Starting over

by Kristin on May 27, 2011

in Belief, doubt & hope

I’ve never worked on a potter’s wheel, but this is how I imagine it works (and no, I am not thinking of God as the potter and us as his clay, so you can set that metaphor aside):

You have a general idea of this vessel you want to create—whether it will be round and squat or tall and sleek. Then you get started with the clay on the wheel, taking the vision in your head and trying to translate it into something real in your hands.

Sometimes it works just how you imagined. Probably more often it takes on a life of its own, turning into something not quite what you set out to create. To some extent, I bet the potter can reshape as they go, pushing and pulling the clay into the shape they want; the end result is close to the original vision, but it has its own character, too, and is more real than the concept in your head ever was.

But other times, I bet the potter fights and argues with the clay. It just won’t be coaxed into that new shape because it started out all wrong. The wheel needs to be stopped, the lump of clay needs to be removed—tossed back where it started—and the potter needs to go take a walk, get a coffee or talk to a friend.

Is starting over a moment of defeat?

It probably feels like defeat, that moment when you take the clay off the wheel, squish it back into a lump and toss it aside. But it’s a critical moment of letting go.

Six years ago, after years of trying to shape my ideas of God, faith and church into something I could live with, I gathered it all up and tossed it aside.

It was about the same time that I took my ideas of love, marriage and commitment off the wheel, where I had tried in frustration to reshape them. I didn’t need church. I wasn’t sure I needed God. And I was positive I would never believe in the idea of marriage again. What was the point?

Walking away, so that later you can return

It’s a scary place to be. I know my parents and other people who love me were scared for me, as they looked helplessly on from the side. But now I know I had to reach that place. To continue to work and rework those shapes with that same clay had become an exercise in frustration and failure. I had to turn the wheel off and walk away for a while.

Then God brought me back. I didn’t realize I was ready—or that I ever would be—but he did. He led me to a whole new pile of clay to work with, at a church called New Covenant Fellowship. There, at that church, was Jason. Together we reconsidered what love and marriage and commitment were all about, giving it new shape.

And four years ago, today, I did what I didn’t think I’d do again: I stood in a church I loved and promised to live the rest of my life with this man I loved. I wore green, because we—our love for God and each other—were a new creation. The old had gone, the new had come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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  • Genevieve

    I took a pottery class once. For some reason, I couldn’t get the hang of the wheel, not for most of the class at least. It just felt so wrong and awkward. Why was everyone else doing so much better? A few weeks before the course ended, the instructor discovered that my wheel was set to turn the wrong way–it had been adjusted for left-handed potters, and I’m right-handed. THE FREAKIN WHEEL HADN’T EVEN BEEN TURNING THE RIGHT DIRECTION! Metaphor that for me, Kristin!

  • Cindy Holman

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Brenda

    I’m doing some starting over right now…and needed to hear this. Thank you for sharing hope! Beautiful and encouraging.

  • Diana Trautwein

    Such a lovely story, so well told. Been wondering how the job search is going and how you’re all holding up in this season of uncertainty. I’m more grateful than you can know for your wise words, now found in multiple places, and for the beauty of your story of re-creation. Thanks for sharing it so wisely and well.

  • Paul Merrill

    Happy anniversary!

    So glad for new beginnings.

  • Alise

    You’ve made me all mushy. It’s very easy to look at an abandoned project and simply refuse to pick it up and try again, not nearly as easy to risk failure again. Particularly when the stakes are so high.

    Love this story. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. You are loved!

  • ed cyzewski

    Awesome story. I’ve watched some friends go through a similar period over the past 2 years. One friend couldn’t even pray to God for a while. Then, one night at small group we were praying and he joined in. It was a beautiful moment. No one said anything about it, but we all knew the significance of that moment. God is in the resurrection business, but sometimes resurrection can take a little while. Have a wonderful anniversary!

  • Diana Farmer

    Oh Kristin. You are such a marvelous person and a fantastic writer. I am so very honored to know you. I also love and adore you. To think that I had such joyful opportunities to know you as a darling, young girl.
    I am enjoying a wonderful new love, following a couple of what I refer to as “train wrecks.” I was happily surprised by this new relationship, as is emerged near the end of a great year of being joyfully single. I look forward to seeing and/or catching up with you anytime.

  • Katie

    Happy anniversary. What a gorgeous – and necessary – new beginning.

