I recently heard the story of a teacup again; I’ve heard it once or twice before, but it always seems to spark something inside me. For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, or for those of you like me who need to hear it again, I feel compelled to share.
This story is one that I enjoy so much because it gives encouragement and inspiration; it shows just how much God is truly faithful and loves us. We all can see ourselves and God’s creativity within it, and just as Jeremiah 18 explains, we can see ourselves like clay in the Potter’s hands.
There was a couple who used to go to England to shop in beautiful stores. They both liked antiques and pottery and especially teacups. One day, on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, in a beautiful shop they saw a beautiful teacup.
They said, “May we see that? We’ve never seen one quite so beautiful.”
As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke. “You don’t understand,” it said. “I haven’t always been like this. There was a time when I was red and I was clay. My master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Let me alone’, but he only smiled, ‘Not yet.'”
“Then I was placed on a spinning wheel,” the teacup said, “and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting dizzy!’ I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, ‘Not yet.'”
“Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I wondered why he wanted to burn me, and I yelled and knocked at the door. I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head, ‘Not yet.'”
“Finally the door opened, he put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. ‘There, that’s better’, I said. And he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Stop it, stop it!’ I cried. He only nodded, ‘Not yet.'”
“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven, not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. All the time I could see him through the opening nodding his head saying, ‘Not yet.'”
Then I knew there wasn’t any hope. I would never make it. I was ready to give up. But the door opened and he took me out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later he handed me a mirror and I couldn’t believe it was me. ‘It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful.'”
“‘I want you to remember, then,’ he said, ‘I know it hurts to be rolled and patted, but if I had left you alone, you would have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I knew it hurt and was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened; you would not have had any color in your life. And if I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t survive for very long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. You are what I had in mind when I first began with you.'”
This simply is a wonderful demonstration of how our Lord works in all of us. He changes us little by little, from glory to glory. On the way to glory, though, we will have run-ins with sufferings and trials, and it likely will be painful. I am sure there will be times when we, like the teacup in progress, will call out to God, asking Him to get us out of the situation or circumstance, or to just take it all away somehow. And all God will say is “not yet”.
The encouraging thing is He knows who you are, what you’re capable of, and He desires to refine you and make you into His perfect image. Although we just see the clay in ourselves--those flaws and imperfections--He sees the teacup, the beautiful, finished product. He is still working on you, always, and if you will allow Him to do His work, you’ll notice that He can do some pretty amazing things with your life, far more than you can even dream of!
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”