Clay, Stone, Steel

I’m posting today’s poem for no other reason than it feels right. I don’t even remember the context for it anymore, though heaven knows I’ve gone through enough periods of self-doubt in my faith.

One minor note: at the end I talk about steel being pure. I realized as I was reading over the poem that steel is an alloy, so my poem isn’t entirely scientifically accurate. I’m not modifying the poem… getting it scientifically accurate would take more effort than it’s worth. But I will say that I actually like steel as an alloy better: not strong enough on my own, but I need a measure of God’s strength too.

Clay, Stone, Steel

Originally written March 15, 2013

why do i eat?
and why do i sleep?
and why do i get up
to face each new day?
to what benefit
do i strive after wind?
i am a lump,
a lifeless rock
who neither toils nor stirs
but only allows the wind and rain
to beat and mold and shape my will
but even the rocks do better than i
for they cannot help but praise
Almighty, Most Holy, the Alpha, the Only
Most Glorious Creator, Redeemer and Savior
but my lips are still

it’s said that He who began a good work
will finish His masterpiece, but i know much better
for often a stone will be marred by the chisel
and what potter who sits and spins at the wheel
will throw down the clay
and feel it unyielding
and let the pot set to its will, not his own
and i, like the clay,
am cast off from the wheel

but—i know—
that You do not make mistakes
that Your hand never slips with the chisel
that your thumb is steady
and Your touch is gentle
and You shape the vessel
according to Your will

but—i am not just clay, nor a stone
i was born with a heart, flesh and blood
and i desire to shape, not be shaped
is the clay as unhappy as i
when it is shaped and fired?
and does the rock scream out in pain
when pieces are torn away?

i wonder how You are shaping me, Lord
am i a vessel for common use?
a bowl or a plate, existing to serve?
a beautiful vase, requiring great care
in order to hold an ounce of perfume
or maybe fresh flowers, arranged on a table
or if i am stone, a beautiful statue
or maybe a whetstone—to sharpen a knife
i think—i’d rather be steel
refined, purified
unblemished and strong
to be forged as a knife or a child
a tool to help shape
a tool in the hand
of my master, my God.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash