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  • John E. Crean, Jr., Obl.S.B., Ph.D.

Misshapen or Shattered?

"Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made, and I will talk to you there.    I did as he told

me and found the potter working at his wheel.    But the jar that he was forming didn’t turn out as he

wished, so he kneaded it into a lump and started again. Then the Lord said: O Israel, can’t I do to

you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.

(Jeremiah 18:2-6, Living Bible)"     

Recently in one of my discussion groups at the parish, we were discussing

this reading from the standpoint of the seventh of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics

Anonymous which says, “We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

The excellent little devotional 1 we regularly use to start our discussions

quoted this scripture to illustrate how hard it is for us to give up control, reminding

us of the third step, that “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to

the care of God as we understood God,” in other words, “let go and let God.” We

can’t manage how God will decide to remove our shortcomings. How that all

happens is up to him. He knows better how to do that than we do. We’re not the

potter, God is.

Why God sent Jeremiah to the potting shed was to observe how the potter

[read: God] worked his craft. Not every pot he molded always turned out perfect

the first time. Whenever that happened, while the clay was still moist and

malleable, the potter would just toss it back into his molding clay, reshape it,

remake it, and remold it.

The message for us is clear: God does not throw anything or anyone away.

He begins all over again to reshape, to reform his creations as necessary, and he

does this while his clay [read: you and me] is still moist and malleable. If he were

to delay and not act promptly, perhaps place the malformed object aside planning

to come back later, then it might be too late. An inferior product might have sat on

some shelf so long that it hardened and became rigid, brittle. Should that object

have fallen off the shelf onto the concrete floor of his studio, that malformed pot

would have shattered into a thousand shards, eventually to be swept up and

discarded in the trash.

But does Jeremiah’s message end there without redemption? I think not.

A participant in my group brought up something to address that question in a

marvelous way, something I had never thought of. There is an ancient Japanese art

which puts back together again the shattered pieces of a vase using liquified gold

as glue. The process is referred to as kintsugi.

What a great iconic answer to this question not addressed in the story in Jeremiah:

“What happens when for so long we keep resisting God’s attempts to re-create us

that we eventually rigidify, experience a sort of rigor mortis and fall off our shelf?

Such a fall from grace will cause us to shatter into untold shards? Are we then just


The clue is the glue, the golden glue of God’s grace abundantly present in

the potting shed. Even if we shatter (and we may), all is not lost. Our potter is

always eager to glue our brokenness back together again. In fact, we will be

stronger and more resilient than ever before because we’ll be held together by

strands of gold. Amen.

1Stoop & Arterburn, The Twelve Step Life Recovery Devotional (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale, 1991).

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