Hazel Salazar-Davidson

March 1, 2021

Lenten Devotions

The Potter and Clay.

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

Jeremiah 18: 2-6

When I was a sophomore in high school, I took my first pottery class. I remember watching my teacher in awe as he sat at the wheel and explained the process of centering the clay. The wheel was turned on; there was a rhythmic sound and the lopsided clay was manipulated to spin in a perfectly symmetrical manner. A lump of clay must be placed correctly in the center of the wheel and forced by hand into a form ready to be molded into whatever vessel the potter is set on creating. It looked simple and straightforward but when I sat at my own wheel I found that it was very difficult. The clay was moving quickly and I could not seem to steady my hand, the clay seemed topsy turvy and it finally just flung off the wheel completely. I laughed the first time it happened but after it happened several times I felt frustrated. It was then that I realized how important the role of the potter’s hand was to the entire process. I soon learned to be intentional in the way I held my hands and the manner in which my fingers worked independently as well as collectively. I also became aware of how my emotional state marked the clay. 

There have been two distinct times that I have turned to pottery making in my life. The first time was when I became a widow in 2015, and the second was this year during the pandemic. I spent that year of becoming a widow snuggling my kids, painting, continuing my seminary studies, and doing pottery. I did a lot of reflection and healing while working with the clay. Times at the wheel allowed me to reflect on the way in which the circumstances of our lives mold us. How they can make us bitter and angry or we can choose to allow them to form us into something new. 

In working with clay any small movement of my hand manipulates the outcome, it can become a beautiful vessel or a horrible mess in minutes. The items I created in the first weeks of grieving as well as in the first weeks of a pandemic have been rough, heavy, and lopsided, but as time progressed the vessels became more balanced. I learned to trim the excess lumps of mud, which in turn caused something more delicate and beautiful to emerge. This pandemic, I acquired two potter wheels. One for my use and the other for my children and partner to join me. It has allowed for time in conversation, meditation and reflection. Working the clay allows us to remember that the state we are in now is not the state we will find ourselves in later. 

In the parable of the Potter’s House found in Jeremiah 18, the potter molded and shaped the clay pot on the wheel. It says that the clay was marred by his hands, some commentators have said that it is a “defect in the clay.” I do not like to think of it this way. Instead, I like to believe it is a weak spot (a tear or bubble) that has been found in the structure that could keep it from being a successful vessel. In fact, these sorts of weak spots can cause the vessel to explode in the kiln and so the potter reworks the clay. The potter takes the time to reshape the pot. In the same way that God takes time to reshape us. I know that I am far from being a beautiful vessel but I gather strength from knowing that God is continuing to work on me, molding me to become a better person. How are we being shaped by God during times of uncertainty? What if we crack or break or need to start over? Do we trust God enough to believe that reshaping is possible? Then, even in our weak spots can be molded and formed by the Master Artist into a new vessel.

- Rev. Hazel Salazar-Davidson ’17, Campus Minister

Univ Chapel 202021 theme (2)