Clay Vessels

     Lately my mom has been reading my book – mine, my own, my precious debut novel – aloud to my younger brothers and sisters. I promise to spend very little time on that fact, but what I will say is this: it has been entirely what I call psychological torture. To have those people dearest to you scrutinizing reading your very first work for publication while… oh, the agony.
     Recently we came to a tragic part where a character dies. Yes, I kill my characters, and I have a very good reason for it, as you will see in a moment. Mom finished the chapter, raised mournful eyes to me, and insisted, “Ashlyn, you can’t kill off your characters. Not the good ones.” Maybe she was just being nice, but I chose to take that as a compliment to my characterization.
     Lovely story, but does it have any business on A Heart Devoted? It does; it made me think about a crucial verse in the Bible which some people (and readers *cough*) find hard to accept.
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:18-21 ESV)
     The long and short of it is that God made everything, and God can choose what happens to everything. The example is of a man who works clay, a potter. Imagine that the potter is fashioning different jars or “vessels” out of clay. One vase is intended to hide a royal treasure from barbarians and enemies. Hidden beneath the earth for a thousand years, it is then unearthed and set in a museum beside the Rosetta Stone to be famous for pretty much forever. Another of the potter’s vases goes to a fellow named Gideon, who sticks it over a torch and then smashes it with a battle cry a few days later, leaving the shards in the dirt, never to be remembered.
     It’s fair to say that both vases served a very important purpose. On the other hand, I’d also say that the second purpose wouldn’t have been as fun as the first. Given a choice between world fame and being smashed in a battle, everybody reading this would probably choose the former. I know I would.
     The hard truth, though, is that God doesn’t give us that option. And it seems unfair. You’ve heard the arguments before. A loving God would never let part of His dearest creation suffer endless agonies and cause others to thrive. A just God would not refuse good people the chance to achieve their dreams and change the world for the better, while allowing evil men, like the literary dragon, to gather wealth but never use a brass ring of it for good.
     Recently I realized just how fair the situation is. Remember my book? If I create a character, I have a right to choose his ending. It doesn’t matter how admirable or villainous he might be. I am the author and I have a story to tell; the character was only ever a tool to tell that story. Likewise, God is an author. He created the characters, He arranged the plot, and He gets to choose how each of his little “extras” fits into His story.
     Think about this- what would have happened to the Middle Eastern world if Joseph hadn’t been thrown into a pit, enslaved, and thrown into prison, all for the sake of preparing Egypt for a famine? What if Constantine had never gone to a hopeless war, never seen the vision that led him and so many other Romans to Christ? What if Jesus, the most admirable character of all, hadn’t been executed in the worst possible way for crimes He didn’t commit?
     Listen, the truth is that you, whether you want to or not, are part of one great big story, and God is both author and main character. He never promised any of us, not even Christians, a life of sunshine and sweet treats free of problems (if so, the Apostle Paul should have demanded a refund). Honestly, no one wants to read a cheesy story without any conflict; it’s simply not worth it. Instead, God promises to work both the good things and the bad things for His own glory and the ultimate good of His children.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
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  1. Ellyana says:

    I love the analogy to killing characters to God’s totally power over us. I also have the problem of friend and family yelling at me for killing a character. So this post was was REALLY great! Thank you!

    • Ashlyn says:

      It’s cool, isn’t it? God is after all an author, and we can learn a lot about storytelling from Him.

      • Ellyana says:

        Totally! And the main thing I notice in so many of his stories is that, the people in them aren’t the perfect role models that get kids daydreaming in every book you’ll ever read. The people in the bible were imperfect, just like us.
        (That’s why I like Lord of the Rings! Because everything just looks like it’s falling apart. But in the end it’s still pretty happy.)
        What kind of novels do you write?

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