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Playdoh & Patience

“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” 

Isaiah 64:8

I love this verse. It is something both hopeful and reminiscent to me. Something I can relate to easily. I remember the playdoh of my childhood. The smell, the squishy feelings, and the fun tools seemed to give life to unlimited possibilities of what I could create. I would recreate my favorite foods (I make a mean playdoh pepperoni pizza) or the required craft of little girls of the 1980’s: a rainbow. I always tried so hard get the color rows the same width for equal uniform bands in my sculptures. 

Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not. And that is the beauty of playdoh: you can make something beautiful over and over again, fixing the mistakes, and it never stops allowing you to change its shape. 

When I finished something, I’d leave it be for awhile. Enjoying its brightness, proud of my creation, and sometimes use it in some fantastic story play. Eventually, it would be time dismantle my creations – whether it be that I was tired of them, needed to “fix” something, or it was time to clean up for the day. I’d take the pieces apart, trying to keep the colors separated, and squish them into their containers for another day. The creations were no longer there but the PlayDoh was ready for next time. For the possibilities and great ideas I’d bring to it next. 

I didn’t hate the PlayDoh. I didn’t hate my creations. I didn’t pack it up because I thought what I made was terrible and I couldn’t stand to look at it. Quite the contrary. I squished it all down because I saw how I could make it better. Or because the day’s plan called for it to lose its shape into the containers for awhile before I could bring new life to it with my next fantastic plan. 

As I’ve grown, those feelings have come back when I read Isaiah 64. We are more than clay to God. We are His precious creations that He is so fond of. He formed you tenderly with His own hands and loves to look at proudly. You are valued, treasured, loved, wanted, and important. And, like any child or potter with their clay, sometimes even God needs to make changes to His creations for whatever part of life we’re entering into next. 

He needs to break us down sometimes to build us back up into something better. Any potter will tell you, sometimes you have to bring your creations back down to nothing and start over. To help it be better. To improve your design. To make sure it’s ready for the purpose you have in mind for it. What looks like and feels like destruction is actually the start of something great. 

It’s hard to see it in the moment. When you look around and see your life slowly being torn down. The clay of your being slowly caving in on itself until all that is left is a mound of shapeless you. Without a solid base, strong form, clear design, or obvious purpose. These moments often come with little to no warning, leaving you scrambling to understand why. Wondering what area of you needed the improvement and what you can do to help things along.

I know these feelings all too well. I am there with you. Lying on the potter’s wheel and feeling it slowly spin. Just enough that my form is staying a cohesive lump and not merely falling flat, but not fast enough that I feel any changes or growth.

It’s hard to be in this place. I liked how I was before this. After many years of struggles and insecurities, I was finally reaching a point in life where things were mostly happy, stable, and satisfying. Of course I wished I could drop 20 pounds or win the lotto and work a little less, but if someone had asked me how my life was going the answer would have been: wonderfully. 

Clearly, I was wrong. There were areas in my life and in my soul that needed attention. They needed more work and some reforming, so like a skilled potter, God has taken me back down to the wheel. All of me is still here, in this shapeless lump. He’s starting to rebuild me with some improvements that are hard right now but will be so wonderful when they’re done.

I thought I was comfortable in my skin. Perhaps I was to an extent or more than I used to be, but the last six months have made it clear to me that there was room for improvement. The moment I came face to face with someone that was thinner than me, prettier than me, and living a life I wanted – I fell apart. I stopped eating. I stopped functioning at all. Everything I thought I had gotten past from years of previous hurts from multiple people was still there. I hadn’t moved on from anything, just ignored it and kept going with life. 

That’s the thing about potters and God: no matter how much their creation seems finished they can see the areas that need some work, even if the rest of us can’t. They know how to fix it, how to slowly build it back up, form it, and give it new life. I couldn’t see the flaw buried deep inside myself, but God knew. He knew it was holding me back from being a strong and complete as He wants me to be. 

The hard part is being patient while He does His work. Letting go of control or preconceived ideas of how God should fix us or our situation. I am beyond guilty of feeling that He is taking too long or not doing things right. And by right, of course, I mean how I want them done. I am not sure when I started to think that I knew all the answers and I know how my life should go, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks these things.

You probably do too. This impatience is just one more flaw He’s working on at the pottery wheel with me. Shaping me and holding me in place until I can start to fully let go and trust in his process. He can’t finish making all the improvements to me until I can calm down and let Him make a solid foundation. One only He knows how to make. 

That’s really hard for me. I’m a doer and a fixer and a very impatient person. This is trying all of my patience and then some. I see those who have hurt me living comfortably and seemingly without pain while I struggle to get through the day. 

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.” – Psalm 37:7-8

But of course, God knows what He is doing. He knows the plans for me and how He will make them happen. My job isn’t to tell him how to do this. My job is to give and take with each loving knead He makes in me. To grow, shift, and change as things around me do; all under His watchful eye. 

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