Some church services just stick with you. In one particular service at Bridgeway Church, we had a guest performer. Gary Wilson gave the first silent sermon that I have ever seen.
He had a potter’s wheel at center stage and a bag of clay next to it. Before he sat down, he said very few words. He urged us to remember how God spoke to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 18 saying, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words” (NIV).
Wilson grabbed a large misshapen lump of clay and slammed it down on the kneading table. He pressed it and rolled it. He threw it again. He cut it in half and put it back together. He worked the clay over and over again until he felt that it was warm and ready to use.
He sat down at the wheel and put the clay in the center. He wet his hands and began to work. I sat mesmerized. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I let them run down my cheeks as I watched him. The lump of clay was changing; his hands were turning it into something new. I felt as though I were that lump of clay and the Father was creating me with His hands.
I felt my spirit connect with what Jeremiah must have seen. I imagined him there, sitting outside the potter’s house. Maybe hidden or peeping through a window. I imagined the potter, then, just as I was watching the potter now. The clay was formless and void, yet the hands of the potter began creating. The nothing was turning into something, and I knew that I was the nothing that God was making into something.
Wilson’s hands, with great skill, were guiding the clay. The clay began to rise as he moved it, taller and wider. He formed a vase and began smoothing the surface. As he worked, he realized something just wasn’t right. He stood back and looked with an artist’s eye, a maker’s knowing, and then he cut it from the wheel and pressed it back into a lump. It struck me how fast it moved from the shape of a vase into a mass of bent edges and smashed surfaces. I was shocked at the suddenness of demolished beauty, and I thought about how fast God can change our lives. In the snap of a finger, the vase was gone.
He moved back to the kneading table and began reworking the clay. Over and over again, he threw it and kneaded it with his hands. He pressed it together and cut it in half then pressed it together again. I began to see how God does that with us. In life, we are pressed and pushed, thrown and stretched. We are formed time after time by the Potter’s hand into a lump of clay, into something He can work with. Into clay that’s ready to be formed. The lump may not yet have shape, but it has possibility.
Wilson went back to the wheel and began again, and I thought about how much effort he had just spent working the clay into a vase to just smash it into nothing and start over. The Father puts time and energy into our lives, creating something beautiful, and even when we make a mess of it, He is willing to knead it again and reshape it. Nothing is ever a total loss with Him. He can make a masterpiece from a trash heap.
The clay began to take form once again as Wilson worked his hands on the wheel. He slowly moved it up and out. A vase spun on the wheel once again, very similar to the first one. He continued to shape it as it became taller and more beautiful. Wilson used several tools to scrape and press into the sides of the vase. He cut and smoothed the top with a knife. The discarded clay fell by the wheel. He used other tools to create intricate designs in the sides. I realized that just like those tools, God uses circumstances, people, and hard edges to shape us. We may not like how it feels, how it presses into our sides, or scratches against us, but we can’t see what He’s doing–what He’s designing.
The vase was nearly finished, and Wilson took a step back to look it over. He grabbed the discarded clay and began to press it between his fingers. He made two smooth surfaces and attached them to either side of the vase. He bent them in half to create loops, which served as two handles. I thought how absolutely wonderful it is that God takes our broken, discarded messes and reworks them into our final piece to give us character and make us beautiful.
As Wilson was putting his final touches onto the vase, I thought about the clay itself. How it didn’t fight. How it never gave its own opinion but fully trusted the potter. The clay is at the full mercy of the potter, and because of that, the potter can make something miraculous out of a lump of nothing. It grieved my heart to think about how much we fight God while He is trying to shape our lives. What would happen if we just let Him do what He wants?
As the service ended, I couldn’t believe so much could be said without words, and I loved God’s creativity in sending Jeremiah to the potter’s house. What a marvelously creative God we serve who can say nothing yet say so much.
In forty-five minutes, Gary Wilson had shown us what God does with our lives. As I looked at the finished piece, I knew that it wasn’t me. I am somewhere in the middle; in the in-between. I am still in process and need more time for God to work His design in me. I am being shaped and moved and molded into something. I can’t see it yet, but I can feel it, and I trust God’s hand on me and am eager to see what I will become.
To see more of Gary Wilson’s artwork and hear more about his vision, visit his Kingdom Winds landing page here.
Featured Image by Quino Al