In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul the apostle says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me.”
I think at some point or another we all spend some time in confusion as to who we are, wondering why we were created, if we have a purpose . . . Because in our culture it’s always about bettering yourself. How to be smarter, get a better career, be the perfect mom, be thinner, look younger, have more money . . . it’s endless and endlessly discouraging. The words ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ seem to get lost in translation.
And in church, we so often strive to put our best selves forward in order to hide our truest selves – the self with a past, the self that sometimes (or in my case, oftentimes) puts their foot in their mouths, the self who can be selfish and impulsive, the self who doesn’t have it all together.
This past weekend my small group and I traveled to the Paseo Art district in Oklahoma City to Paseo Pottery. There, we watched a potter named Collin demonstrate the process of taking a lump of clay and transforming into a beautiful, unique piece of pottery. As he spun the clay on the wheel he quoted the book of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah goes down to the potter’s house; “ . . . and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of the clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter, so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
And I stood there and watched this potter take a broken, marred piece of clay and refashion it into a new object. The potter then said something to me that I don’t think I will ever forget, “Do not be ashamed of the potter’s mark on your life.”
The potter takes us, sometimes broken beyond recognition and he refashions. He gently and intentionally guides us, transforms us until we are a new creation, he allows us to walk through fire so that like gold, we are refined and come out stronger, more beautiful and yet nothing like before. Do not be ashamed of the mark of the Potter. For you, that might mean a past you’re not particularly proud of, a time of discipline and consequences. It might mean heartbreak and loss, healing, discovery, revelation . . . do not be ashamed.
And so these words of Paul, they strike deep to my heart. “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”