In throwing a piece of pottery, the most essential element comes right at the beginning of the process: centering the clay. One has to take the ball of clay and get it perfectly centered on the spinning wheel if making any vessel is going to be possible. And centering, it’s not always easy. It can be tricky and one can think a ball is on center when it isn’t. As you begin to open the clay and pull up the sides, it becomes evident quite quickly that the piece is off center because the pot will be lopsided, with one side thicker or thinner than the others. When it happens, you can keep working for fun or practice, but it will get harder and harder, as the pot bounces and the lopsidedness grows more evident. Manipulating the pot becomes frustrating and eventually, it grows too unwieldy and beyond control.
When my life is un-centered, it has much in common with a bouncing, unwieldy ball of clay, spinning toward entropy not towards purpose. This most often occurs when I’ve forgotten where my true center lies. I get off kilter when I think that my value and worth derive from what others think, how well I guide or contribute to the organizations to which I belong, whether my work is successful. Being off center creates a certain spiritual thinness that leaves me vulnerable to outside voices and internal critique; it thickens the wall between my current emotional space and healthy behavior.
The only way to re-center is to stop the chaotic spinning, quiet all the voices, and sit still in the presence of God. When I lose center, it is because I forget that there is only One voice that actually matters and defines my worth. My faith journey is about coming to center in God’s love, trusting in my deepest place that I am God’s beloved, and knowing that nothing can change that truth. When I summon the trust required to fall into God’s love, it always catches me, always welcomes me back, and slowly, spins me back to center. Knowing I am loved beyond anything I can actually understand changes me and transforms every aspect of my life. No longer do other voices have power over me; no longer do the external things, like success or failure, define me. God has called me beloved, has adopted me as a child and heir, and longs for me to center peacefully in that truth.
And unlike an un-centered ball tending towards entropy, centeredness gives meaning and purpose. When I know who I am and whose I am, I can work in the world in life-giving ways. I do not need to control every outcome or give into anger when the world does not work my way. I can give of my time generously without demands and create spaces in which those around me are loved and accepted for who they are. Being centered means I know what is mine and what is not mine to do; I can work with a helpful detachment from outcome, trusting God is present. By trusting God’s love for me, I can freely give love and compassion to others in ways that foster healthy relationships and communities.
When I live in that centered space, certain of God’s love for me and for all the created order, everything is balanced. I’m not lopsided; I’m not coming unglued. I’m spinning in the right direction, a willing participant in what God is doing in my life and in the world. And there is no other way I want to live and no other place I want to be than right there, in the joyful center of God’s belovedness.
The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville, and Church of Our Saviour, DuBois.