am going to spoil it.
And my Potter, mine, chuckles at me too.
“Ah, Tamera, spoil it you will. Surely. But I will toss it back into the kneading trough, mix it with the other clay, and sooner or later it will serve again. It will not be lost. Indeed, nothing ever is…because I work all things to the good of those who love me and are called according to my purpose. I can and will redeem what you spoil and what the locusts have eaten.”
Spoil it I will.
But just because I might spoil it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
I experience spiritual amnesia often. I forget that every time I listen and heed the Spirit’s nudge, every time I attempt something that requires faith, my “skill and craftsmanship” are increased—even if it is a poorly shaped clay vessel that must be tossed back into the clay trough; nothing has been wasted. I will have learned what not to do. I will have felt the clay in my hands. I will have invested time and effort.
The hesitation comes because the Spirit asks me to do something and I am very afraid I will spoil it; but it also comes because I am afraid my efforts will be compared to someone else’s and will be found lacking.
Ha, spoil it I will.
Lacking? Most likely.
Once I understand this, once I accept this—then, ah then, I can get over myself.
Spoiling doesn't negate the usability. Even if my efforts have to be thrown back into the kneading trough they can still be used. They will come back in one form or another—they will not be lost.
My efforts will be redeemed and used because I hand them over and say, “This is all I have. This is all my skill, this is all my ability, and this is all I have.”
Then my Potter will smile and chuckle and throw the clay back on the wheel.