Prophets, like Jeremiah, are also known as seers. I looked it up, the word seer comes from the compound see and -er. God asks Jeremiah to go to the potter’s shop and see. As a photography nut, this has become important to me. Most people go to somewhere scenic and snap selfies on their cell phones. The camera in my iPhone is in some ways superior to the expensive camera with aspherical lenses that I use when I am seriously seeing. That’s the point, using a cell phone rarely makes one a seer. Jeremiah is asked to go down to the potter’s shop and see. When we stop and simply observe — breathe… close your eyes… empty… breathe… now open your eyes — release for a few days the need to post something to Facebook.
Jeremiah notices the hands of the potter as he shapes the pot. They are strong hands. While most of the potters that I have met have been women, none of them have had delicate hands. Because they are tough on the clay. They lift it above their heads and throw it down and the table hard, to get out the air bubbles. It’s traumatic. While the work at the wheel looks smooth and delicate, they clay resists. It takes strong thumbs to make a jar. The wheel below the clay has to be constantly kicked so that it turns at the right speed. And is the work that God does in our lives any easier? Is the constant pull of the Holy Spirit towards social justice in our nation any less traumatic? School desegregation was not a gentle experience, and yet, I believe that it was driven by an aggressive spirit from God. The same is true of the ferment and resistance to change that marks our current struggle as a nation to accept diversity.
We are being constantly shaped by God into vessels for his purpose — his purpose involves being hollowed out so that we can carry the gift of his grace to others. As individuals, trauma comes into our lives so that we can be hollowed out and serve as conduits for compassion. Our painful experience enables us to sit beside others in their pain. Jeremiah sees the hands of the potter squash the jar that was spinning on his wheel. The potter pounded the everything the pot thought that it needed out — nothing was left but a featureless lump — out of nothing, God reforms us. God reforms the church. God reforms a nation.