  • Kristin T.

    sarah louise, thank you! May we all be inspired by one another’s stories of starting again.

    Genevieve, your pottery class story is so funny, but I can imagine how frustrating it must have been at the time. Every day you’re determined to get it right, and every day it seems to work against you more and more, while everyone around you seems to have it mastered! There are definitely many directions we could go with that metaphor—that moment of realizing you just need to take your clay to a different wheel.

    Cindy, thank you for taking the time to read it!

    Brenda, I’m so thankful my story can be encouraging. I guess what I want people who are starting over to know is that it’s OK to feel like they’re closing a door on something—sometimes that’s just a necessary part of the process. I also hope that people who are worried about you will give you space to go through that process, and love you along the way.

    Diana, I love metaphors. They don’t always work perfectly, but they can be so wonderful when it comes to taking our stories and giving them broader meaning and truth. Jason’s job search is still in process, but interesting developments are taking place, so we feel like we’re on our way. Thanks for asking!

    Paul, yes, how sad the world would be without the possibility of new beginnings. I think much of our pessimism often surfaces when we forget that new beginnings are truly possible.

    Alise, score one for me—I made you all mushy! :) No, that actually wasn’t my goal, but I’m glad to know that the story that makes me all mushy can touch people who have never even met me IRL. Thank you for your honesty, transparency and love, which encourages me as I write.

  • Meredith

    I love how thoughtful and reflective this post is, the idea that something so good can come from something not so good. Obviously, time and perspective help, but not everyone can get to that point. I’m glad you did.

    Happy Anniversary.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    Happy Anniversary, Kristin. When we testify to God’s goodness we join him is spreading hope to others. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been given to out hearts. Blessings abundant to you and yours.

  • Jen

    So beautiful! Starting over to redemption and new beginnings. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. :)

    Happy Anniversary!

  • Laura (@chambanalaura)

    I love that you wore green to your wedding. You are an inspiration to many who have given up on life, love, G-d.

  • Kristin T.

    ed, it’s hard to watch, isn’t it? As a friend you want to just fix it, or reason with the person, but later you can see how that wouldn’t have helped as much as the patient love, support and prayer you offered.

    Diana, that is so sweet! (For the rest of my readers, Diana was one of my babysitters!) I’m so glad to hear about the new relationship you’re in. Often it seems we need to step away and find contentment in ourselves before we’re ready to start something new.

    Katie, thank you! I didn’t know it was necessary at the time, but I can see now that I was on the brink of living out a very grim and broken existence, had I stayed on that path.

    Meredith, time and perspective have helped a lot, along with the working inside me that I don’t know how to describe other than grace. You’re right about the metaphor–that something good can come out of something that seems bad. It can be the same clay–the same materials and ideas–just reshaped at a different time from a different perspective.

    Ray, yes, that’s exactly why I’ll never grow tired of telling this story, in many different ways. I am so grateful for hope that does not disappoint.

    Jen, thank you for being a part of a community that can help celebrate these new beginnings together!

    Laura, it’s very strange, in many ways, to be getting married again, and to start analyzing what it all means–what the ceremony and celebration should be about, how it will be different than before in actual and symbolic ways…I knew from the beginning I wanted to signal something new and different in a very obvious way. A green dress seemed like just the thing. :) Thank you for your support and friendship.

  • Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Happy anniversary. I absolutely loved reading this – it’s so hopeful and full of love.

    And that photo of you two? Brilliant!

  • Roxanne

    What a wonderful story ~ love the metaphor of the potter’s wheel. I’ve heard it said, that sometimes one needs to burn the house down in order to rebuild it.

  • Kristin T.

    Sarah, thank you! “Hopeful and full of love” is how it feels every day to me. I’m still pretty much amazed every morning to be living this life with this man I thought couldn’t exist. (And the photo was taken just as we were leaving the wedding ceremony, and Jason gave me a twirl. :)

    Roxanne, yes, there’s definitely something to that house-burning metaphor, but it’s so extreme, isn’t it?! With the clay, there’s this possibility of taking something old and actually shaping it into something new, rather than destroying and replacing. I guess maybe I was headed toward the “burning it down” road, and am thankful I found another way. :)

  • The Modern Gal

    What a great photo and post! I like the metaphor and the idea when you toss it aside and start over you allow for new creation.

    Happy anniversary and best wishes for many more!