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 I’d bring it home and present it to my mother, who praised my awkward creation as though it were fine art. She kept that useless pottery for years.
So recently, when I showed up at third grade art class as the weekly parent volunteer and the teacher announced we’d be making clay pots, was I thrilled?
He handed me a clump of gray, sticky clay the size of a bread loaf and told me to start wire-cutting a piece for each student. And I cringed.
Because while the child in me once delighted in messy projects, I’ve since learned to despise anything sticky, slimy or crusty. 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 Little joys have been replaced by aversions and fears.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 grown-ups 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, 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 hated the feeling of dried mud on my hands—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.
Our God is the master Potter. And you were made His image.
You were made to create.