Has your life been shaped by a higher standard?
Huiwen Lee // March 20, 2019, 4:08 pm
“The clay does not know what it’s meant to be until it emerges from the kiln.”
This is what my husband and I often tell our pottery students when we introduce them to the art of ceramics. Indeed, with each year that passes, I relate more and more to the lump of clay spinning on the potter’s wheel, slowly discovering with a mixture of nervousness and joy what God is shaping me to become.
I was not born in a Christian family, nor was I exposed to the arts as a child. My late father drove a taxi and my mother was a seamstress and homemaker. Amid their struggles, I grew up afraid of poverty, and convinced that achieving a financially rewarding career was my best chance at happiness.
So I studied hard, worked hard and built for myself what I felt was a solid trajectory in life. Then I fell in love with the man who would become my husband. A year after being invited to church by a mutual friend, I was convicted and prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
How could God look at me, with all my flaws and fears, as His workmanship?
Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” When I came across this verse during a Bible study session, I was both amazed and filled with questions.
How could God look at me, with all my flaws and fears, as His workmanship? What were these “good works” that God had already prepared for me to do, and when would God tell me?
Unable to shake off the implications of such a revelation, I made the choice to decline a very attractive career-advancing job offer and instead wandered through a year-long sabbatical in 2014 that would change the course of my work, marriage and life.
Like a hard lump of clay being drenched in water, I began to experience God’s transformational work in my life.
For most of 2014, I felt like I had been taken from a swimming pool and thrown into the middle of the ocean. From an environment of chlorinated fresh water and clearly marked lanes, I found myself gulping saltwater and thrown about by waves with no sight of the shore.
During the first few months, as I searched in vain for direction, I struggled to respond to well-meaning relatives and friends who were concerned about me taking such a long and seemingly unproductive break. I struggled too with my identity – who was I without a job, a name card and a regular pay cheque?
Instead of enjoying the free time I had, I filled my mind with worries. And as our modest savings dwindled, there were times when I even felt guilty about sitting at home and reading the Bible.
But one day, a thought came into my mind: There was no safer and more important place to be than in the Word. I believe that these exact words came from the Holy Spirit, as since then I no longer wrestled with the foolish guilt of spending time reading the Bible nor did I continue to dwell on my lack of worldly identity.
Who was I without a job, a name card and a regular pay cheque?
The months passed quickly. I went for events, volunteered at various organisations, tried out some interesting part-time work and continued dabbling with pottery, which I had picked up with my husband as a way to safeguard our “couple time”.
Then an opportunity came for me to spend a month in Japan on an immersion programme with a local pottery master. I took it up immediately as it seemed like a great way to explore the Japanese craftsmanship that I admired.
Yet as I spent the season of Lent alone in the beautiful town of Tajimi, fasting from social media, marvelling at cherry blossoms, enjoying the sunsets and playing with clay – what impacted me most was this lingering question: “Is there a different way to live life, even in a fast-paced society like Singapore?”
Slowly but surely, God, the Master Potter of life, was pushing His hands into this spinning clay, centring it, directing it and giving it form.
“‘…’Can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand …'” (Jeremiah 18:5-6 ESV)
I returned to Singapore with a renewed desire to pursue the art of pottery, and we took the plunge to start Studio Asobi in September 2014 despite the lack of a business plan and being still pretty amateur in the craft.
Yet by God’s grace, we were blessed with wonderful clients and exciting projects way beyond our expectations. During a particularly challenging project, I had a meeting with the pastor of a church we were collaborating with and later asked him for some prayer.
I still remember him praying these words over me: “Whatever God has called you to do, He will provide the resources and bring it to fruition.” Those words brought such great peace into my heart, and indeed God brought the project into a wonderful conclusion. These words continue to minister to me whenever we meet with challenges.
Whatever God has called you to do, He will provide the resources and bring it to fruition.
It has since been over 4 years since I ventured into the arts. With both of us full-time working in the studio, our combined household income is still a modest fraction of what we had been used to in the past. However, we thank God for providing in abundance everything that we need, and for the freedom and flexibility that we would not have had in our previous vocations.
Despite this, I still find myself opportunities to worry, doubt and grumble at times! But whenever I cling to His promises and my identity as a precious child of God, my heart would be lifted and the physically demanding work would feel less like labour and more like love.
What has really brought me joy over the years is to be able to express God’s goodness through our art and writings, to share about our faith through our workshops, and to bless the needy and encourage others as we discover a life of abundance in Christ.
One amazing thing about clay is that because of its elasticity, it can easily be changed from a bowl to a vase and back again in the hands of a skilled potter. This journey as an earthly potter has given me a precious glimpse of what I am like as clay, and what God is like as my potter.
And in my life as God’s “clay”, I have experienced such dramatic shifts that I have come to eagerly anticipate more of that in the future. Just over a year ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy after years of not wanting to be a parent. I am so thankful to God for giving me this chance to experience the joy (and tears, of course) of nurturing a child.
As He works through my life and my character, I am beginning to recognise God both as a gentle and loving Father as well as an ingenious artist who will not stop moulding me until I am finally transformed into the vessel that He had destined me to be.
I can only pray that I keep myself soft and pliable, so that I can always respond to His shaping with a sense of joyful discovery.
Interested in calligraphy, painting, handmade jewellery and other handcrafts? Join Huiwen of Studio Asobi for a talk and panel session organised by Kallos. Featuring 3 other amazing women artists who can offer industry insights and practical tips for beginners, register now to hear the joys and struggles of turning passion into career. The event includes an Art Market that is open to public!
Since 2014, Kallos has become a needed voice for young girls who are struggling to live out God’s purpose in their lives because they are grappling with issues of identity, faith and life. From a sleepover among a group of girls, a dream to start a Christian magazine has evolved into a full fledged bi-monthly magazine.