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Clay With An Attitude

  • Timothy Palla Contributing Writer
  • Published Oct 08, 2005
Clay With An Attitude

The Humble Beginning

"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

It's humorous how the Scripture reveals man's origin: "God formed man out of dust." I always thought dust was somewhat of a nuisance, without purpose, worthless. It's amazing what it can become when placed into the skilled hands of a Master artisan.

I have a friend who can make the most creative decorations out of a scrap of material, a block of wood, and a few splashes of paint. Another friend of mine frequently boasts on her husband, describing delicious casseroles he can throw together in a moment's notice--using leftovers from the night before and adding a few new ingredients. Amazing as this is to me, nothing is as awesome as God's creation. He spoke the world into existence, and then "formed man of the dust" . . . and we think we're so great.

The Same As You

Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay." (Job 33:6)

On the whole, most of us have positive homeschooling experiences with our children. Everyone experiences occasional "down days" though, and it's helpful to remember that we, too, were children once. Some things just didn't click inside of our heads the first time we had them explained to us. . or the fifth time. Once in awhile, our teachers, parents, grandparents, tutors, coaches, and siblings would became frustrated with us and blistered our ears with criticism--and it hurt. We were probably not being as lazy or willful as they thought we were. Sometimes we just needed a mental break and sometimes we were just slow to learn.

I love the words of Job 33:6. When I first read them, I stopped in amazement and reread them four or five times to let them sink down into the depths of my soul. In my homeschooling journey I've had many moments of anxiety, wondering if my children would ever "get it," if they would ever be "normal," if I made a mistake choosing to homeschool, or if I would even live to see them graduate. Oh how I wish I could have made them ball hats with Job 33:6 embroidered on the fronts. It would have been a pleasant reminder to be a little more realistic in my scholastic expectations and a little less hasty to treat them like dirt . . . or act like dirt myself.

So, before we throw the lump of clay on the floor and jump on it we need to remember our own chemical make-up. How easy it is to forget that we, as parents, had the same struggles with learning and authority when we were growing up that our kids have today. We may have manifested our attitudes differently or tried to subdue them a little more, but all men are sinners, every heart is desperately wicked, and there is nothing new under the sun. Amen?

The Mindful Designer

"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14)

One of the wonderful things about a potter is that he never forgets the type of medium with which he is working. He knows it's clay. He expects it to feel like clay. He understands its character, its make-up, and its consistency. He knows how it will respond to his gentle pressure. As a mindful craftsman, he is conscious of changes in its texture and what must be done to shape it. I think the greatest virtue of his skill is not so much experience as it is patience. He takes his time and works that lump until it conforms to his hands. He shapes and strokes it until the clay matches the image in his mind and the passion in his heart.

The Will of the Potter

"Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd [clay vessel] strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?" (Isaiah 45:9)

A hard lump of clay is not easily pliable. A potter wants to work with clay that has the right consistency and can be shaped to his liking without using a hammer and chisel. Clay has no authority. On its own it can only sit on the potter's wheel and dry out. The craftsman shapes and designs and the clay yields. That's it. When all is said and done, the vessel will reflect the image that the designer intended. It will be valuable and serve a specific purpose.

Perhaps some of the most "quarrelsome" lumps of clay are not our children, but you and me. How many times have we cried out to God with anger on our lips and resentment in our hearts, "What are you doing, Lord? Why can't they understand this? Where am I going wrong? Why is this happening again?" . . . as if He were accountable to us!  Sometimes it's not about them, it's all about us.

Remember that you and I are lumps of clay in the same Master's hand and spinning on the same potter's wheel. He has called us to homeschool our children, not just for their good, but for our good as well. This is His way of shaping you and me into the kind of parents that exude an abundance of grace and mercy and holiness. Through homeschooling, we parents are becoming disciplined in character. We are growing in our understanding. We are being groomed for eternal rewards. The Lord is changing us as much as He is changing them.

The Extreme Makeover

"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." (Jeremiah 18:4)

How have our lives changed since we started homeschooling? Are you the same person you used to be? I, for one, am not. I was a vessel "spoiled in the hand of the potter" and the Master had to remake me over (and over, and over . . .) again.

Homeschooling has been an "extreme makeover" for me. I've had fears to conquer, old habits to overcome, new ones to develop, wisdom to gain, and patience to learn. Many times I've cried out, "God, let me get off of this crazy wheel and let me stand on my own two feet. I'm finished. HEL-LOOO . . . Have you forgotten about me? I don't think you know what you're doing! I don't deserve this!"

The Master has never missed a beat. He'd just splash a little more cold water on me and pinch a little harder until I finally gave in to His will. I needed to be "remade" and this is how He has chosen to do it. He called me to be a homeschooling parent so that I would learn important lessons of love, dedication, patience, and all those wonderful "fruitful" things the Holy Spirit longs to teach those He inhabits.

My Master Designer has performed some wonderful, but radical, "extreme makeovers" on me. Oh how I love His patience, mercy, and tenderness! As with my children, He is changing me from "clay with an attitude" into a "vessel of honor." May you be blessed to see Him do the same thing in your homeschool life. You'll be amazed when you see what His grace can create out of "dirt."


Timothy Palla is the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in the Lucasville/Minford area of southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife, Jennifer have five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. You may contact him at

This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more details, visit To request a free sample copy, visit