One of the perks of parenting is that you get to relive your own childhood through your kids. Or in some cases, recreate it.
When I was in elementary school, my favorite project in art class was making clay pots. I loved squishing the muddy clay, rolling and shaping it into something profound—like a wobbly ashtray (nobody in our house smoked) or a mug (without a handle). Then my classmates and I would wait for the clay to dry, paint it with colorless glaze, and finally, days later, the teacher revealed our finished products hot off the kiln. And my brilliant purple and pink mug, or so I imagined, turned out brown and tan with forest green polka dots. Then I’d take it home to my mom—and she’d tell me how beautiful it was.
My mom kept that useless pottery for years. Decades, really. God bless her.
So recently, when I showed up at third grade art class as the weekly parent volunteer, imagine my ridiculous glee to discover the kids were going to make—squee!—clay pots! What luck! The art teacher handed me an apron and a clump of gray, sticky clay the size of a bread loaf and told me to start wire-cutting 20 individual sections for the artists.
And I cringed.
Because let’s be honest. I do love volunteering and interacting with the kiddos at school, but touching that disgusting clay? Nuh-uh. Gross.
Wait, what? If clay is so nasty, then how can I wax nostalgic about pottery day in art class?
By digging really, really deep to remember what I loved about it.
Because it occurred to me that while little-girl Becky once found joy in messy projects, adult Becky has learned to despise messes. Sticky things, spills, stains, glitter—yuck, yuck, and yuck some more.
I have grown up and lost my sense of adventure.
Little joys have been replaced by aversions and fears.
I am too serious to be silly.
And I’m missing all the fun.
Think about it. Young kids can stumble and fall and get right back up and keep running. They flip cartwheels in the yard without fear of grass stains. They sing songs and write stories and speak without filters. They want to feel the wind in their face and the monkey bars in their hands, and they never once stop to consider how many flu germs are stuck to the slide rail—they just want to whiz down.
Children do what God created them to do—free from embarrassment, judgment, or second thoughts.
So when did we parents learn inhibition?
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
We are God’s masterpiece—every single one of us, works of art. And what do you do with a masterpiece? Do you hide it in the closet and never allow the world to see it? Never allow it to shine the way it was created to shine?
Of course not! A masterpiece belongs in the Smithsonian, for crying out loud. Or at least on the living room mantle where grandparents and visitors can admire your lopsided ashtray for years to come (thanks, Mom).
Let everyone witness the beauty of the creation—so it can bring glory to the Creator.
When we put limits on our own lives according to fears, self-consciousness or self-imposed rules, we are essentially cutting short the abundance God promises us in the Bible. And we’re depriving other people the blessing of seeing the full picture of who God created us to be.
Yes, I hate the feeling of dried mud on my hands—and I was dumb enough to wear a new pair of jeans to school for art class, duh. But when I got my fingers dirty and started making the rounds from table to table, helping third graders fashion that messy clay into something born of their beautiful imaginations, I felt a sense of freedom I’d forgotten over the years. Life is messy. And scary and hurtful and hard. But I don’t want to let those facts prohibit me from experiencing, embracing, and enjoying as much of this God-given lifetime as I can.
Because the Potter made me for a purpose. He wants me to shine. He wants you to shine. And so maybe it’s time we become more like our children. Cast off our self-judgment and uptight standards. Loosen up, take a risk, discover and create. Squish the darn clump of clay. Let’s show our kids that they, too, can embrace God’s messy invitation to shine—not just today, but in the grown-up years to come.
Our God is the master Potter.
And we were made for purple and pink glaze, my friends.
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