Linguine, Clay and God’s Refining Kiln of Love
I finished cleaning up after dinner and moved on to packing the boys’ lunches when I had an unexpected encounter with linguine. I thought the box was closed and didn’t anticipate my moving it over about an inch to cause such a scene. That nuisance of a little rectangular box was not closed. As I shifted its position, ever so slightly, the pick-up-sticks that are dry linguine noodles fell and fell and fell, sounding how I imagine water would, were it a solid, as it crested ridge after ridge down a trickling waterfall. Tink, tinker, tink, tink, tink…
Those noodles were everywhere, smattered all throughout each previously pristine white holey shelf. Oh, I took a deep breath. I sure did. I was taken back to my maple syrup post…and I buried my nose in the pantry and got to work. What could I glean this time from cleaning up such a hot mess??
There is something about picking up dry linguine. Its general fragility, honestly – frustrating – and even more so when maneuvering it around inflexible canned goods and in and out between fixed shelving. It doesn’t have the slightest ability to bend without breaking. It snaps, it crumbles, it shatters into tiny pieces that fall further into the most hidden of spaces, not likely to all be discovered for decades.
I thought about my own fragility. I thought about how easy it has been for me to break at the slightest need for a bend. Is this how my soul has been responding to God’s nudgings? Just how flexible have I been of late? I then thought about God as the Potter, me as His clay and how malleability is required if I truly desire God’s best shape for my life, whether a linguine noodle or a clay pot.
Pottery making has many steps. It starts with clay that must be properly prepared. It must be kneaded, a process by which the potter squishes, smashes, balls up, presses hard, so hard that all of the moisture from the clay is evenly distributed throughout its being. Following this precise moisture allocation, another element, air, must be removed by a special machine, a vacuum pug, or manually by a process called wedging. Once the substance has had all of the air eliminated and water equally shared, only then it is ready to be shaped.
Pottery is shaped using a variety of methods – hand building, “throwing” using the pottery wheel, granulate pressing, injection moulding, jiggering and jolleying, using a roller head machine, pressure casting, slipcasting and RAM pressing. You have probably seen at least the “throwing” method at a local craft fair. I recall those potters with their wheels, the swift spinning mesmerizing as their hands provide a type of scaffolding for the pot-to-be. The potter, enmeshed in every detail of the process, has given my heart pause as I have had to catch my inhale at the likeness of that potter to my God.
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.” – Jeremiah 18: 1-4
Only after reaching the shape that seems best to the potter is that ball of clay deemed ready for the kiln. The kiln heats the clay masterpiece to very high temperatures, removing all remaining water and permanently changing it into a hard, strong and complete vessel.
In order to be able to be molded into who God wants me to be, I cannot be like uncooked linguine. I cannot break at the slightest dumping out of my safe little box. I cannot shatter at the very idea that my box was nudged aside to make room for more boxes. I cannot tumble to the ground in tiny pieces when things just don’t go the way I planned. Being like dry linguine leaves me open to disaster, to breakage at ever junction. It leaves me unable to move, negotiate a curve, take any risk that just might cause my demise. It prevents me from trusting. How can I trust if I am always afraid of breaking?
Oh, but what happens when linguine is placed in its own refining fire, its pot of rapidly boiling water with salt and oil added for the perfect tasting? That linguine slowly, but surely becomes bendable. The heat and water applied infuse its stiff position with the necessary elements of change. Only then can it soak in the salt and oil that bring it to noodle completion, ready to be paired with beautiful, adorning red or white sauce for its perfect place of consumption.
It’s amazing what a half-cooked box of spilled linguine can teach you about life. As I sift through the various inflexibilities I embody, I recognize that while I may not be a noodle yet cooked to my Chef’s desired tenderness or a clay pot ready for the firing kiln, I am a woman who is ready to be shaped and molded by my Master Chef and Potter. When God prepares hearts for complete fulfillment in Him, He does so in the most caring and loving way He can. However, we humans usually have to be taken to the boiling water or the kiln kicking and screaming, doubting His best. Today, I am challenged to let Him mold me, let Him make me into a new creation. I don’t want to be an old piece of clay clumped on the workbench or an old dry linguine noodle stuck in a half eaten pre-opened box. I want to be a woman surrendered to Him and ready to be refined by his fire, in His timing in His kiln of love. Won’t you join me?