Lumps of Clay and the Bottom

The longer I live the more I am amazed at the myriad ways of people finding God, peace, hope, faith. And I am even further amazed at the myriad ways of people losing God, peace, hope, faith. If I’m honest, it all creates a deep sadness that rests in the center of my chest, like a ball of clay finding the lowest point on an uneven table.

That ball rolls around, moving back and forth as my experiences shake my table, and I find myself thinking, nay, hoping that each new unsettling might actually be the lowest point; might actually be the truth. That when the ball rolls to that side higher up might be where life is its most wonderful.

But inevitably the ball returns to the bottom, and I am back to wondering if there is anything at all beyond the perpetual search for that thing. We can’t all be right about God, so does that mean we’re all wrong?

There are certainly times that I want to squish that clay ball; make it flat so that it rests somewhere other than the bottom. That would be a sense of certainty, and indeed I have flattened it at various times. But I do so with the deep knowing that I am only producing for myself a false bottom. And inevitably I rework the clay so that it gives me a reading of the table that is congruent with reality.

I find myself wishing that damn ball would flatten itself so that I could at least enjoy my illusions.

But it won’t.

Because a round ball shows me where the bottom is, and convinces me that being right doesn’t matter at all to God.

It’s been a trying month since Ford was born. I’ve been utterly amazed at my capacity for selfishness, and have realized just how much sacrifice a baby requires. And if I’m entirely honest I wonder if we did the right thing by deciding to have a baby. It’d be nice to fall back on the adage that “God has a plan,” but I don’t think that adage applies well to the situation. I know that the trials will make me more “Christlike” but I was happy how I was! Well, happier, anyway.

The truth is that my frustration with caring for a newborn is only the superficial issue; maybe it’s even the result of the issue. I’ve just heard too many people speaking in confidence about God and who God is and what God does, and anytime I hear someone speak about God with that kind of confidence I think they’re full of shit. I’ve very little confidence that I know anything about God, or that the way I read the bible is at all faithful, and when someone speaks as if they have “arrived” in that respect I tune them out. It may be that I am deeply, deeply selfish in thinking that my experience must be that of all others, but I still can’t get that clay ball of the bottom. I am who I am, a person in need of daily redemption and renewal. And it has been a long time since I’ve felt renewed by the god I try to follow.

But I can’t tell the difference between God, other people, and myself. Maybe God is speaking, and it just sounds like arrogant people who don’t actually care about other people. But if that’s the way God speaks, or if those are God’s priorities, then I’m not sure I want to follow that god. And so I determine, faithfully, that voice is not God’s. But even in that faithful determination I have made of myself and my own voice a god.

Maybe there is no God. But I doubt it. Then again, doubting might be the right approach to beliefs about God. So does God not care about how God is being represented? Even about how I represent God to myself? Maybe not. Maybe God could care less about what we think of God. I don’t really spend a lot of time worrying about what that dog in the next house thinks about me. Maybe God’s got other things to worry about. But I hope not.


  1. Daddly on March 2, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Nate, I think I understand your frustration with so many different perspectives and philosophies about who God is and who we are. Your analogy about the lump of clay is only understood when you realize that the bottom is determined by your orientation. That orientation could be swayed by emotion, experience (up or down). so, if your world is upside down (like it is now with a new born), the bottom isn't as well defined, and the velocity you are moving can also make the ball of clay not seek the bottom.

    A person must have something to cling to. To call top, otherwise, you will never have a prayer of knowing which direction you are heading.

    Navigators in the northern hemisphere use the north star. If I as a navigator recognize the star, but doubt it's permanence, I'm in deep doodoo.

  2. Nathan Myrick on March 4, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Very true. And I am of course using my (at a previous time) current emotional state to begin the conversation about whether or not we have begun relying on the next star over from the North Star. How do we know which one is the North Star? We've been told by someone who knows. The knowledge has been passed down to us.

    But what if at some point in time we looked at the person who told us which was the North Star and said "You know, I think that you don't get to tell me where the North Star is. I get to determine that for myself." And so we got our own North Star. But as we've sailed along we've begun to notice that we didn't reach our destination. In fact, we're not entirely sure where we are. We've also forgotten which star that other told us was the North Star, and so all we have to cling to is the star we call "North." But we still haven't reached home yet.

    That is what these posts are about.

  3. Nate'sMom on March 6, 2014 at 12:11 am

    So, in some respects, we will never know if we are following the right North Star unless we reach our destination "heaven". But there are other ways to know that you are on the right path, maybe it's an island along the way, a sand bar that you pass over, signs that you are on the right path, which we could compare to the scriptures and say that this is what we should see (be) as we follow the North star.

  4. Daddly on March 6, 2014 at 12:22 am

    oops, that was me too.

  5. Nathan Myrick on March 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Yes exactly. Or, even if we take Jesus at face value when He says that HE IS heaven, we should be seeing the markers of His kingdom in our churches. I am contending that as a majority, we do not.

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