So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.–Jeremiah 18:3-4
“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” I’m not sure why Humpty Dumpty got up on that wall in the first place. He was, after all, an egg, but he did get on the wall. And being an egg, once Humpty was broken, he couldn’t be re-assembled. All Humpty Dumpty was good for at that point was a cautionary nursery rhyme–or perhaps a plate of scrambled eggs.
All too often, it seems to me, we look at life from a Humpty Dumpty perspective. Something bad happens and we feel that we’re doomed. And let’s be clear, life can, for a variety of reasons, not all of them our fault, drop some pretty egg-crushing events into our laps. Your marriage explodes. Your child dies. You find yourself a quadriplegic. You lose your job, your house, or your life savings. Bad news comes your way from your doctor, your plumber, or the IRS. If those or similar things have not reached you, then count yourself blessed and wait for next week. The Buddhists have this one thing right when they say, “Life is suffering.”
The problem, however, is that we think of ourselves as Humpty Dumpty, fragile little eggs that, once cracked, are forever ruined. But in Jeremiah’s analogy, we are clay. Clay can be endlessly worked and reshaped. In the hands of our Master Potter, our disastrous lives can be remade. What seemed like egg-crushing tragedy can be the first step in re-forming the very earth from which we were formed. Painful? Perhaps. Disorienting? Definitely. But how else can a mangled pile of clay be turned into a beautiful pot?
What then do we need to do? There’s a reason that God spoke to Jeremiah about clay. Clay doesn’t have to do anything except yield itself to to the hands of the potter. The clay has no choice. We, of course, have a choice.
If we’re wise, we’ll not exercise that choice. Don’t be an egg; be clay.