As Clay In The Potter's Hand
A young man, wanting to persuade others, came to his Grandfather and asked “What can change the will of a man?” The wise Grandfather looked deep into his Grandson’s arrogant eyes and saw the intemperance of youth and answered simply, time, my son, only time.
Whether for better or worse, by time or design, “Change” is unavoidable. For some brave, amazing people, change is to be embraced. For these, life is an adventure, a series of experiences. They never order the same food twice and always use different roads to get home. Change to them is what makes life bearable and exciting. To others like me, change represents the unknown, the opportunity for things to get worse. I like to stick with what is currently working. Change represents risk and I don’t like risk! If I am forced to try something new it is always with apprehension.
Consider the Christian life. It is a journey and the road upon which we walk is long, and narrow, full of danger as well as hardship. We take this way because Christ, whom we love, is leading us and his is the only way that leads to our father. With each step we are being conformed into His image. Being changed from Glory to Glory, from Darkness into light, we’re exchanging the old for the new. These wonderful transformations all have one thing in common. Change! Which means, someone like me, will take to it like a long tailed cat to a room full of rocking chairs.
12’ To The Left
Bill Preston was a newly appointed pastor of a well established church in an old sleepy town. He was young, mid to late 30’s fresh out of Bible Collage; He had beautiful family, which consisted of his wife and two small daughters. He was a devoted husband and loving father. With a big heart for God. He accepted this post with a heart full of ambition and vision. Eager to do the fathers work.
From its conception, the church had been shepherded by a kindly man named Ernest Humphrey. Who; in the fullness of time, had died at the age of 79. The beloved old pastor had a particular way of doing things that the congregation had grown accustom to. In fact, they had grown so accustomed to them that even the littlest of changes brought fierce resistance. The majority of the members were older and set in their ways. Try as he might to suppress his frustrations; all came to a head when he tried to move the church piano 12 Ft to the left of the podium.
Because Pastor Humphrey had always been a bit deaf, the piano had been positioned in such a way as to throw a great deal of the sound toward the podium. Consequently, it gave Bill a headache every Sunday. Further, it blocked one corner of the sanctuary. Anyone who sat in that corner inevitably would need to move in order to see, rendering a good portion of the sanctuary useless.
After a short inspection, he discovered that if he moved the piano 12 Ft to the left it would open the view and his Sunday headaches would go away. Feeling good about solving the problem he quickly moved the piano to its new location and went about his business. The following Sunday, he arrived to see the piano in its new location and relief flowed over him, “It’s the little things that often bring the most satisfaction.” He thought to himself cheerfully as he adjusted the air conditioner. His satisfaction however, was to be short lived.
The first person to arrive that Sunday was dear old Mr. Conner who had been there the day the church opened its doors 30 years ago. “Let me tell you something young man” He proclaimed on their first meeting, in an old boastful voice “I remember when the foundation of this church was wet! Yes, that was 30 Years ago and I’ve been around ever since.” Not only had he been around, but he was also the principle board member and one of the most stubborn men the new pastor had ever known.
As Mr. Conner approached his seat near the front of the church, he quickly noticed the piano’s new location. He stopped mid stride, then after a moment, turned to Pastor Preston with a hurt look on his face and said, ”That piano has always sat right over there!” Pointing to the old position. Bill put on his patient look and tried to explain the benefits and advantages of the piano’s new location but to no avail. The elderly man looked at him kindly but with as much insistence as he could muster, “I like it over there better.” As Mr. Conner took his seat the Pastor heard him mumble under his breath something about “Pastor Humphrey” and “30 years”.
As the congregation arrived that morning, one by one, the members accosted him about the piano. Despite his best efforts and explanations he could not win them over. In the end he gave in to their pressure. Frustrated and offended he returned the piano back to its original location. It was not long after this incident that Bill gave up and resigned in favor of a church with a younger congregation in a larger community.
As a reminder that God orders our steps, it turned out that Bill knew the man who was going to replace him. In fact, they had gone to Bible College together. His name was Scott Evers. Bill had always known Scott to be an even-tempered man with a kind heart and a love for people. He was older than Bill and had a larger family of 7. In spite of his warnings Scott accepted the pastorate and was installed immediately.
It was 3 years before the two pastors saw each other again. Through a chain of events Bill found himself passing through that community that had so vexed him those few years earlier. He had often wondered how his friend had gotten along and if he was still there. He was sure that he had moved on, knowing how impossible that congregation had been. However, his curiosity got the better of him. So he decided to do a drive-by and see how things looked at the church. He intended to read the church’s billboard out front to see who the current pastor was. But before he could, he saw Scott come out of the church. He quickly stopped the car, rolled down the window and shouted to his old friend. There was a brief embrace and a warm welcome, then Scott ushered him inside.
The church looked great. In fact, he hardly recognized the place. There were all sorts of added improvements throughout the building. As he looked around, he noticed the carpet was new. The old offering envelopes and hymnals had been updated. Even the letterhead had been changed. The young pastor was stunned.
The biggest surprise, however, was waiting for him in the sanctuary. There in the corner, exactly 12ft to the left of the podium sat the piano. Bill turned to his friend in complete admiration then asked,” How did you manage that?” pointing to the piano.
“I don’t understand?” Replied Scott with an uncertain tone..
“How did you convince the congregation to allow you to move the piano?” Answered Bill. ”Did you have to call in the Marines? Or, did you simply have old Mr. Conner assassinated?” There was undisguised sarcasm in Bill’s voice.
“No!” replied his friend with a hearty laugh. “In fact no one has ever said anything to me about it. I don’t think they’ve even noticed. It was too loud and blocked one corner of the sanctuary so I moved it. It was the first thing I changed.
“What? That’s Impossible!” Insisted Bill,” I tried to move that piano to that exact location for the exact same reasons! It was as if I had asked them to burn the church down! They would have lynched me if I hadn’t put it back….It was like that with everything.”
I believe you.” Said Scott reassuringly. They were extremely apposed change in the beginning. I recognized that right off. It took me a long time to gain their trust.
“Well? How did you manage it then? Asked Bill expectantly.
“The only way possible in the early days,” said Scott with a grin,
“1 Inch at a time.”
Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel
In conclusion, I find that at the very heart of salvation and the Christian experience is Change. Going from a self- centered life of personal indulgence, to a life of holiness devoted to God; requires a change of heart, a change of character, and a change in deeds. I have the choice to embrace the hand of God as he implements these changes and enjoy the relationship with him that will quickly develop or I can walk stubbornly in fear, forcing God to bring about his will in my life slowly 1 inch at a time. Either way I will be changed, not only by time but by his perfect will and design.
I pray that we, His people, will be soft and pliable like clay in the hand of God. That we would not stiffen with fear when he extends his arm to bring about change to our marred vessel. That we would willingly submit to his ways and conform easily to his will, trusting that he desires that which is best for us. For it is far better to be soft and moldable in the hand of the master, then under his chisel and hammer stiff and stubborn.