This is a very clear and powerful analogy, as it shows how God helps us to become a useful vessel for Him, rather than us merely existing, unchanged, in our sinful states. If we wish to be used by God, we must allow ourselves to be shaped and molded by Him into a vessel which can be used for a higher purpose than an earthly one.
Sadly, I have heard some Christians speak, with great pride, about how learned they are and how well they know the bible and yet refuse to admit to, or apologise for, any wrong doing they may do. However, it is not enough to simply know the good things we must do, to be more like Jesus, we also have to become them.
A lump of clay may look at a vase (if it had eyes and conscious thought) and think, yes, I can see how that is shaped, I know what makes it useful but that would not be enough to make it a vase. Despite it’s realisation of the characteristics and composition of a vase, without additional effort to change into something better, it would still remain an unshaped lump of clay.
God’s Holy Spirit teaches us as we grow closer to God. As a cherished child, we are taught and disciplined (Hebrews 12:6), to help us to progress from what we once were, into something much more precious and useful. Thus, are we transformed from glory, to glory, into the likeness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Now, I imagine that, if clay could feel, the moulding process would probably not feel too pleasant. Likewise for people, who are often resistant to change and can even dislike seeing or admitting to flaws in themselves. However, the realisation of flaws in ourselves is an important step towards us becoming better. Like an addict (or someone with a bad habit), we have to admit we have a problem, if we wish to fix it.
After the realisation and acceptance of our flaws, comes the training to be better, the moulding. Despite how it may feel, a believer can have the consolation of knowing that they are shown flaws in themselves, so that they can be dealt with and that it will help them to progress in their Christian walks, rather than to condemn them, regardless of how it feels (Psalms 94:12; Revelation 3:19).
When an athlete trains, they learn to recognise that progress takes effort, sweat and endurance. They learn to push through the pain barrier, to improve their performance and fitness. How much more worthwhile is it then, if people can do this for the temporary flesh, to make the same effort with refining our eternal spirits, so that we can become more like Him whom we follow and improve our interactions with all people?
This assurance can help us to endure the process of critical self evaluation (as we can tend to be overly gracious to ourselves, whilst being overly critical of others) and hopefully strengthen our resolve to rid ourselves of anything which would cause us to behave in a manner less than Godly. So let us put off those things which would degrade and devalue us as children of God. Rather let us bring the flesh into submission and race the good race (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Pride is a prime candidate, for something people often struggle to overcome, as it can be subtle yet pervasive, yet is detestable to God (Proverbs 16:5). When someone harms you, do you wish to harm them back, or show them the love of God? If it is the former, perhaps it is time you asked your Lord to help to shape you into a vessel which regards not itself but rather how good a vessel it is.
If we wish to be a vessel of value, we cannot live our lives holding onto what we were or are, for the sake of pride. After all, Jesus told us that if we wish to follow Him, we need to deny ourselves [selfishness] and take up our cross [self sacrifice] (Matthew 16:24-26).
Rather, we should be quick to confess our flaws and happy to accept correction and guidance, which would result in us being more Godly. Regardless of how our flesh feels about it at first. The beauty is, the more you do it the more sense you see it makes too.
In laying down our selfishness and pride, we are also resisting the devil and how he would rather you behave and as the Good Book tells us, resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Reject pride, embrace meekness, humility and the love God has for all, so that the love and light of God can shine through us and help us to illuminate the world with His ways and help to show that there is a way back to God for all.