There is something very comforting in this passage from Jeremiah, and I’ll get to that in a second, but first a word of comparison. The promise that God makes through Jeremiah in verses 7 and 8 could easily be placed in the book of Jonah. “At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.” You can almost see Jonah sitting under his little bush, waiting for the destruction of Nineveh to begin, only to be disappointed by God’s mercy. Of course God is not beholden to you or me, and owes no one an explanation or excuse when God relents from a word of judgment. That, in and of itself, should be good news enough. God allows for repentance, for turning around, for getting back on one’s feet and doing it God’s way this time. God allows for us to give it another shot.
But let’s go back to the potter, because for me and for today, at least, that’s where I’m finding the greatest comfort of all. No matter how badly flawed I may feel myself to be, no matter how awful I think I turned out, or how difficult it is being me, or how cracked or imperfect my life may feel, God can always mold me into a useful person, a life with value. I may think things are a mess, but God still has the ability to use me. I am as clay in God’s hands and as such I have the divine fingerprints all over me. And so do you. And so does the noisy neighbor, or the obnoxious driver one car ahead during rush hour, or the candidate from the other party, or anybody else you can think of. We all are clay in God’s hands and we all bear the mark of God’s fingers. That means, first of all, that we each have value and purpose and that no one can take that away from us. Our lives are important to God. But it also means that God has work for us to do, because God is not molding us into a life just to cast us aside. God is making us into God’s people, and as God’s people we have a responsibility to share God’s blessings with the world, with all the others who have been shaped by God and who need to hear the good news.