When I was an art major in college I had to take two semesters of ceramics. I had no interest in ceramics. I was a painter and in my arrogance I looked down on those who did “crafts” like ceramics and weaving. People who couldn’t paint, the superior mode of artistic expression, made pots. Like I said, I was arrogant.
It really does take a lot of skill and practice to get good at ceramics. It’s really hard to start with a lump of wet clay on a wheel and pull it up into a beautiful light pot with thin walls.
My ceramics prof didn’t much care for me. Maybe he knew my secret disdain for potters. His dislike for me may have begun the day he was working on a set of coffee cups. He’d set about 6 cups freshly formed and still wet on a board on the edge of his wheel. I wasn’t paying attention and bumped into the board knocking all 6 cups onto the floor transforming them into misshapen cups that looked like they belonged in a Salvador Dali painting with drooping clocks.
“I’m so sorry!” I said aghast with terror.
My prof said nothing. He didn’t even look at me. His face was flushed with anger as he picked up the ruined cups and furiously slung them one by one into a trashcan.
“I am really sorry,” I said again, again getting no response. I walked over to my wheel to the silent stares of the other pottery students at their wheels. I think most of them viewed me with pity, but a few were probably thinking, “Clumsy painting major.” I don’t think my prof ever spoke to me after that.
I think of this event when I read the passage in Romans 9 about God being the Potter and us being the clay. That passage says God is a sovereign Potter, but I’m also glad he is a patient Potter. He is patient with us when we rebel against him in our hostility before he saves us. And he’s patient and longsuffering with us after he saves us. He places the treasure of the Gospel in jars of clay. Day by day he slowly forms in us the character of Christ. Though we fall again and again, again and again he lifts us up.
He bears with our unbelief and grumbling and weaknesses. He knows that we are flesh. He sends his word to us again and again. He places us in his kiln of afflictions to burn off the dross and refine our faith. He’s preparing vessels of mercy. He’s preparing vessels for glory. It doesn’t happen overnight. But our God isn’t in a hurry. He is long-suffering, forbearing and merciful. He is a patient Potter.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (?2 Peter? ?3?:?9?)
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (PS 103.8)
Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh… (PS 78:38-39)
Since God is so patient and forbearing with us, should we not be patient and forbearing with others? Should we not bear with one another’s weaknesses? Should we not be patient with our children when they are slow to change? Should we not be merciful to that believer who struggles with sin? Let’s be slow to anger and quick to forgive. And especially be patient and forbearing with arrogant painting majors who knock your freshly made coffee cups onto the floor.