Some are tired and overworked. Some are colorful. Some are useful, while others break down quickly. They may be simple or complex, old or new, scientific or artistic. They are part of our uniquely developed human mind, and sooner or later, we all enlist them to communicate what we otherwise could not.
The metaphor. Who has not experience the relief, after tugging and pulling at the knotted shoelace, of that perfect picture to describe, explain, or teach what we could not before?
Several years ago, as I was exploring new interests and hobbies, I took a pottery class. I had big dreams of beautiful bowls, funky coffee mugs, artistic pitchers, and a Christmas peppered with handmade gifts for all of my family and friends.
We spent all three hours of first class learning to prep the clay and center the earthy lumps on a wheel.
It turns out that while it's called "throwing", which sounds lighthearted enough, you can't actually make anything on a pottery wheel unless the clay is the right consistency, with no air bubbles, and perfectly centered it on the wheel. Which needs to be moving at just the right speed.
It takes practice and some serious muscle to get to the stage where you actually pull up the walls of clay and start forming anything at all. It has to happen carefully, so as not to throw things off center, or the centrifugal force pulls the whole thing into a wild mess. Carefully, but firmly, because you are after all, coaxing earth into a new shape and it doesn't actually know what it's supposed to be unless you tell it. All while the wheel is whirling, whirling, whirling.
I quickly adjusted my gift giving plans. It turned out to be a really fun class, but the things that remain years later don't hold coffee or sit on a shelf.
I could not shake the metaphor. The image of God as the potter and us as clay. (Isaiah 64:8)
It makes perfect sense that God, as the perfect teacher, would know how capture my heart and mind with an image.
God as teacher, healer, gardener, potter, shepherd, father, mother, king, counselor.
He knows how to reach us in our everyday lives, in our everyday activities.
He knows how to reach me, the mother of 3 busy boys, as I try to love my family, and serve my friends and community. As Joel and I try to discern what God has next for us regarding career, ministry, and calling. As I try to hold on loosely to things that familiar and comfortable. He sees my overwhelmed, confused, just-think-about-it-harder-and-you'll-figure-it-out thoughts.
He knows how to reach me.
This week, it was God and a hydrangea.
I planted one in our front yard last fall. I was on the porch, studying it absentmindedly while the boys ate popsicles. Wondering if the slightly lopsided shrub may in fact be planted crooked, or just needs some pruning. Wondering if maybe I should move it to the backyard.
And then I noticed. It has tiny light green blossoms forming on the tips of it's branches.
It doesn't care about my plans.
I've heard the phrase "bloom where you're planted" countless times. But this is the first time it dawned on me that plants don't just put down roots where ever they are, they do whatever it is they are to do, without care or concern for whether they will soon be pruned, replanted, or transplanted. Plants bloom with no regard to the gardeners future plans.
Do what I am to do in the present, trust the good gardener to create the beautiful landscape he envisions.
I can do that today.