Digging in the Mud

A blogger’s introduction. Of sorts.

When Our Lady of Lourdes instructed Bernadette to scratch in the mud and dig there, obviously Bernadette was nonplussed, confused. “Surely Our Lady is mistaken!” In my paltry Lectio Divina way, I try to play the role of Saint Bernadette, “Mud??? ME?!? In front of all these people? I don’t think so! What?! Are you nuts, Blessed Mother?!?” But Bernadette humbled herself and began the now famous act of meekness that brought living water to the entire world. Author Christine Watkins had to dig in the mud, too, and like Bernadette, had to make a few strong attempts to get results from the dirty excavations. She has been encouraging me to write for well over 15 years. Lately, she kept after me to join this forum and contribute, but negativity and hesitations prevailed. I had reluctance from insecurity and a full life schedule rife with obligations. I finally said “yes”. And while what burbles up may not be the daily 27,000 gallons of pure living water that Our Lady helped to bring forth in Lourdes, I am hopeful that this earthen vessel will be useful to the Holy Spirit and may provide others with moments they can relate to. Maybe they will find that sliver of hope or light that propels them on to the next lily pad.

Earthen vessels are made of clay—messy, sticky, wet clay. If God can make something eternal from clay, I’m hopeful that all of my feeble, clay-footed attempts in life will be brought through His oven and made into something useful to His kingdom. That is my fond hope, as I groggily pray my morning offering while the rooster in my cell phone harkens the new day. I have leveled with Him, “Look, Lord, I’m as dumb as a lump of clay. I wander like a toddler off her lead—I dash in traffic! You’re going to have to just grab me and shove me through life.”

A friend posted on Facebook recently that her 5 year old had a first lesson in pottery and had a “steady hand”. I had never considered a steady hand a factor in a successful spin on the pottery wheel. I marveled at a child making something beautiful and complete on her first attempt. I was impressed; so many of my friends had tried throwing pottery and failed on the first go-a-round. But it got me thinking, if God is the Master Potter, and He doesn’t make mistakes, then how come I keep acting like a wily, willful, resistant lump of clay in His hands? Can’t He just force me into a masterpiece? Or is He so patient and loving, His hands so full of mercy that He just silently keeps the wheel of my life spinning until he can gently craft a little pot out of which flow His works, His messages of love for others, His living water of virtues that the world needs? Poor holy God having to work with this piece of clay.

Usually I think of myself as a crackpot more than the clay but seeing my neighbor’s child at the wheel, masterfully cupping and crafting her creation, an image was stamped on my soul’s windshield that I can’t wipe off. And this scripture passage came to mind, “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?” (Isaiah 45:9). I’m usually the one quarreling with the Maker, “What do you think you are DOING?!? Look in my playbook here, Lord, see! (tap tap tap!) Look here–it does NOT say ‘Now I give her mother an illness so she can learn to love her mother as I do!’ Or, ‘Now I give this uppity little lump of clay loneliness and rejection so she will know what My Son suffered on earth!’ You got that, Lord?!? Don’t ruin my game plan!”. Yes, I’m dictating to the Master Potter how to do things. I grab the lump of clay, I ruin the shape, I often drop it from the wheel. Time from the mission is lost while the Master rescues the dirty lump of clay, rinses it off in His Mercy and then gently plops it back in the center of the wheel of that clay’s existence so to reshape it. The he gently works out the bits of dirt captured in the fall and smooths the clay back into something lovely, something more in His image with which He can then bless others. The poor clay must then be stretched between His two hands and pulled back into a useful, beautiful form. Up, up, up He stretches the clay between His fingers, the tension convincing it to bend and grow upwards. Ah, the ugly clay has grand delusions sometimes.

Isaiah 45:9 reminds me of the sin of presumption. The old pride “peccadillo”. I should just get a bar code tattooed on my forehead so when I cross the confessional threshold the padre inside would get an instant read out, “Beep! Oh yeah, Peterson! Huh. Same ol’ thing. Let’s see we got pride, pride, and yep, more pride….oh here it is! Presumption!! This week’s list oughtta be good.” Lucky for me the sacrament of Reconciliation is not an inoculation like the flu shot, only good for about 16% of the strains, but is an antidote, strong enough to prevent me from tripping up again should I choose to use the graces infused. Sanctifying grace so powerful, it wipes all the diseases out of my soul at one time and is thousands of times more powerful than even an exorcism. Oh happy fall? I guess so. Pride thought. Presumptuous nose-thumbing to God the Father. Trip. Fall. “Well, I’m down here in the dirt, might as well crawl on my knees into the confessional while I’m at it. To whom else can I go?”

When I see clay I do not think, “Masterpiece!” But God does. He sees that not only can He fire me in the furnace of His Divine Love, He thinks He can even give me, His little vessel, a bit of glaze.  And even if the glaze ends up cracked, it will still sparkle in the divine light of His countenance one day. “Sparkle?!? Did someone say sparkle?!?” I’m all about the sparkle. “Let’s have lots of jewels in my crown, Lord. ‘kay?” “Oh! And can the crown be really big??” But according to the Rule Book, to get the jewels, let alone the crown, I have to choose His way, accept His plan for me, and gosh, even cooperate in a good-natured way. The lump of clay splutters, “Not fair!!” but the finished vessel, glossy with glaze and glowing in the light of the New Jerusalem softly reassures from the future, “Ohh, but is soo worth it!”

 

© 2018 Frances Peterson

Attributions:

  1. Featured Image from Pixabay free image, no attribution required: https://pixabay.com/en/hands-hand-work-constructs-clay-1139098/
  2. Horner artwork: no attribution available; in common usage
  3. The Clay by Ron Dicianni: http://www.altons.com/html-pages/dicianni/the-clay.htm
  4. Bible quote from New American Standard Bible