Remember playing with Play-Doh when you were a kid? Or, if your parents or school teacher made their own, it was play dough. It was, and still is, a lot of fun. You could make some amazing sculptures, pottery and other cool stuff with it. At least, it probably looked like an amazing dinosaur to you, even if it really looked like a blob of clay to someone else. That’s the power of a child’s imagination.
I suggest that you get some (or make some) and play with it while you read this. Really. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
In the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah says that God spoke to him and gave him the metaphor of the potter’s wheel for how God can be in our lives: we are the clay, says Jeremiah, God is the potter who moulds and shapes us.
There can, of course, be a negative side to that image, one of manipulation and control, but that’s not at all what Jeremiah means, is it? He knows that with God in our lives, we are not only created as wonderful things, we continue to be worked and moulded, formed over time into something even more amazing. Our awareness of God - however we know God - is part of loving ourselves and our neighbours and making our relationships affirming and rewarding. It’s about making our lives better, not in competition with each other, but with each other.
But as any good artist knows, or even a child playing with play dough, the medium has a part to play in the creation.
So what kind of clay are we? Hard as a rock, unchanging and unmoveable? Or so fluid and easy going that we never take a single form. Or are we firm enough to stand, but ready to be moulded, open to being created into something.
Or creating something ourselves. After all, we live in relationship with each other and we have a responsibility to be creators, teachers and inspirers of others, as much as we need to be open to receiving what other artists have to offer us.
I’m particularly mindful of that right now, because it’s back to school time. I’ve seen the children headed to school this week, some for the first time, some sophomores, some wily veterans of the elementary grades, and a few grizzled grade twelves, hunkering down for one more year.
There’s the look of excitement and wonder, some anxiety and a little bit of fear. On the teacher’s faces, too…
What an awesome responsibility to have, to be responsible for the “moulding of young minds.” And you have to thank school teachers for that, you really do. But I also hope that you, yourself, recognize it’s an awesome responsibility, because it’s not just school teachers that have it, is it? It’s all of us.
Play with some play dough (or real clay, if you can). You don’t have to be an artisan to make something, even if it’s an “ashtray” like some of us made when we were kids. Think about how often we are like the clay and how often we are like the hands that form it. And think about when that clay is our hearts or our minds or our spirits. And think, too, about how often, as the clay, we might not just need to be open to God’s hands, but how often we might seek God’s hands and need God’s hands in our lives.
Play-Doh’s not just for kids, is it?