Only Clay on the Wheel
“In time the Rockies may crumble /Gibraltar may tumble /They're only made of clay
But our love is here to stay.”
—Ira Gershwin, lyricist of “Love Is Here to Stay (YouTube)"
One night a few years ago, I lay facing up on the frozen blacktop of a parking lot beside the Grand Canyon, listening to a park ranger’s astronomy lecture. Polaris, she explained, only serves as our North Star for now. The restlessness of our North Celestial Pole means that in two thousand years, another star, Errai, will become our North Star.
That was news to me. I’d always thought the North Star was just the North Star. It’s easy to mistake longevity for permanence.
Take the Smoky Mountains; they’re among the oldest mountain ranges in the world. But what’s there now is only part of the story. At one time, a mountain range ran down the center of the ancient super-continent, Pangaea, before the whole thing broke apart, sending some mountains to North Africa, some to the Scottish Highlands, and some to Appalachia, where they ended up as the Smokies I love.
A person might despair at the thought of impermanence—or at best, find acceptance. Personally, as a work in progress, I’ll admit I find hope.
In the Book of Jeremiah, God tells the prophet, “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” Jeremiah continues, “So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” God, the potter, is a process that forms and re-forms.
When I was young, I was drunk with ambition. I thought I should be famous. Now, I just want to be clay in the hands of the potter; to be shaped in a way that lets me serve the eternal. Any status, form, or appearance that we claim is only for the time being. Ask Polaris. Ask the Smoky Mountains. What endures for all time is the work of creation that leaves us changed, if we let it, and then changed again, all to meet the next moment as a relatively functional vessel of love.
God, wean us of our addiction to certainty and willpower. Help us learn the ways of wonder and surrender, as we are re-fashioned into trusty vessels of justice, compassion, and love. Amen.