Several years ago while attending a Black Arts and Cultural Center Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I live, the above wall hanging caught my attention. I kept looking at it because the metaphor of the potter's hand reminded me of my lifetime scripture, Isaiah 64:8 - "Yet, O LORD, you are our Father, we are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." My good friend and photographer Aaron Cantrell just happened to walk by while I was looking at it; he encouraged me to get me. I can't remember his words of wisdom but what he said made sense to me; so I purchased it. In fact, I love it!
I use it as a throw on my couch, instead of a wall hanging. Sometimes I cover myself with this beautiful piece of art as a prayer shawl or wrap myself in it when it's a little bit cool in my house. I'm reminded of being in God's hand, as he gently molds and makes me --- a work of his hands! Many songwriters, preachers and teachers speak or sing about the potter's hand.
A thought of God's hand on me became clear during a time of transition after leaving my job at a major corporation and seeking God's will for the next chapter in life. He was aligning my will with his will. This metaphor of the potter and the clay was real. We have several examples of leaders in the bible who knew the hand of God was working in, on and through them. God accomplished His will through them. A couple leaders come to mind like Nehemiah, the cupbearer, who led the people to build the walls of Jerusalem after the exile; and Esther, the queen, positioned for "such a time as this" to save the Israelites from genocide. God's hand is molding and making us today. He uses this process throughout our life.
Recently I became curious about the artist Alan Hicks and Mold Me, Make Me. This is what I learned, "it depicts a distressed African American woman who has decided to let go and let God. She understands that the Heavenly Father is molding her for what lies ahead. This work of art was inspired by Isaiah 64:8 (quoted)." How applicable to God's callings in my own life! I've experienced this - more than a few times. Mold Me, Make Me is a depiction of my lifetime scripture although Hicks references Jeremiah 18:6, same metaphor. I only learned this two days ago.
On the website TwinHicks, it tells the story of Alan and Aaron Hicks. It says, "Whether or not Alan and Aaron paint an image together or single handedly produce another stroke of beauty, the results are always the same: they reveal an uncanny ability to achieve outstanding color and detail in every airbrushed image." The detail, depth and intensity shown in the face and posture of the African American woman in Mold Me, Make Me brings to my mind the "Oscar, Emmy and Tony" award winner American actress and producer Viola Davis! I experience the core of each character she plays in every movie I've seen her in. She internalizes her character. Can't you imagine Davis playing the role of this woman? She finally gets to the point where she falls before her Lord and cries out, "Lord, please mold me, make me. I don't want to be the person I am." She tried everything and now, she desperately needs God. Can you see Davis in this role? Can you imagine yourself in this role? I can.
The day before learning about the artist and his work, I attended a SheLeads ChurchTogether event hosted at Calvin Theological Seminary. One of the speakers gave a message on Cultivating Church Together: How Men Can Foster Cultures Where Women Thrive. He spoke about "groaning beauty" in the context of Romans 8:18-27,
Present Suffering and Future Glory
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
A Groaning Beauty
I understand this "groaning beauty" as a time of suffering and frustration because things are the way they are, for instance, racism, sexism and more. I think about times when we're overlooked for a position, disrespected as a person, undermined by a colleague or reminded that we are not as "good" as others. What about the things people say to let you know you're in the wrong place or you're not wanted here? The whole creation groans as it waits for liberation from those things that are sinful, outright wrong and even evil - conscious or unconscious. The Holy Spirit groans with us. He makes an intimate connection to keep us from losing hope, and he prays for us as we wait patiently as children of God.
We hope for what doesn't exist in this world now because it is broken and we are too. It's a perpetual groan until Jesus Christ comes again! The beauty of this groan is that we don't fall into a pit of defeat, sorrow and hopelessness because this is not the will of God! We also grow deeper and deeper in our relationship with the Lord through the Spirit. There is a caution we need to be mindful of. Sometimes we are drawn deeper into what's wrong with the world instead of drawn deeper in our relationship with the Lord. It takes a discerning spirit and community to help us have the right balance.
Mold Me, Make Me
In this gathering at Calvin Seminary, I felt the Spirit of the living God fall fresh on me through the lament, speakers, panelists and moderator, and the closing liturgy. I cherish moments like this when the Holy Spirit falls fresh on us to help in our weaknesses. When we're tried, frustrated and overtakenalmost consumed by focusing on what's wrong with things in this world, the Spirit initiates a love connection in our pain. He lets us know that we're not alone. We have the Spirit and those in the body of Christ who understand our frustrations and are willing to work towards bringing about change and justice in a fallen world.
Mold Me, Make Me, depicts my "groaning beauty." Whether I'm groaning in my spirit or groaning in prayer, my desire is to trust God in all things. It isn't always easy, but it's comforting to know when I don't have words to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf. This is - what he does for us. We pray for others and we should, but He works in our heart. He has a plan for our life and it requires molding and making us in his image. He has his hand on us.
He calls us to recognize others who are groaning and to empathize with them. I have several examples of women I know who were groaning but didn't understand how the Spirit works to bring us out of places of defeat to places of healing. I have my own examples from the past of mature believers who loved me and they recognized my inner groaning. They understood the lifetime process of letting go and letting God. I didn't at the time.
May we strongly desire Christ to reign in our life regardless of the ills of the world. I don't know what lies ahead, but God does. What we go through in the present is preparation for the future. It was the Spirit who led me to my Mold Me, Make Me throw. He knows and gives us what we need daily and for everyday of our life in this world.
Spirt of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. I want the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (on the inside) and the filling of the Holy Spirit (under his control). I want the character of Jesus Christ to be internalized in me and be like the tree planted by the streams of water bringing forth fruit in its season (Psalm 1). I want to let go and let God! I want to do his work in his way and in his strength; then this world will be a better place for me, others and the next generations.
May the Spirit fall fresh on us. May the Spirit mold us, make us. May Christ reign in our life....
www.twinhicks.com/meet-the-twins to find Mold Me, Make Me and other products.