Shaping


Jeremiah 18:1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
We are but dust, wet dust, shaped by the Potter.
I’ve been thinking about being shaped. Ultimately all shaping is through the Potter, but it seems to me that, like the traditional potters, tools can be used in addition to His Hands.
Certainly home life and parenting styles can have an effect, especially if it is received or allowed. Ha, maybe even more effect if it isn’t received. At one point I had the opportunity to look over my ninth grade class photo. The one where everyone is standing on the school steps. Each individual carefully “shaped” by their Potter and their parents. The other influences have not taken hold. Media and music may have directed some clothing choices, but the thinking is mostly free from drugs or alcohol, or traumatic events. At least in my eyes, this photo captured individuals before further shaping occurred.
The big events that were coming were mostly unknown, and that’s probably good. What ninth grader wants to know the “shaping” trauma of high school, their first job, marriage, breakups… 
Ignorance is bliss, and things are coming that you can’t stop. 
But maybe you can influence…
Drugs came to my high school in a big way in 1965. Alcohol was of course, always there, right beside cigarettes. Hard drugs and pills may have had a small impact, but marijuana was soon to explode. It was going to be a major “shaper”, but I avoided it. Not because I was so strongly moral, no, I avoided it because my brother had come back from Korea with stories so vivid that I was terrified. Haha, scared straight.
And as the rule goes in high school, once you refuse drugs several times, then you are probably a narc. Although I can’t imagine there were that many narcs on the police payroll.
So the whole wild high school party scene, the dances, the relationships, the breakups … all that just sorta passed me by. I had my books, and my poetry. I was a rock, I was an island. Okay, so music shaped me a little. Who wasn’t affected by the 60’s music?
And of course the books we read have an impact. True for even the recreational reading, the secret pleasures of mysteries, romances, or science fiction. Even bigger impacts if you dipped into the Beat Generation. I had memorized some Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac was read and reread. I don’t known that my high school brain had worked out that my choice of “going on the road” would have life changing impacts. But the choice I made (the Potter made?) shaped me in thousands of ways.
Naturally I was naive enough to think that after three years I was “done”. The basic shape was formed, I was to be a useful vessel but apart from some future decoration, I was a done deal. Hahaha!
The Army has this concept of breaking a man down, then rebuilding him into the soldier they need. Not far from the truth, a clay vessel can be crushed back into dust, water applied, and a new shape formed. There is a problem if the vessel had been fired in a kiln at high temperature. The silica changes, the new clay doesn’t mold quite as well.
Most of the people in my platoon had been shaped by high school, some part-time jobs, and a little college. A few had gotten married. Not many were fired in a kiln at high temperature, the Army was successful in “reshaping”. Some never found out what that shaping would look like years later, because their vessels were broken in the jungles of Vietnam.
So, as a survivor, I look back at the “shaping” in my life, and now I ponder if I’m finally done. Jobs, marriage, children have all been positive shapers. The negatives ones have been avoided or beaten back. The discovery that I am my own worst hammer in the smashing of my vessel was hard fought information.
I once described myself as a bag of flesh filled with broken shards. Has time degraded those shards even more? Am I close to being a bag of flesh filled with dust, ready to be reshaped? Interesting thought. Maybe I’m not done after all.