Recently, I was going through some worship books I’d accumulated from participating in weekends at a Christian retreat camp. I came across one with notes in the back cover that I’d written on April 22, 2005. It was during a Friday morning communion service in the chapel at Blue Lake.
I remembered that morning clearly for what it marked in my spiritual journey. Since my first trip to Blue Lake in 1992, almost every time I came to communion, I experienced a feeling of brokeness, of repentance. I had come to think of it as the shattering of this jar of clay that God would periodically have to do. But that particular Friday morning, as I knelt at the altar, the words of a verse from the hymn O, Master Let Me Walk With Thee were playing in my mind:
“Let me the slow of heart to move
By some clear winning word of love.”
I heard pastor Laurel Schmidt speak these words to us, “Listen as the Lord calls you again this weekend.” It was then that I felt a warm, fluid sensation begin at my head and move down my body. The thought “wet clay” came to my mind. I thought, how odd. Normally here at the altar I feel brokeness, reminded of how stiff necked and rebellious I have been at times in the past. Today I feel soft and pliable, moldable.
As I thought about the sensation and what it might mean, I was led to pray that I would indeed be more pliable, soft, and yielding to His discipline and direction for my life. Now, three and a half years later, my life has changed a lot. Then I was still struggling with how much longer to stay in pharmaceutical sales, driven by my dependence on what I thought was an income we couldn’t do without. I had not even yet considered graduate school. And the possibility of working in the church full time, though a possibility, was something I thought was well in the future. The idea that I would ever be a candidate for ordination as a deacon in the United Methodist Church was something that had never occurred to me.
This is a case, I believe, of God leading me to pray in accordance with His will. Last weekend I attended a lay speaker training class and part of our conversation was about considering God’s call to ministry. Part of the lesson was on Isaiah 61, which Christ read in Nazareth as he announced to his home synagogue that he was beginning the ministry for which he’d been born. It was a scripture I’d explored before for what it had to say to me about my own sense of calling.
I’m hoping that this “wet clay” model is one that I have fully embraced, that I have permanently moved beyond the need to be broken like a clay jar in order to be used by God. Yes, in comparing the two sensations, I think I much prefer the wet clay to to the broken clay.