Well, with the kids home on summer break, we're doing all kinds of activities, including playing with play dough (while trying to keep it out of the carpet - ack). Here's something I learned from playing with play dough:
I could see it in my mind, the vision of a delicate bird, made from yellow play dough. I placed the dough on the table before me and began to shape the soft, pliable material as my four-year-old twins rolled their lumps of dough into different figures.
“Look, I made a snake!” Bria called.
“I did a hamburger. Yum!” Jayna held up her creation.
I grinned and worked at my dough. In some places, I pressed, in others, I smoothed. I squeezed,
I plumped, I removed unneeded pieces to certain areas and added to others. I made bumps that would become wings, lines that would define the tail, and tiny balls that would be squeezed into a beak and two eyes.
Jayna stopped her work and leaned toward me. “What’s that?” She pointed at the clay in my hand.
“Is it a cat?”
Bria furrowed her eyebrows. “I think it’s a flower.”
I chuckled. “Just wait, and you’ll see.”
They settled back into their chairs, played with their dough, and kept watching for my creation to take on a recognizable shape.
I continued pressing, pushing, smoothing, trimming and adding. Then, the questions started again.
“Why are you doing that?”
“Why do you need that?”
“What’s that for?”
I had the vision of a beautiful bird in my mind, but the twins couldn’t see it yet. To them, what I was doing seemed strange and meaningless.
I pulled out a butter knife and did some detail work. “Trust me.” I pressed lines into the wings to make feathers. I shaped the eyes and trimmed the beak. I removed bits to refine the feet and tail feathers. Then, I held it up. “See.”
Jayna sucked in a breath. “A bird.”
Bria sat up straighter. “That’s a hummingbird.”
“Yes, it is.” I grinned at them. “Do you like it?”
“I love it,” they said in unison.
As I held the play dough bird in my hand, I considered the work it took to make it, work that didn’t make sense to my two little observers. But I knew what the dough would become all along. I set the bird on a shelf for the twins to admire then popped back into my office.
There, I found an email from a disgruntled co-worker, an overdue notice that had come in the mail, a reminder of the deadlines I was having trouble meeting, and a message from the vet about my very sick horse. I put my head in my hands. I’d prayed about all those things, but nothing seemed to be getting better. As I looked at all the reminders of the hard things in my life, it just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t see how God was working. Here I was, squeezed, pressed, dented, hurt. And God seemed so distant.
“Lord, I’m tired. Where are You?” I whispered.
I waited for an answer, but I didn’t get one. All I got was the image of my play dough hummingbird flitting through my mind along with a few scripture passages:
“For we are God's workmanship....” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), and “We are the clay, you [God] are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (NIV).
Finally, I understood. I am the hummingbird. I just need to trust Him, to remain soft and pliable in His hands. Just because things don’t make sense to me, just because I can’t understand what He’s doing, just because it all seems like a big, useless lump, doesn’t mean that God is absent. It simply means that He has His own vision in mind. And maybe, just maybe, He’s pressing, smoothing, squeezing, poking in order to shape me into the person I am meant to be. Perhaps He’s closer than I can even imagine.
So in times of pressing, I’m learning that I need to trust that “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV) If I place myself in his hands, nothing that happens to me is pointless. He can, and does, use everything, even the things that don’t make sense, to form me into the vision He has for me. And that vision is to be like His Son.