“Boy is he a piece of work” I heard a teacher say today about a young boy. I said to my self, well that certainly is true but whose workmanship is he? At first I thought of the young man’s parents and all the ways they might have contributed to his upbringing. Did they work with him at night on his spelling and other schoolwork? Did dad play ball with him on Saturdays or take him fishing? Did his mom teach him to tie his shoes, brush his teeth, and make sure he washed behind his ears? Did they take him to church on Sundays where he would learn the golden rule and about a God who loves him no matter what? Probably they made mistakes and neglected to do some of the things they should have. They probably look back with some regrets and vow to do better in the future. Then I thought of some of my works in clay and how I at times had neglected to work and blend the clay as well as was needed. Maybe I used clay that was too soft or too stiff for the purpose for which it was intended. The result was always less than satisfactory though the imperfections would often not be noticed by others. But I noticed. I noticed not only the less than satisfactory resulting form but also the struggle that it took to correct or cover over the blemishes of my previous actions. In any work one step completed well aids greatly in the successful completion of the next step.
These many steps lead me to think that so many others most certainly played a role in shaping this young boy. There are teachers and mentors, friends and enemies, as well as relatives perhaps even from generations past who have directly and indirectly helped to shape him. Then what about those who would help shape this young man in the future? There would be bosses and associates, his wife and her family, not to mention neighbors and strangers those who had and would shape the culture that would shape him. Thus I thought about the tools I use to create my pottery. A trimming tool of different types, a sponge, a stamp, various types of ribs, or a finger each would leave a different mark. Not only does the specific tool used make a difference, but the way in which it is used as well as the time or for which step in the process it is used make a difference. Because of my choice of tools and how I chose to use them each work of clay with my name on it is truly unique from other artist’s work. So is this young boy a unique work, made so by all the individuals who have contributed to his life.
So often we focus only on the immediate present, future, or past. We see what is happening right now, remembering what took place seconds before, anticipating what is to come in the next minute. When people watch me make a pot on the potter’s wheel they remark about how quickly it is finished and how simple I make it look. What they don’t think about is that it is far from finished, nor do they realize the beginning steps had been taken long before I sat down at the wheel. It begins with choosing the clay, actually mining the clay and then preparing it, which takes many steps, a lengthy process. After the pot is shaped it still must dry usually slowly and evenly. It’s form may be altered, trimmed, a handle put on, the surface embellished, fired in an oven, decorated, painted, glazed, and then fired again. I have often finished forming a vessel on the wheel only to be asked “now what will it be”? So why would we look at any young person and declare that he is a piece of work meaning bad or good? Who knows what final form this young boy will be?
This brings me back to my original question. Just who’s workmanship is he? Is he the result of his parent’s upbringing and their genes, his friends and teachers from school, close and distant relatives, the culture at large as well as a whole nation? Perhaps he is ultimately God’s work and we are all the tools God is using to shape the lives of one another, all to bring glory to Himself. The question then becomes not only how can we yield ourselves to be shaped by God but how can we be used by God in shaping others to bring Glory to God.