Here lately, I have been sitting back at my potter’s wheel. Now I am fully aware of where you might think this blog is going. Something along the lines of God being the potter and we the clay. However, that is not what is on my heart at the present moment. You see, I have a past that was full of dirt. For several years, I helped teach ceramics at my university.
I did not come to university with a love or appreciation of the arts. In fact, I had never taken an art course until university. However, I had a highly prophetic grandmother, who made me promise her that I would take an art course before finishing college. So, I enrolled in Ceramics I. What happened next was a complete surprise to me.
The first day, I remember sitting down at a large canvas-covered table, listening to the professor discuss the syllabus. Honestly, I did not feel I belonged there. The language he was using to describe what we would be doing made little sense to me. However, the professor tossed out some clay for us to play with while we listened. Tentatively, I tore off a chunk. Sitting back in my chair with clay in my hands for the very first time, I remember saying to the Lord, “this is all I am going to want to do for the rest of my life.” Knowing nothing other than the feeling of that piece of clay, I simply knew it did not get much better than that. It was a profound moment in my life.
Something connected that wet lump of clay to purpose, wonder, awareness, and a deep grounding. It clicked in my brain, and I could not imagine a better future. Now, I am not proposing that clay or ceramics is holier than any other thing. Other people may have similar experiences with all manner of things. Something clicks together and untold satisfaction is felt. Perhaps for you, it is in your job or painting. It could be in anything where purpose and satisfaction collide.
Not that ceramics came easy to me or that I was the best at it. I recall just out of my class, many who created things that stunned me, by their beauty. A friend of mine sculpts people in such a realistic manner, they look like they could walk right out of the room. Others could throw incredibly delicate tea sets that royalty would enjoy drinking from. I loved the potter’s wheel as much as I did sculpting. If it involved clay, I was fascinated and eager to do it. I spent usually at least 12 hours a day in the studio and eventually landed a job as an adjunct in the sculpture department.
Life, however, is not usually as simple as we would like. In 2016, an autoimmune disease hit. In 14 days, I lost the ability to feel sensations, walk and move my arms. After an extended stay in hospital, having numerous tests and treatments, I was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy. Ceramics was no longer my focus. Relearning how to walk and move without the correct signals coming from my brain to my limbs was top priority.
It took about a year, to walk without the use of a walker. All the dreams I had for my life seemed to dwindle, and fade from the forefront. My focus was purely on how to live my life, without the use of touch sensation or knowing where I am in space. Thankfully, I had loved ones around me that encouraged me to keep pushing and keep rebuilding. Like the clay in my sculptures, I was being reformed.
There are times in our lives that alter us so completely that we drop what was important for something else. You may have stopped doing something you love, for something you love more. I think those things are honorable and worthy. Then there are other times when things seem to be snatched from us and we feel like a piece of who we are has died. Things look so daunting that we give up in lieu of trying again and failing. In my case, my fear of not being able to create like I once had stopped me from trying to create at all. After all, how does one use a wheel which requires touch sensation, if one cannot feel?
In my case, I wanted God to heal me in order for me to do things the “normal” way. Healing is a funny thing. We are told that by His stripes, we are healed. I believe that to be true. However, what if healing is as multidimensional as God is? There’s a quirky phenomenon where people who lose one sense can gain near-super abilities in another, especially if that sense is lost early in life. Blind people may hear better; the deaf can have a type of enhanced vision. These “super senses” are not just learned behavior — the brain actually remodels itself, giving more real estate to other senses when one is missing. We know God does not cause bad or difficult things to happen to us, but He will help us use them for good. As humans, we remember longest the lessons that have cost us the most.
In my story, sure, it would be great to have all the normal functions working properly in my body. However, learning to manipulate clay in my present state is teaching me how to attach memories in my brain to current articulations of my hands. My memories then fill a gap in what I can no longer physically feel. My definition of awareness is expanding. Before, I might have described to you the light-touch sensation, as a way to know how to throw a ceramic pot. Now, my description is more dependent on pressure as a way to work the clay.
God designed us with an extraordinary ability to adapt to the changes in our environment. Through neuroplasticity, our brains are constantly working on connections. So, when things change within or around us, our design kicks in and we learn new ways of connecting information. Had God simply healed my autoimmune disease, I would not have learned a new way of working with clay. These days, as I sit down at my potter’s wheel, I am learning a new facet of my relationship with Him and myself. There is a new portion of my identity that is being unlocked.
Throughout your reading of this blog, your brain has been making connections. Your brain has been learning a bit more about your own uniqueness. You were designed so intricately. My challenge for you is to try and try some more. Notice the smells you smell, as you are jabbering with God. Attend an art exhibition. Dare to have your voice heard. Explore the relationship between your internal reality and your external one. Have more of a relationship with the person of Holy Spirit, than even the desire to see Him move in the miraculous. Connect with Him, as He designed you for connection.