potter and clay -- lessons for a motherEven though my hands never touched the clay, I learned an important lesson watching someone learn to work on a pottery wheel.

In the beginning, the instructor explained that, in order to get it situated, the student needed to shape it into a ball, slam it onto the wheel, and keep it centered. Then she demonstrated the process with her own clay and wheel.

When the student’s clay wouldn’t stay on, she re-demonstrated the procedure with her clay. After three more tries didn’t work, the teacher came over briefly and corrected the problem. The student listened to her instructions, and then slowly began to work at shaping the clay.

Watching the painstaking efforts, these thoughts began filling my mind:

‘They should do it this way.’

‘If only they’d….’

‘I could show them how to fix it.’

(You need to understand my level of “expertise” in this area: I have only made one pottery “bowl,” several years ago, and it has been given the high honor of holding dirty sponges at the sink!)

As I fought my desires to “help” the student do it right, I realized that the instructor never jumped in, or questioned the student’s ability to succeed.

That really made me think.

The teacher would show a step, explain it, and come closer as necessary to clarify, but she never took over, or said “Here, I’ll finish it for you.” She never once lost her patience or her kind demeanor. As I focused on the slowly emerging bowl, I realized that the way the instructor was teaching was the same way our Heavenly Father works with each of us.

Heavenly Father teaches us principles. He shows us examples of those principles through His Son, Jesus Christ, and throughout the scriptures. He re-teaches as necessary through His prophets, etc. Occasionally, and only when He sees it will be in our best interest will He step in to fix a problem. Then He puts the work back in our hands. And when we complete our projects, He recognizes our efforts:

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy [L]ord.” (Matthew 25: 21)

It was a powerful lesson for me as I reflected on how often I jump in and take over for my children, robbing them of their God-given opportunity to learn and grow and make mistakes! I thought of the word “Namaste,” which I have been told means “the child of God in me honors the child of God in you.”

As I respect others’ life-long opportunity to learn, make choices and grow, I allow them to more fully feel God’s amazing love and His reassurance of their potential as His children. That makes it easier for them to recognize the great Potter as who He is:

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Additional Articles:
Heber C. Kimball, “The Potter and the Clay“, Ensign, Jan. 2011.
Larry A. Hiller, “In the Potter’s Hands“, New Era, Dec. 1999.