Monday, February 28, 2011

Being Clay

I've been engaged almost three months, and this period of time has yielded a lot of struggle and learning.  I feel like the clay in the Potter's hands, being molded and pushed and smashed and turned.  It's been a frustrating sort of pain.  You know that you are going to come out better, bolder, smarter, but you feel your insides turn at the thought of going through another round on that potter's wheel.  It hurts.  And even though the goal of a "better me" and a "better marriage" and a "better relationship" dangles above like a carrot, you can't help but focus on the pain at present and wish you could just skip to the end.

My sister took a pottery class in college.  She told us around the dinner table the first time she saw her professor work the clay on the spinning wheel.  She said the clay looked like water in his hands.  He moved it up and down, using his hands to mold and move the clay into various shapes.  He would knead the clay, stretching it and then putting it back into a lump and then stretching it again.  My sister is more show than tell, so she moved her hands, mimicking his movements and telling us how she remembered thinking, "I can do that."  It looked so easy, of course.

Her professor impressed on his students that just the right amount of water is needed.  Too much and the clay slides off the wheel when it spins.  Too little and it won't move when you press your hands to it.  He said the moisture of the clay is important to a good pot.

My sister then proceeded to her own wheel and naturally, she did not move the clay as easily as he did.  Some of her peers had flying balls of mush spinning off their wheels, but her clay was a rock.  She sprinkled more water, and it still didn't move.  How had her professor made it look so easy?  She pushed and pressed and punched and her clay remained a rock.

This turned into a discussion of how our Potter feels when He tries to mold us.  I can imagine that I'm much like the clay without enough water.  I'm stubborn and prideful, and those things make me immobile.  Not to mention I don't like change.  God patiently tries to mold me with His hands, and I resist, screaming, "No!  I don't want to change!"  I imagine others are like the ones with too much water.  They just spin off the wheel and run away.

These past few months have been full of spending time on the Potter's wheel.  Premarital counseling has opened up a lot of opportunities for change and growth, and while in my head I understand that I need to reform myself, I find that I am resistant to climbing out of my cozy little hole.  And I can't admit that I even dug myself this hole.

As I've spent time in this period of my life, I've begun to see insight into character.  We can't understand character unless we get to know someone other than ourselves.  Understand is a heavy word.  Its not just understanding; its understanding.  Sorry, poor English means having to use italics to make a point.  Let's put it this way.  One way the verb "to understand" is defined is "to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of".  That is a definition with of "to understand" with an object.  Without an object, "to understand" is defined as "to perceive what is meant; grasp the information conveyed, to accept tolerantly or sympathetically".   

To understand my husband-to-be is to be both thoroughly familiar with him and his character and to also know him so well that I can interpret what he says, grasp the meaning he tries to convey in the words he says.    I've been dating this man for 6+ years and this is still difficult.  More difficult now as we try to blend our lives together. 

Everyone tells everyone else that communication is the key to a relationship.  True, of course.  However, I do not think it is as much the communication that is as difficult but the development of understanding.  Understanding has a lot of things built into it: sympathy, empathy at times, humility, and an ability to put one's self into a third person perspective.  

As I've attempted (and failed) to understand my fiancĂ©, I've begun to see how character is intricately more difficult than any other thing in a story.  To accurately convey a person in the confines of words, allowing for this complexity and reality.  Its something next to impossible to truly achieve.  People try.  And a lot of writers get quite close.  To truly accomplish it is something extra-ordinary.  

As I've spent time on my Potter's wheel, I begin to see the intricacy of His creation, my own stubborn flaws, and opportunity to hold a richness of life that I have yet to tap into.