Who are you listening to?
“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, ESV)
The artisan takes the clump of clay and molds it, shapes it. He puts in on a wheel and by turning fashions it into a beautiful vase. The vase, when finished, will hold beautiful flowers for a wife on her fiftieth anniversary. The artfully fashioned vase is a credit to its maker and a beauty to behold.
I am not artistic. I cannot mold clay into a beautiful vase, but I can mold and shape a person’s spiritual life. I can help someone to adjust little things in her day to find not only spiritual meaning but open her up to a closer relationship with the Almighty. In a way, with God’s help, I mold the soul of those who read these meditations. Even in this moment, I am working with God to mold your heart!
Each and every day, there are many different entities that seek to mold your heart, soul, mind, and attitudes. Some of those entities are human beings like teachers, pastors, or counselors. Some of those entities trying to mold and shape you are enterprises like social media outlets, political parties, or organizations. Who or what you associate with will determine the mold your life takes and the direction of your aims. Be very careful who you let shape or mold your thoughts, attitude, emotional feelings, or spiritual self.
During a visit to with my physical therapist following surgery, I commented that my upper back felt tight and would often grow achy in the early afternoon. After a bit of probing of my back muscles and spinal area, the physical therapist asked a simple question, “Do you sit in a recliner?” Shocked at the question (I thought we were talking about my back?!!!!), I responded in the affirmative. He told me, “Your back is molding itself to the angle and curvature of the recliner. It’s unnatural for the back. It also weakens certain muscles to be in a reclined position like that for too long. Do you sit in the recliner for long?” I explained to the therapist that due to back problems, I have set up my computer next to my recliner so that I can read my Bible and update my website in a reclined position to ease the stress on my back. He urged me to take time every hour to get out of the recliner, take a walk around the house, do some stretching exercises, and give the back a break. Otherwise, the unnatural fit of the recliner could do irreparable damage to my spine and back muscles.
Isn’t it interesting how we adapt to our surroundings? My back was adapting unnaturally to my cheap recliner, causing it pain. In similar manner, people can adapt to unhealthy environments. A person under stress can adapt to the pressure by overeating or developing tics. A man who goes out with friends to a bar after every game might be starting a habit that may lead to alcoholism if he is not careful. The mother who is constantly berating herself for spending too many hours at work and not enough hours with her family is apt to develop depression or anxiety over time. The politician who is prone to telling lies in order to get elected will get used to using lies in order to get his way. Our surroundings, our choices, our associations, our friendships, our memberships, our work environment, the home environment… everything shapes and molds us in some way or another. Some of those entities will mold us in positive ways. Some will mold us with negative attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and more.
Despite the fact that the world is constantly seeking to mold you in sinful ways, God is attempting to do the opposite. God is trying to mold you and your life in the most holy of ways. Where the world would like you to adopt its destructive and sinful ways, God wants you to find wholeness and peace. Where worldly groups may want to manipulate your thinking into accepting evil, God wants your mind to focus on what is good and right and holy.
Our scripture for today reiterates God’s desire to mold your life. The prophet Isaiah wrote that those who worship God the Father “are the clay” (Isaiah 64:8). God is “the potter”. When we allow God to expertly mold our lives, we become “the work of HIS hand”. Then again, when you allow worldly voices and sinful people to mold your mind, heart, soul, or attitude, all kinds of evil will follow.
Katrina was a Bible-believing, beautiful soul. She was married and had three young children when she went through a series of difficult trials. One daughter developed an illness that lasted for a month. To care for her little girl, Katrina spent many nights awake by her bedside. At the same time, Katrina’s husband was required by his work to travel out of state for six months. It could not have come at a worse time. His work caused Katrina to care for her daughter alone most of those days and nights for weeks on end. Then, it was found that Katrina’s mother developed cancer. Katrina’s life was pulled in too many directions. She could hardly cope.
For a break, Katrina arranged for a babysitter to take care of her children one evening when her daughter was feeling better. Katrina wanted to have a “girl’s night out”. While partying with her friends, Katrina broke down and told her friends how alone she felt with her husband gone all the time and so many demands upon her life. She teared up just thinking about her mother going to chemotherapy alone because Katrina was at work. One of Katrina’s divorced friends put her arm around her and said things that made Katrina feel better. The friend offered to help watch the kids and be there for her. Her friend stated, “I remember what it was like being alone so many nights. You remember my husband cheated on me, right? Has your husband ever cheated on you? Is your husband good for you? My husband never really gave me a shoulder to cry on. He was always too busy for me. And then, there was the affair with his partner at work.” Katrina began to re-evaluate her situation. Had her husband been faithful while away at work? Weren’t there a few women also involved in traveling at the company? Over and over in her mind, Katrina thought to herself, “Why do I feel so alone as I go through all of this hurt and pain?”
Katrina didn’t realize it for weeks, but the stress and hurt and pain and long hours were causing her to question her faith and marriage and choices. Katrina’s friend had unwittingly caused Katrina to question the love of her husband and the cause of her pain. Rather than helping Katrina to deal with her stress, her friend’s comments had added to the stress by causing Katrina to second-guess herself during this difficult time. When Katrina’s husband came home the next day, Katrina initiated arguments, became sullen, and questioned his choices.
For just a moment, let’s evaluate who and what were molding Katrina at this moment in her life. Obviously, her children were molding Katrina into a mother. The stress of her daughter’s illness was forcing Katrina to alter her family life. Cancer had filled Katrina’s mind with worries for her mother. Katrina’s friend had also fueled insecurities and fears in her heart and soul and mind. Because Katrina’s husband had been absent, he was not able to help alleviate Katrina’s fears nor ease her suffering. These events and people and situations shaped Katrina’s thoughts and attitudes and mind and heart and soul. Sadly, as the difficulties deepened, Katrina didn’t let God’s influence shine through. She’s used worldly emotions and attitudes and friendships to shape her mind and heart and soul. It was a recipe for disaster.
As Katrina shed some tears while driving a few days later, her favorite Christian radio station offered a scripture reading for the day. That scripture was from 2nd Corinthians: “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT). Katrina pulled over to the side of the road and prayed for God’s peace to be upon her. She vowed to live in harmony with her friends, accept the encouragement of her husband, and find joy in the moment. She thanked God for her children and the love of those around her. She asked for God’s peace “that passed all understanding” to fill her heart and mind. For the first time in a long time, Katrina felt a glow in her heart. For a while, her anxieties ebbed away. She let God ease her heart and mind. Only later did Katrina realize how God was molding her to be a strong woman of faith who could be strong for others when difficult times came-a-calling!
Who or what has been shaping your thoughts as of late? Do you let modern issues and problems rattle your peace? Does social media fill your mind with all kinds of wayward thoughts or worries or insecurities? Are your friends and family supportive in the way you need them to be? Do you let God bring peace to your soul? Do you allow worries to cloud your thoughts and poison your attitude? Be aware of all those good and bad entities that are attempting to mold your life. Let God shape your thoughts and protect your soul. Let God’s Spirit clarify all the influences that surround you even now.